Princess Diana: 15 years on

31 August 2012

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I was only five years old on the 31st of August, 1997 . I can’t remember much from my younger years but I do remember the day Princess Diana died. I remember the overflow of news reports, the constant images of her face, the footage of the car crash and the thousands of people crying in agony.

My mother constantly cried in front of the TV and I didn’t know why she was so upset. How could a beautiful lady cause so much devastation and loss? 15 years later my mother explained to me that she ‘cried a lot from when she died until after the funeral. It was dreadfully sad and she was the same age as me. It just really felt like a big loss, which sounds dumb but that’s what it was like’.

As a now 20-year-old looking back on the life and legacy that was Princess Diana it is easy to see why she was so beloved and why her death caused such an impact.  Australia treated her as though she were one of our own, as her kind hearted nature and generous heart swooned us, and her flaws and mistakes made her one of us.

Diana was a breath of fresh air into the royal family: shy, young, pretty and about to fulfill every girl’s dream of becoming a Princess. Diana and Charles were married in 1981 (Diana, 19 and Charles, 33) with William born just a year later, followed by Harry in 1984.

The family has to be among the most photographed people in the world. Diana stood alone as her photogenic face and expressions became a photographers dream. Her marriage to Prince Charles started out as perfectly as any other, with the two fulfilling their royal duties side by side. To this day, the engagement ring that Diana wore now resides upon her would be daughter-in-laws finger.

The world has always had a strong interest in the British Royal Family and when Charles and Diana’s adultery scandal reared its ugly head in the ’90s people couldn’t help but want to know every single detail. As the facts about the couples separation were slowly being released, the world sympathised with Diana and became more infatuated with her royal life, even as her fairytale marriage had suddenly became like a ‘normal’ marriage with its troubles.

As Diana famously said in an interview: ‘There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a little crowded.’ She was of course referring to Charles’ now current wife Camilla. Camilla and Diana are completely different women. On one hand there was Diana young, beautiful and generous, and on the other, Camilla, a former flame of Charles who had broken up a marriage and a family.

Of course Diana wasn’t completely innocent, also confessing to cheating on Charles. It seemed however, that her adultery served her a lot more kindly than Charles, as it became evident that the Princess was simply more popular.

The royal family couldn’t stand Diana’s popularity and it was known throughout the world (with help from the media) that the Queen Mother, Charles and Camilla had grown to despise her. Possibly this made us like Diana even more.

Diana’s admittance to her flaws and attitude following the divorce contributed greatly to her increasing admiration and love from the people. Despite losing her title, Diana continued her charity work and commitments. She was especially devoted to AIDs victims and changed the way the public saw them by physically touching them.

Diana may have lost her title of Princess of Wales but she had become the ‘Princess of the People’. People had started to connect with Diana on a personal level. She wasn’t a perfect princess with a perfect life. She was a real person with real problems. She was the first royal that the public could relate to and even suggested to people to call her just ‘Diana’ and not ‘Princess Diana’. Diana was one of the people and she liked it. It was her connection with the public and her strong will to continue with her charity work and devotion as a mother, despite her own personal misfortunes that made her death such a sad and terrible loss.

Diana’s legacy is carried on strongly through her two sons William and Harry. The two put on a charity concert in honour of the mothers death 5 years ago, with 60, 000 people attending to mark the love that they had for the late Princess.  Diana’s life was a short one but with a great impact. No matter how many years pass and now matter how old we were, we will always remember the day that Princess Diana died.

 Sam McMeekin is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and is one of upstart’s staff writers. You can follow her on Twitter: @sammcmeeks