A statue will be unveiled by Prince Harry and Prince William at Kensington Palace today to mark what would have been the 60th birthday of Diana, Princess of Wales.
Harry, who returned to the UK for the unveiling, gave a speech earlier this week paying tribute to his mother’s legacy. The Duke of Sussex told recipients of the Diana Award, an honor honoring young people who work for lasting social change, to “never be afraid to do what is right.
“Stand up for what you believe in and believe that when you live in the truth and in the service of others, people will see it as they did with my mother,” he said.
Perceptions of the British monarchy around the world have changed thanks, in part, to Diana’s personal approach to her royal role – a legacy her sons wish to carry on.
A gentler approach
A stiff upper lip was considered a key trait in the British monarchy before Diana, a trait the “People’s Princess” is often credited with softening. Diana stepped away from the formalities expected of royal life, and even the smallest of gestures that deviated from tradition came to take on meaning in the public eye.
Unlike other royals, Diana never wore gloves, remembers Anna Harvey, former associate editor of Vogue, who became a friend of Diana’s. “She wanted flesh-to-skin contact,” she wrote.
A tireless activist to end the stigma around HIV / AIDS, the photos of the princess shaking hands with patients have garnered a lot of media attention.
The media made the most of Diana’s outspoken and genuine approach to her role, and she quickly gained fans around the world. His state visits were high-profile matters, and his charitable work quickly established his status as a “premier philanthropic force,” according to Harper’s Bazaar.
She has entered a sphere of influence beyond that which the Royal Family previously inhabited on the world stage, dancing with movie stars in the White House and gracing the cover of Vogue magazine no less than three times over the course of his life. She was “a breath of fresh air,” winning audiences over with “her very human flaws and vulnerabilities,” Alicia Carroll wrote in The New York Times nearly a decade ago.
“Before she came on the scene in 1980, very few people in the United States paid attention to the royal family or could tell you the name of the Queen of England,” she said. “Diana changed all that.”
Diana’s attitude and mannerisms may have won over audiences, but it seems she must have taken a more energetic role in trying to change the ways of the monarchy.
In the 1995 benchmark Panorama interview with Martin Bashir, Diana said she “would like a monarchy more in touch with its people”. She took this responsibility upon herself and her ability to connect with the public through apparent openness would “legitimize the role of sentiment in the public space,” Matthew d’Ancona wrote in The Guardian at the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his death. .
The princess’ enthusiasm for her role and her popularity with the public caused friction within the family. The relationship between her and Princess Anne was “even more strained” than The crown established, according to Vanity Fair. The reciprocity between the public and Diana was not reflected behind closed doors; in the same 1995 interview, Diana told Bashir that her eating disorder was “a symptom of what was going on in my marriage”.
Critics of the “business” were quick to berate the royal family after Diana’s death – the Queen’s own statement on the tragedy came nearly a week after the event. Julie Burchill, the writer widely recognized for coining the nickname “People’s Princess”, wrote in The Guardian two days after the fatal car crash in Paris that Diana had “shown the House of Windsor for what she was doing. was: a stupid, numb dinosaur, trudging through a world apart, full of arrogance and ignorance ”.
Her “brave, brilliant and brash life will forever cast a giant shadow over” the royal family, she predicted.
A lasting legacy?
“Holy or scheming, misunderstood or manipulative,” Diana divides opinions among commentators, the “oars” written on her painting of the princess in conflicting lights, Reshmi R Dasgupta told The Economic Times. But on one point, most can agree: the response to his death marked a shift in the general public’s perception of the royal family.
The flowers left at Kensington Palace “transformed a London park into something closer to Lourdes,” Ancona says. And when the royal family hesitated in their response to his death, the public took notice. “This most enduring institution seemed to implode under the weight of so much emotion,” Sarah Lyall wrote to The New York Times 20 years after Diana’s death.
It was seen as a turning point in British sensibility, “a bold punctuation mark in a new national narrative that emphasized uninhibition, empathy and personal candor,” as Ancona puts it.
But others view the princess’ legacy with skepticism. “It didn’t take long for the British to get tired of [Tony] Blair’s emotionality a la Diana, “Anne Applebaum wrote on Slate in 2007, when the royals remained” about the same, but quieter “than during the” Dianamania “years. And if Applebaum was correct in thinking that the Royal Family had learned from Diana “that there is too much publicity”, it is surely a lesson that has been reminded them over the past three years amid the media coverage in Meghan Markle course.
Diana left Britain “more inclined to favor intuition over expert opinion” in her politics and public discourse, Lyall said.
The “complicated royal rebel” left “a lasting mark on the Windsor house,” The Independent said ahead of what would have been his 60th birthday today. By interacting more “intimately” with the audience – “kneeling at a child’s height, sitting on the edge of a patient’s hospital bed, writing personal notes to her fans” – she inspired others. royals, including his sons, to “become more human and remain relevant in the 21st century,” the newspaper says.
“Diana did not invent the idea that members of the royal family visit the poor, the destitute or the oppressed,” he concludes. “But Diana touched them – literally.”