SHE was the world’s most famous woman, never out of the spotlight.
Yet Princess Diana rarely spoke on the record to her adoring public.
Princess Diana in 1990, the year before she talked to Andrew MortonCredit: Camera Press
Little wonder the words she did leave behind are now treated with such reverence.
It would be her 60th birthday on July 1 but, of course, she never lived to see it. Her life was taken in a 1997 Paris car crash, at age 36, as hopes for a bright future outside the Royal Family were wiped away.
But what would her life look like now if the devastating tragedy had not occurred?
Diana would have undoubtedly continued to work selflessly for her humanitarian causes outside The Firm. And she made it clear she would also devote her time to her beloved sons by ex-husband Prince Charles, Princes William and Harry.
Her public comments offer us glimpses of the woman within.
During a speech in 1993 — the year after her separation from Prince Charles — she said: “Over the next few months I will be seeking a more suitable way of combining a meaningful public role with, hopefully, a more private life.
“My first priority will continue to be our children, William and Harry, who deserve as much love and care and attention as I am able to give, as well as an appreciation of the tradition into which they were born.”
Diana was a breath of fresh air when she joined the ranks of Britain’s grandest institution. Yet while in the glare of the public eye, she also had to battle her demons.
She believed from her early days at the heart of the House of Windsor that she would never be queen.
Speaking in 1991, she said: “From day one, I always knew. No one said that to me, I just knew it.
The Princess of Wales with Harry and William in 1994Credit: John Swannell
AIDS AND LANDMINES
“I’m going to cut a very different path from everyone else. I’m going to break away from this set-up and go and help the man on the street.
“I hate saying ‘man on the street’, it sounds so condescending.
“But I’m being pushed more and more that way. I don’t like the glamorous occasions any more, I feel uncomfortable. I would much rather be doing something with sick people, I’m more comfortable there.”
She had her own problems, including a long battle with bulimia which began after her engagement to Prince Charles in 1981.
She told her voice coach: “Every-one knew about the bulimia in the family and they blamed the failure of the marriage on the bulimia.
“That’s taken some time to get them thinking differently.
“I could have gone to alcohol, which would have been obvious. I could have gone anorexic, which would have been even more obvious.
“I decided to do it more discreetly, which ultimately wasn’t discreet.
“But I chose to hurt myself instead of hurting all of you.”
Diana greets her boys on the deck of the yacht Britannia in Toronto in 1991Credit: Getty
Speaking at a 1993 conference on eating problems, she said: “Eating disorders, whether it be anorexia or bulimia, show how an individual can turn the nourishment of the body into a painful attack on themselves, and they have at their core a far deeper problem than mere vanity.”
Diana gave all the causes close to her heart — such as the Aids crisis in the Eighties and landmines in Africa — a personal touch.
Speaking to Time magazine, she said: “It’s vital the monarchy keeps in touch with the people — it’s what I try to do.”
It is a legacy that lives on in her children, with William inheriting his mother’s easy rapport with people and putting it to good use in his work championing frontline workers and young people.
But despite Diana’s ease with the public, there were hints the doting mother-of-two was struggling with her role. Speaking in the same year as a conference to raise awareness of eating disorders, she said: “I have it on very good authority that the quest for perfection in society can leave the individual gasping for breath.”
Princess Diana chatting with Steve, 28, at a centre for AIDS / HIV+ patientsCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
While she struggled with the media glare, Diana relished her role as a mother and vowed to “feed” her two boys with love.
She had concern for her eldest, William, about the expectation placed on his young shoulders.
She told friends after the birth of Harry: “Only when the baby is a lot older will he realise how lucky he is not being the eldest.
“The second child will never have the same pressures or problems poor William will have to put up with.”
But she also had a fine sense of humour about motherhood.
Comedian Joan Rivers recalls the day she met Diana. William had just gone off to Eton and she asked Diana whether she had redecorated his room yet. “I don’t know whether to make it a sauna or gym,” Diana replied wryly.
When Liz Tilberis, former editor of British Vogue, asked whether Diana had her kids with her, she replied: “Oh, no, they’re in Scotland shooting little furry things with their father.”
