When Diana visited a leprosy hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia and another in Nigeria, and comforted those suffering from this most disfiguring of diseases, she never once flinched or drew away from close contract. She said, 'I'm trying to show in a simple action that they are not reviled, nor we repulsed'.
It is difficult to overestimate the impact that Diana made on the causes she espoused. As a fundraiser she was unequalled; her presence at a function ensured that all the tickets would be sold in hours.
She worked indefatigably for the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund and insisted that part of the proceeds of the auction of her dresses in New York should go to the hospital. The rest of the money went to another of her favourite charities, AIDS Crisis Trust.
Diana's concern for the dispossessed and the under-privileged knew no national boundaries. Together with her friends Imran and Jemima Khan she visited Pakistan to support their efforts in famine relief; and after meeting Mother Teresa in New York, she traveled to India to see for herself the living conditions of some of the poorest people in the world.
But it was when she visited Angola and Bosnia that people realized how sound her instinct was. She had begun her campaign for the banning of landmines without any official backing, but soon governments around the world were responding to her call. In Bosnia she met and comforted mutilated victims and bereaved widows and orphans with a sensitive professionalism that showed clearly how much she understood the anguish all around her. It was to be her last crusade.
When she was accused of interfering in political issues, Diana replied, 'I'm a humanitarian, I lead from the heart'.
Diana died in a car crash with Dodi Fayed on 31 of August 1997, in Paris. Few events in Britain's history have produced a sense of national dismay and bewilderment that followed. People traveled for all parts of the country to pay tribute to The Princess. Thousands of flowers were placed at the gates of Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace, and people queued for up to twelve hours to sign the books of condolence at St. James's Palace.
The Queen appeared on television and spoke movingly of her former daughter-in-law. 'She was an exceptional and gifted human being. In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness'.
The funeral, described by Buckingham Palace as 'a unique service for a unique person', was an inspiring combination of traditional ritual and informality. The coffin containing Diana's body was carried on a First World War gun-carriage drawn by six black horses and nine members of The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery, and flanked by a bearer party of Welsh Guardsmen. Thousands, many of whom had camped out overnight in order to get a good position, watched silently, and threw flowers into their path. As the cortege passed thought Wellington Arch and down Constitution Hill, The Queen and three generations of the Royal Family emerged from Buckingham Palace.
The Prince of Wales, Prince Philip, Prince William and Prince Harry, together with Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, joined the cortege and walked behind the coffin to Westminster Abbey. They were followed by a throng of representatives of many of her charities.
The service was simple and dignified, with Diana's favourite hymns and poems read by her sisters. Diana's brother gave a penetrating and passionate address. The 2,000-strong congregation included politicians, showbusiness celebrities, personal friends and representatives from her charities.
For many the most poignant element of the ceremony was the Princes' wreath on the coffin: a small ring of white roses bearing the word 'Mummy'.
As the choir sang a haunting anthem the coffin was carried away. At the door the procession stopped and an absolute silence descended — a silence that was respected by millions throughout the world.
Diana's body was laid to rest at Althorp, on a peaceful and secluded island in the middle of a lake.
THE PEOPLE'S PRINCESS
The death of Diana, Princess of Wales unleashed an expression of public feeling on an unprecedented scale. Nothing had prepared the people for the shock of losing such a vital, beautiful young women who had everything to live for. People of all ages had been able to identify with this member of the Royal Family, as a glamorous leader of fashion, a dedicated mother and more recently as the undisputed champion of the under-privileged, the handicapped and the elderly. She did more than had ever been done before to focus attention on what were previously unmentionable subjects, and the practical and constructive way in which she displayed her compassion and sympathy was a fine demonstration of modern royalty at work.
Diana was star quality, of that there was no doubt. She became the most pursued woman in the world and gave the impression of enjoying her celebrity status, even though she claimed not to understand why so many people felt so affectionate towards her. Perhaps it was this very innocence that made her so attractive. She occasionally gave the outward appearance of being tough, and she herself said she would 'fight like a tiger' for what she believed in. But another of the qualities that emerged was her vulnerability, and it was this made so many people spring to her defence. She never lacked friends to take her part and champion her cause, and there was never a shortage of volunteers anxious to protect and cherish her. Much of her international appeal came about because those who came into contract with her felt a natural instinct to look after her, even when she protested that she did not need protecting.
Diana was always a woman who acted from the heart, and the world loved her for it. She possessed a natural aura of accessibility, and was never afraid to show her emotion. Ordinary men and woman felt they could approach her without any fear of rebuttal; she positively encouraged people to talk to her and touch her.
Diana has been described as one of the nation's greatest assets and her appearance was one of her most important attributes. Even when her behaviour was unpredictable, she was forgiven because of her beauty and style.
Her most important role was raising her small family. Everything else was secondary to the welfare of her sons and no one was ever left in any doubt as to her priorities. William and Harry came first and in spite of the pressures she lived under — that would not have change. She knew that the encouragement and help she could give him. She was prepared to subjugate her own ambitions to his happiness and security.
If Diana seemed to rebel against a protocol and tradition that appeared to be stuffy and restrictive, it struck a chord with young people, who felt she was striking a blow for them as well as for herself. And when she comforted the sick, the maimed and the abused, those around her knew that this was not an act, neither was she merely going though the routine of a well-rehearsed and programmed public appearance. Although her duties were necessarily choreographed down to the last detail, her concern was obviously genuine and she managed to communicate her true feelings.
How will she be remembered and what were her most significant achievements? It would be invidious to single out from her many good works just one and name it as the most important. On the international scene, if there is a successful conclusion to her landmines campaign, that would be a fitting memorial; or if there is a breakthrough in the treatment of AIDS or cancer. Perhaps her involvement in child care and famine relief will result in greater public awareness.
Diana will be remembered as an inspirational woman who once said she wanted to be known as a 'Queen of Hearts'. Perhaps in death that is exactly what she has become.
By Mother Teresa1910-1997
I see a bird in flight, Or a baby's gentle smile. The beauty that I see in them Reminds me of your face.
The compassion and the caringSo softly chiseled there.The love and understanding Painted on by God's own hand.
Your face is a priceless treasure,With a perfection of its own.I look into your faceTo see Love's own eyesgazing back at me.
1990 - By me
Literature: 'Diana, Princess of Wales' by Brian Hoey