It’s been 20 years since Diana, Princess of Wales lost her life in a car crash on August 31, at the age of 36. And while it was true that she was a beloved figure to the British public, it wasn’t until her death that the true scale of Britain’s affection for Diana was revealed.
After news of her death was released in 1997, there were massive shows of public mourning. Outside both her London home and Buckingham Palace, millions of wreaths were placed by countless people. It seemed that half the country was in tears, as if Diana were a member of their own family instead of a figure they only knew from newspapers and TV.
But the tears and mourning didn’t happen for no reason. To many, Diana was a fairytale princess. She was seen as a classic “English Rose” with a naturally attractive face and fair complexion, and was known to be a good and kind person.
But neither of these factors really accounted for the public’s grief after her death. In truth, the people thought of her as one of their own. Of course, she was far too posh to have lived in the next street to a regular person, but people still felt a strong connection to her.
“I want my boys [William and Harry] to have an understanding of people’s emotions, their insecurities, people’s distress, and their hopes and dreams,” Diana famously said. She led by example, working with many charities over the years.
Yet, she was treated badly by her husband, and perhaps even by the royal family. In the years before her death, it came out that her marriage to Prince Charles had long been an unhappy one. Charles’ mother, the Queen, seemed to take her son’s side, leaving Diana out in the cold.
It could be the fact that Diana was an outsider, someone whom “the establishment” was against, that made her so relatable to everyday people. But whatever the reason, even 20 years after the famous crash in a Paris tunnel, she’s still affectionately known as “the people’s princess”.