Diana with Harry, William and Charles at VJ Day 50th anniversary celebration in 1995Credit: Getty
Diana’s greatest gift, perhaps, was spreading kindness.
By hugging patients with Aids in the Eighties, she helped remove the stigma surrounding the disease.
That warm demeanour quietly modernised the Royal Family.
Speaking during a 1993 speech, she said: “Perhaps we’re too embarrassed to change, too frightened of the consequences of showing we care. But why not risk it.
“Begin today. Carry out a random act of seemingly senseless kindness, with no expectation of reward or punishment. Safe in the knowledge that one day, someone, somewhere, might do the same for you.
“Deep within us all is a need to care and to be cared for. We all have that right.”
As a doe-eyed 16-year-old, Diana first caught the eye of Prince Charles when he was courting her older sister Sarah.
With her vivacious personality, Diana quickly attracted his attention and was invited to keep him company at Balmoral and Windsor.
She told her voice coach that Prince Charles initially doted on her intensely.
Describing their first kiss, Diana said: “He leapt upon me and started kissing me and everything.
“This is not what people do, and he was all over me the rest of the evening — followed me around, everything, puppy.”
The Princess of Wales meets a resident at Casey House, an AIDS Hospice in Toronto, CanadaCredit: Getty
But the feeling was more than reciprocated and Diana quickly fell for the young Prince. During their engagement interview in 1981, when asked if they were in love, Diana said: “Of course.”
To which Charles replies with the much-quoted: “Whatever ‘in love’ means.”
She later said: “Charles turned around and said, ‘Whatever in love means’, and that threw me completely. I thought, ‘What a strange question — uh, answer’. God, absolutely traumatised me.”
Ultimately, their marriage would officially end in divorce in 1996 — but the pair had already spent years living apart.
Despite having had great hopes and dreams of carrying on her humanitarian work outside the Royal Family, Diana’s life ended tragically just one year later in that car crash in a Paris tunnel. But her legacy would live on down the years.
Speaking during a charity lunch for brain injury charity Headway in 1993, the People’s Princess had summed up her commitment to public service.
Diana said: “To the wider public, may I say that I’ve made many friends. I’ve been allowed to share your thoughts and dreams, your disappointments and your happiness.
“You have also given me an education — by teaching me more about life and living than any books or teachers could have done.
“My debt of gratitude to you all is immense.
“I hope, in some way, I’ve been of service in return.”
‘Like a queen & nun’
EVERY time I see Prince William, I think of Diana.
The same smile, the same eyes, the same pink cheeks when he’s embarrassed. But, most importantly, he has the compassion of his mother.
This was a woman who held hands with a leper and those close to death in hospices.
When she was sitting with children in war-torn Angola, she touched their cheeks.
How could that sensitivity not rub off on her two boys?
Diana didn’t follow the Royal Family rulebook, she did it her way. Many of the royals couldn’t cope with it. But slowly they changed and now everyone works like Diana.
For me, Diana was THE woman of the 21st Century. She had the dignity of a queen but the compassion of a nun.
She was so young, full of energy and vitality, with a brilliant sense of humour.
I was so excited when I went on a job with her. One smile and you knew your picture was going in the paper.
JOY TO SO MANY
Once, on a rainy day in Norwich, I was wearing a flat cap as I stood on a ladder to photograph the Princess.
Diana looked up at me and said: “Are you wearing that hat for a bet, Arthur?” She had laughter on her lips all the time. And when she smiled, the world lit up. She brought joy to so many.
She was a shining star. Acres and acres of newsprint were devoted to her. It wasn’t just because she was pretty, she did so many good things for charities and causes.
Diana’s greatest strength was the kindness she showed to everyone, not just the rich and famous but also the poor and less fortunate.
She wanted her kids to be well brought up and grounded. She took them to homeless shelters to see how others lived. And while the boys knew they were born into great privilege, she would take them to McDonald’s and the cinema, like any other family.
If she had lived, Diana would still be a style icon today, turning up at her charities with a twinkle in her eye and giving that smile.
A woman who made the country, where her son will one day be king, a more caring and compassionate place.