August 31, 2017 marked the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. On that day, two young boys lost their mother and the world lost an icon of humanity. While she was not a commoner—her dad was an Earl—she had a common touch. Unlike the family she married into, she was able to connect easily with real world people of all colors, societies and social status, including and most especially, the young and the poor.
Part of what made Diana real to so many is that she battled real problems. She suffered from depression, bulimia and marital infidelity going in both directions. No doubt all these things were related to each other and, if not brought about, then certainly exacerbated by the constant glare of media spotlights. It may be that she was never well suited for the very public life of a princess and future queen.
But Diana never let these challenges stop her from doing so much good or using the media crush around her to spread the word about her efforts. She didn’t shy away from tough issues. More than any single person, she humanized the HIV crisis. She did this mostly by being with, holding and touching HIV patients. She was an early and constant supporter of international efforts to ban landmines, a ruthless and brutal tactic of war. Pictures of her walking through an area previously rife with landmines in Angola were shown around the world.
Before her death, Diana was a forceful proponent of the Ottawa Treaty which signed in 1997 by 128 countries with the goal of eliminating the production and use of mines. Diana’s youngest son, Harry, in honor of his mother’s legacy, has doubled down on the goal of eliminating landmines. Speaking at a ceremony in honor of the Treaty’s 20th anniversary Prince Harry said his mother’s work on banning landmines in the last months of her life “wasn’t universally popular. Some believed she had stepped over the line into the arena of political campaigning – but for her this wasn’t about politics; it was about people,” he said.
He added: “She knew she had a big spotlight to shine, and she used it to bring attention on the people that others had forgotten, ignored or were too afraid to support.” He said his mother, were she here today, “wouldn’t be willing to accept any credit” for the Ottawa treaty signed by 122 states in the year of her visit to Bosnia and Angola. Nonetheless, she deserves much credit. The UK government continues to support the cause financially under the auspices of the royal family.
Diana’s personal interests were often reflected in the organizations for which she was a volunteer. Her work extended from the Great Ormond Street for Sick Children in London to the Leprosy Mission and the National Aids Trust.
The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund website says it the best.
“The Princess is remembered by everyone she met for her warmth and genuine interest in their situation and difficulties. She threw herself into her charity work in a very personal way, spending countless hours listening to the individual stories and problems of the people she visited.
She had the ability to make everybody feel special, in particular vulnerable young people who were touched by her warmth and affection. She also had a natural empathy with people who were close to death or those who had lost a loved one — something which was clear through her visits to hospitals and hospices in the UK and abroad.”
Twenty years later, her legacy still lives on. In a time where so much of the world is plunged into war and chaos, Diana serves as a reminder of the genuine humanity in all of us. More importantly, she is an example of a person who used her position in life for the benefit of others and for the greater good.
She was commonly referred to as the People’s Princess. She never did become the Queen of England but after her death, people around the world made her the Queen of our Hearts and Queen of Humanity. In a time where humanity is so lacking, we miss you Diana. We take pause on the 20th anniversary of your death to remember you and what you stood for.