LONDON (AP) – Above all, there was a shock. It’s the word people use over and over when they remember Princess Diana’s death in a car accident in Paris 25 years ago this week.
The woman the world saw go from a shy teenage kindergarten teacher to a glamorous celebrity who comforted AIDS patients and campaigned for landmine clearance couldn’t have died at the age of 36, could she? it not?
“I think we have to remember that she was probably the most well-known woman in the English-speaking world, other than perhaps Queen Elizabeth II herself,” said historian Ed Owens.
“And, given this huge celebrity personality that she had developed, having it turned off overnight, for her to die in such tragic circumstances, at such a young age, I think that really been a huge shock to a lot of people.”
It was this disbelief that cemented Diana’s legacy as a woman who brought lasting change to Britain’s royal family, helping to bridge the gap between centuries of tradition and a new multicultural nation in an age of Internet.
First, there was the outpouring of grief from the public who flocked to the Princess’s home at Kensington Palace to mourn the loss of a woman most had never met. This alone forced the Royal Family to recognize that Diana’s Common Touch had connected with people in a way that had yet to happen to the House of Windsor.
Those lessons have since inspired other senior royals, including Diana’s sons Princes William and Harry, to be more informal and approachable. For proof, look no further than the glitzy concert that was a centerpiece of June’s Platinum Jubilee celebrating the Queen’s 70 years on the throne.
There were rock bands and opera singers, dancers and lasers painting pictures of corgis in the sky. But the biggest applause was for Elizabeth herself, who appeared in a short film to share a teapot with Britain’s national treasure Paddington Bear. She then solved a long-standing mystery and revealed what was in her famous black purse: a marmalade sandwich, just for emergencies.
It wasn’t obvious that Diana would be a royal rebel when she married Prince Charles.
A member of the aristocratic Spencer family, Diana was known for her ruffled bows, sensible skirts and boyish blond bob when she started dating the future king. After leaving school at 16, she spent time at a graduation school in the Swiss Alps and worked as a nanny and pre-school teacher while living in London.
But she blossomed, becoming an international style icon the moment she walked down the lace-wrapped aisle of St Paul’s Cathedral and followed by a 25-foot train on July 29, 1981.
From then on, reporters and photographers followed Diana wherever she went. While Diana hated intrusion, she quickly realized that the media was also a tool she could use to bring attention to a cause and change public perceptions.
This impact was most famous when the Princess opened the UK’s first specialist ward for AIDS patients on April 9, 1987.
These inauguration ceremonies are an essential part of royal duties. But Diana realized there was more at stake. She reached out and took the hands of a young patient, demonstrating that the virus could not be transmitted by touch. The moment, captured by photos circulating around the world, helped combat fear, misinformation and stigma surrounding the AIDS epidemic.
A decade later, Diana was even more media savvy.
Seven months before her death, Diana donned a protective visor and body armor and walked a clear path through a minefield in Angola to promote the work of The HALO Trust, a group dedicated to clearing old areas. of war. When she realized that some photographers hadn’t taken the picture, she turned around and started again.
The footage has drawn international attention to the campaign to rid the world of explosives that lurk underground long after wars have ended. Today, a treaty banning landmines has been signed by 164 countries.
But this public platform comes at a price.
His marriage fell apart, with Diana blaming Charles’ continued affair with his longtime mistress, Camilla Parker Bowles. The princess also battled bulimia and admitted suicide attempts, according to “Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words,” published in 1992 based on tapes Diana sent to author Andrew Morton.
“When I started my public life 12 years ago, I understood that the media might be interested in what I was doing,” Diana said in 1993. “But I had no idea how overwhelming that attention would become. Nor the extent to which it would affect both my public duties and my personal life, in a way that has been difficult to bear.
Ultimately, this contributed to his death.
On August 30, 1997, a group of paparazzi camped outside the Ritz hotel in Paris hoping to get pictures of Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed chased their car to the Pont de l’Alma tunnel , where their driver lost control and crashed.
Diana died on August 31, 1997.
A stunned world wept. Bouquets of flowers, many of which included personal notes, lined the grounds outside Diana’s home at Kensington Palace. Weeping citizens lined the streets outside Westminster Abbey during his funeral.
The public reaction contrasted with that of the royal family, who were criticized for not appearing promptly in public and refusing to lower the flag at half-mast Buckingham Palace.
The bereavement has caused soul-searching among members of the House of Windsor. They began to understand better why Diana’s death had caused such a damning spectacle, said Sally Bedell Smith, historian and author of “Diana’s Search for Herself”.
“I think her legacy was something the Queen in her wisdom (sought) to adapt in the first years after her death,” Smith said of the focus groups and studies the monarchy has used to capture the Diana’s attraction.
“The Queen was more likely to interact with people, and I think you see the informality amplified now, especially with William and Kate,” she says.
William, his wife, Kate, for example, have made improving mental health services a primary focus, going so far as to publicly discuss their own struggles. Harry is also a champion of wounded military veterans.
Rehabilitation of Charles’ reputation had to wait until public anger over his treatment of Diana began to subside. It is now off to a good start, helped by his 2005 marriage to Camilla, which has softened his image. Earlier this year, the Queen said she hoped Camilla would become Queen Consort when Charles ascended the throne, trying to heal old wounds.
But the monarchy has lessons to learn as it battles the fallout from the scandal over Prince Andrew’s links to convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. Beyond that is the decision by Harry and his wife, Meghan, to step down from their lifelong royal duties in Southern California.
Meghan, a biracial American former actress who grew up in Los Angeles, said she felt constrained by palace life and a senior royal even inquired about her first child’s potential skin color child before birth.
This episode shows that the royal family has not fully learned Diana’s lesson, said Owens, author of “The Family Firm: Monarchy, Mass Media and the British Public 1932-1953”.
“Again, not enough room has been created,” Owens said of Meghan.
Diana had her own struggles with the palace, airing her grievances in a 1995 BBC interview that continues to make headlines. The BBC was forced to apologize last year after an investigation revealed journalist Martin Bashir had used “Deceptive Methods” to secure maintenance.
Diana’s brother said this year that the interview and the way it was obtained contributed to Diana’s death, as it caused her to be denied continued palace protection after her divorce.
But her words of how she wanted to be seen remain firmly in the memory.
“I would like to be a queen in people’s hearts, in people’s hearts, but I don’t see myself being the queen of this country” Diana said in the interview. “I don’t think many people will want me to be queen.”