In August, it will be sixteen years since Princess Diana's tragic "death by paparazzi chase" accident. Today would have been her fifty-second birthday. Since her untimely demise, much has happened to both her family and her country. Her shy, reserved disposition made her a vulnerable figure from the very start of her highly publicized marriage to Prince Charles in 1981. The affinity she shared with children also showcased a rare gift for empathy and compassion that so few people--royalty or not--are capable of possessing. Her tumultuous childhood (her mother left their family for another man) contributed to a lifelong quest for unconditional love that was perhaps doomed from the beginning of her matrimonial alliance with Prince Charles.
Her accessibility to the British public after becoming the princess was unprecedented. Even now, in spite of Kate Middleton's Diana comparisons, there has never been any royal so willing and eager to communicate with her country. Her immediate dissatisfaction with her marriage (problems were reported to have arose around 1985, the year after Prince Harry's birth), both Charles and Diana turned to other sources of comfort--he to Camilla Parker Bowles and she to James Hewitt, a major in the British Army. As reports of their affairs began to leak in 1992 and 1993, Diana was prompted to retreat from the spotlight, undeniably shamed by Charles' open admission to an outside relationship with Parker Bowles.
It was only her children that prevented Diana from petitioning for a divorce sooner. She was even reported to have said, "Any sane person would have left long ago. But I cannot. I have my sons." Her knowledge that Charles did not truly love her was the ultimate blow to a woman who sought only genuine affection. Regardless of the jading circumstances of her marriage, Diana always maintained an innocence and optimism that so few are able to sustain—especially in the face of harrowing events. It is this fragile, yet unbreakable spirit that continues to make Diana an enduring role model for all of humanity. If each one of us conducted ourselves with even a fraction of her benevolence and sincerity, the world might not be nearly so fucked up.
The parallels between Kate Middleton and Diana are overt, making it understandable why Prince William would choose her as his wife (not to get all Oedipal, but you know). The similarities between them are poetic in many ways as it allows the legacy of Diana to persist in a new and tributary manner. If William and Kate ultimately end up having a girl, let us hope that she embodies the same gentility as her grandmother.
Also, because I’m that gay and sentimental about Diana, below is the video for “Candle in the Wind.”