“No-one who ever knew Diana will ever forget her,” said the Queen of England in that grudging tribute she paid to her daughter-in-law on the eve of her funeral. But it was an understatement.
Two decades on, people who weren’t even born in 1997 are getting involved in the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death. Documentaries have been filmed, magazine specials published and new books written – even one for children, introducing a new generation of readers to William and Harry’s mum.
Journalists are still digging up new angles on her life and that fatal last-day-in-August car crash in a Paris road tunnel that robbed Britain of its People’s Princess. Her sons have commissioned a Diana statue and documentaries for both the BBC and ITV, other countries have snapped up the broadcasting rights and America is making its own programmes.
Kensington Palace is feting her with a fashion exhibition and a memorial Diana garden; her brother Earl Spencer is chipping in with a gala fundraiser at Althorp, where Diana is buried, an exhibition of the last photographs taken before she died and a new Inaugural Legacy Award dedicated to 20 youngsters who are ‘Walking In Her Shoes’, the title of another expo.
The Queen’s plans are not yet known… Wronged wife, feminist symbol, mother figure, media manipulator, champion of the oppressed, hysteric, humanitarian, alternative therapy flake, thorn in the Queen’s side – Diana was all that and more, flawed yet fascinating. Her legacy might be mixed but it’s not insubstantial.
“I really think Diana gets more important, not less, over time,” says Tina Brown, former Vanity Fair editor and Diana biographer who has probably chronicled her more closely than anyone. “Her understanding of the power of the inclusive gesture was Diana’s gift to the monarchy and so much more. We’ll be talking about her for the next 50 years.”
A few weeks after what would have been her 56th birthday, ‘the Diana Effect’ lives on in unexpected ways, as Belinda Beckett reports…
Words Belinda Beckett