On August 31st will be the thirteenth anniversary on the tragic and untimely death of the Princess of Wales who is better known as Princess Diana. Her life was of nobility at birth until she met her Prince Charming. She had an enviable royal fairy tale wedding or so we were led to believe. As a member of royalty she was treated as an outsider, even by her husband. Shortly after her divorce, a complete rarity then for heirs to the throne, she died in a car accident in Paris, France. In honor of Diana’s death here is a look back on her life, my account of where I heard the news of her shocking death and the Princess of Wales phenomenal and continuing legacy.
The Life of Lady Diana Spencer to the Princess of Wales
Diana Frances Spencer was born on July 1, 1961. If she were still alive she’d be 49 years old. Her parents were the Earl and Countess Spencer, so she was of nobility. This is a privileged class who inherit their designated titles. They oftentimes socialize in royal circles. Diana met her future husband, Prince Charles, through her sister. The two were dating at the time. Little did she know Charles and Diana would become an item that later on created a vast cottage industry for the paparazzi and overall media until Diana’s death. After the death of her grandfather she inherited the title of Lady Diana Spencer. Shortly thereafter she was engaged to be married. In July 1981 a few weeks after her 20th birthday she was married and officially became the Princess of Wales.
The first couple of years were happy times for them. They eventually had two sons. It was expected, even demanded, their firstborn be a son who will inherit the throne one day. However, after the idyllic years Charles and Diana literally grew apart emotionally, mentally, and socially. Diana was outgoing, vivacious and gregarious where Charles was the complete opposite. They had such vast interests it was a wonder they married at all. The biggest problem was their age difference. Diana was a mere child when she got married. However, the biggest thorn in their marriage was Charles infidelity. It was a problem since “day one”.
Charles and Diana were so incompatible in the latter years they officially separated in 1992 and eventually divorced in 1996. The last time the British royal family witnessed such a high profile divorce was during the reign of Henry VIII. Diana began dating Dodi Fayed whose father owned the famous Harrods Department Store in London. This was a controversial pairing, because Fayed was a Muslim. One thing was certain Diana and Dodi were much happier in their paparazzi photos then she ever was with her ex-husband in latter years. On August 31, 1997 while Diana and Dodi were riding as passengers in an automobile they were approaching the tunnel of the Pont D’Alma near the Eiffel Tower when their car crashed into a beam. Four passengers were in the car, but only one survived. He was Diana’s bodyguard.
Where I Heard the News of Diana’s Untimely Death
In 1997 I was living in Japan about to start teaching English to high school students through the JET Program, the Japan Exchange and Teaching program. It was early Sunday morning I happened to turn on the TV, something I rarely did. Coincidentally the channel I had it on was CNN International. Throughout the morning they were talking non-stop about Diana. She was no longer referred to as the Princess after her divorce. I was stunned to learn about the car accident. The way they reported her injuries it sounded extremely bad.
It was later on in the morning or early afternoon when they pronounced her dead. That was truly inconceivable to me. For almost two decades Diana was on the cover of countless magazines in the U.S. every week. She was in the media just about every other day. I felt like I grew up with her. Now she was gone. One night at the train station there was a magazine stand. It sold a commemorative issue with photos of Diana during her visit to Japan when she was married to Prince Charles. Even though it was all in Japanese I bought it anyway to send to my friend in England. Later that week they aired her funeral “live”, which was on during primetime in Japan. I watched it from beginning to end as my way of paying tribute to the People’s Princess.
The Living Legacy of Diana, Princess of Wales
As mentioned earlier once the world was introduced to Lady Diana Spencer in the early part of 1981 the media fell in love with her until Diana’s death. She was a breath of fresh air from the dowdy-looking British royal family. Diana was beautiful, young and sweet. Her innocence made us like her even more. After her death People magazine’s “Goodbye Diana” issue from September 22, 1997 racked up sales of over $3 million. It’s still the best-selling issue to date for the magazine. Diana appeared on the cover of People a total of 81 times. No one has yet to beat her record. Time magazine featured her on the cover for its commemorative issue after her death. That issue sold over one million copies.
In 2005 the Princess Diana Exhibit came to the Tampa Bay area at the Florida International Museum. Some members of my family were able to go and see it. Unfortunately I could not go. The admission price was rather expensive. At any rate, 28 of Diana’s dresses were on display including her famous wedding dress. There was memorabilia, family films, jewelry, art work she collected and her other treasures. It was truly an extraordinary exhibit according to my sister.
Most of all, Diana will be remembered for her extraordinary charity work with Aids, land mines and countless others. She was an avid supporter of the arts, especially the English National Ballet. Diana also possessed exceptional people skills, something unheard of with any member of a royal family. No matter who she met with they always felt comfortable and at ease Diana. Her posthumous title of the People’s Princess is the best one of all.
Princess Diana, Google Images
Princess Diana, IMDb
Princess Diana: 1961-1997, Time
Princess Diana Exhibit, Florida International Museum
The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, The Work Continues