20 years on, what is the legacy of Princess Diana?

ROYAL FAMILY
PRINCESS DIANA VISIT TO RIDDLESWORTH HALL
APRIL 1989
PRINT C2016
NEG B04770-30A

ROYAL FAMILY PRINCESS DIANA VISIT TO RIDDLESWORTH HALL APRIL 1989 PRINT C2016 NEG B04770-30A - Credit: Archant

It's a bit like living in a timewarp with the papers full of Princess Diana again. I remember discovering the news of her death in 1997 from a friend who was staying with us that night. 'Dodi's died,' he said, adding, in disbelief: 'And Diana.'

The Princess had been so much a part of our lives for so long and was such an icon, that it came as a huge shock to discover that she was also mortal.

I was working in London then and remember many of my colleagues taking time out to go to Kensington Palace to pay tribute.

I didn't join them, nor did I add to the pile of rotting flowers in cellophane that so many people seemed to feel was the appropriate response.

It seemed strange to me that people could be so bereft at the death of a person they had never known.


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Diana remains divisive.

Even now a row is ongoing about a proposed Channel 4 documentary in which private tapes Diana made with her speech coach, talking in detail about her marriage, are to be aired.

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Her sons collaborated on a hagiographical documentary last week for ITV, so surely they can't now complain if other TV companies want a piece of the action, right?

Actually, I think they can.

Anything said in a therapy setting should be sacrosanct.

The tapes should have been destroyed.

Since they haven't been however, it is only to be expected that people will want to see them – and the tapes won't ultimately change how she is remembered, they will merely reinforce what we already know.

Diana was a decent person who endeavoured to use her enormous media power for good.

Her work with AIDS patients, the homeless and on landmines was groundbreaking.

She wasn't afraid to stick her neck out or be mocked when she saw injustice and believed she could help.

She made mistakes, as anyone in a disintegrating marriage does. But she was human, and people liked this.

They had never seen a human Royal before.

I never subscribed to all that People's Princess stuff and I don't regret not adding my flowers to the pile.

My mother always counselled against flowers in cellophane.

Every flower, she said, deserves its chance to bloom.

But 20 years after her death it seems to me now that Diana did get her chance.

And there is something for us all in the fact that she really made the most of it.

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