Diana

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By: 
Michelle Phillips

I was 14 the summer Lady Diana Spencer married Charles Prince of Wales in 1981, only five years younger than Diana herself. I had friends with sisters her age.

I remember watching the seemingly fairy tale wedding, with young, innocent Diana emerging from a meticulous carriage, a fluff of ivory silk, pearls and sequins. To be cliché, she was glowing. I was not the only one watching that day, millions of people around the world watched as the heir to the British throne took his much younger bride.

Diana’s life was well documented by the media from dating Prince Charles, to the birth of her children, to her husband’s affair and Queen Elizabeth finally ordering them to divorce. Along the way Diana was many things to many people, a fashion icon, a doting mother, an international celebrity, and most importantly, a humanitarian. 

It is her work with AIDS patients, that helped to destigmatize the disease that we knew so little about and feared so fiercely in the 1980s. Images of Diana sitting beside the hospital bed and holding the skeletal hand of a man dying of AIDS made national news around the world. If Princess Diana was not fearful of catching HIV by touching someone, we should not be either.

She advocated for the removal of abandoned land mines, meeting with leaders and child amputees in Angola. Then she donned protective gear and slowly and methodically walked through an area known to contain active land mines. All the while the press snapped away, documenting the events for posterity.

Princess Diana knew how to work a camera and how to manipulate the press. There is plenty of footage of her entertaining a rabid pack of reporters when it suited her needs. The press ate it up. Photos could bring thousands of dollars and everyone wanted to interview her and know her thoughts. But when it did not suit her, she tried to retreat from the media, hiding her face, running from the press. She had opened the Pandora’s box, though, and as long as she lived, she paid for that decision.

Her relationship with the press had become her own undoing. On Aug. 31, 1997, barely a year after she and Prince Charles divorced, Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris, while being chased through the, dark, late night streets. Her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and driver, Henri Paul, were also killed in the crash, with only her bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, surviving the impact of hitting a tunnel wall.

The crash has been suspect and controversial since it occurred 22 years ago. There have been interviews and inquests, books, movies, articles and conspiracy theories, and now, there is a podcast, “Diana Case Closed.” The 12-part, documentary, which was announced a couple of weeks ago, promises to have uncovered the “truth” about the fatal wreak.

When I saw the podcast advertised, I could not help but feel sad. Sad that her life came to a tragic end at the age of 36, sad that those in my profession sealed her fate, sad that we are still obsessed with her death more than two decades later, sad for her family members who lost their loved one, sad for society who lost the People’s Princess when she was just coming into her own, and most of all, sad that we can’t just let her rest in peace.

That 14-year-old girl in me was very disappointed in the way the fairy tale ended–just like a tale of real life.

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