There were always two Diana Spencers. One, the awkward commoner with royal connections who taught nursery school and married a prince. The other, a naïve, swanlike young woman who was uniquely fated to enact the part of almost every sweet and innocent fairy tale princess. Apart from her Ivory soap face, fashion-dream body, and seemingly earnest desire to use her fame and position to help others, Princess Diana’s appeal to millions of people around the world was largely due to her real-life reenactment of the fictional lives of female fairytale figures deeply ingrained in our collective psyches since childhood. If Walt Disney could have rolled all the fairytale princesses together he would have created a character like Princess Diana – although, tragically and ironically, she was the one fairytale princess who did not live happily ever after.
Princess Diana as Cinderella
Maybe she didn’t have to clean up after wicked step-sisters or slip her feet into petite glass slippers, but Princess Diana and Cinderella had a lot in common. Like Cinderella, humble commoner Diana Spencer came out of nowhere to marry the Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne, beating out such formidable competition as Camilla Parker-Bowles, who, although not technically a step-sister to Diana, looked and acted the part. After their wedding ceremony, Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s carriage ride evoked the image of Cinderella riding to the ball in her magical pumpkin-turned-coach, further reinforcing the image of Diana as Cinderella. Even the press noticed; many newspapers ran stories about the new Cinderella princess.
Princess Diana as Snow White
Who better than a modern day mother-in-law to remind one of the wicked step-mother in Snow White? In the movie, The Queen, Queen Elizabeth is depicted as being very jealous of her more charming and beloved new daughter-in-law, a porcelain skinned beauty who could draw crowds and paparazzi just by wearing a new dress. Just as in Snow White, Queen Elizabeth banished Diana by condoning, if not advocating, Charles’ affair with and subsequent marriage to the plainer, less threatening Camilla Parker-Bowles, but in true Snow White fashion, the charismatic Diana could not be hidden away and forgotten. She had her own version of the seven dwarves, attracting an entourage of luminaries to her side, including musical pop star Elton John. Just as the wicked queen discovered in Snow White, Queen Elizabeth learned it was not that easy to rid herself of “a problem like Diana.”
Where’s the Happily Ever After
Although Diana did not live out the perfect fairy tale of marrying her prince and living happily ever after with him, it’s possible that her story had a different, albeit equally satisfying, fairy tale ending. Peter Schaufuss, the creator of the 2005 ballet, Princess Diana, said in The Sunday Times of London, “In my world, we have a lot of fairy-tale ballets, like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. That is how Diana and Charles were documented at first: a beautiful young girl got her prince. But it was a fairy tale that went wrong.”
Schaufuss noted, however, that in ballets like Swan Lake “the lovers can only be united in death.” Many believe that after years of heartbreak, Diana found her true love and died with him in the backseat of the speeding car in that Paris tunnel, suggesting the real-life fairy tale of Princess Diana could have had a happy ending after all.