While our British friends got to see Naomi Watts’ portrayal in September, us overseas subjects have to wait until Friday for Diana to skip the pond. We’ve heard varying reports on the quality of the film, but it offers us a great opportunity to look back at the grace, beauty, and power that is Her Royal Highness, the Princess of Wales.
Here’s our list of things for which we will forever remember Diana Spencer…
1981: The Wedding of the Century
Though the actual marriage became a constant source of scandal, finger-pointing, and annoyance that directly contributed to her death, Diana’s wedding was incredible. The then 21-year-old officially became a princess on July 29th, 1981 and it was, and remains, the wedding of the 20th century. Her dress alone, which has its own Wikipedia page, has been described as one of the closest guarded secrets in the fashion world, with a 25-foot train and ten thousand pearls! The wedding also had an estimated global television audience of 750 million and is the sixth most watched television programme in British history.
1985: The Travolta Dress
Princess Diana was not only beautiful, she was graceful and simply exquisite with an amazing sense of fashion. None of these qualities were better shown than when she took to the dance floor in this…
On an official visit to the White House, Diana appeared at a gala in this amazing dress and danced with Saturday Night Fever star John Travolta. The gala showcases so much of what the world loves about the People’s Princess: beauty, grace, and very, very good dancing. And as a side note, the Travolta Dress was recently sold at auction for £240,000, to “a British gentleman as a surprise to cheer up his wife.”
1989: Diana Opens AIDS Centre in South-East London, Demystifies Stereotypes About Victims
It’s weird to think about how AIDS moved our society from the free love of the seventies to the safe sex of the eighties, but Diana was integral in educating people about a disease that continues to be both deadly and highly political. During the eighties, plenty of false information was flying around about HIV/AIDS and its victims and Diana responded by opening and publicly visiting an AIDS centre in London. On the way in, she shook the hand of AIDS victim and centre director Jonathan Grimshaw, dispelling rumours about how the disease is spread and how its victims should be treated. That handshake became a political statement and Diana frequented crisis centres around the world for the rest of her life, taking time to greet and touch victims in defiance of ignorance.
1992: Princess Di and Mother Teresa Meet In New York
Both women of enormous charity, Diana and Mother Teresa met in New York in 1992 for a half hour chat and a prayer. At first glance, these women seem to have nothing and everything in common: a tall, beautiful royal in designer clothing against a diminutive nun who wore the same thing everyday, but both cared and made lasting, unforgettable impressions on the world. Personally, I was surprised they met in New York rather than in Calcutta, where Teresa spent most of her time caring for the poor. The meeting was brief, such are the demands of two of the world’s most beloved women, but cemented a lifelong dedication to helping those in need. Sadly, the world lost both within a week of each other, Mother Teresa passed away just six days after Diana’s tragic accident.
1995: Diana’s Candid Interview with Martin Bashir
The Royal Family has been plagued by scandal for centuries, but had a difficult time adapting to the explosion of media that took place in the late twentieth. The Queen had managed to cultivate a fairly matriarchal role for the nation, relying on a familiar English stoicism, but the dissolution of Diana and Charles’ marriage breathed new life into salacious ‘news’ coverage. So, in 1995, Diana went on the offensive with a surprisingly candid interview on the BBC. She did not shy away from what she was feeling and had gone through. She confirmed various darker parts of her life, from very open reflections on her relationship with the royals, especially her soon-to-be ex-husband, and also talked about her battles with depression, eating disorders, and her mental health. Diana is called the People’s Princess for a reason, and her openness should be seen as bravery, a willingness to make herself heard on what had become the world’s biggest media circus. By embracing what she suffered, Diana showed she could take a stand on her overly public life.
Of course, in 1997, we lost Diana to this public life, a needless car accident which ended a life that, despite being wrought with trouble and heartbreak, will be forever remembered. Many of us can recollect the exact details of when we heard she died: where we were, how we found out, who was with us. A memory of loss shared by much of the world for a woman who shone brightly throughout it.