As we approach the 20th Anniversary of the People’s Princess’ death, we remain unsure of her character, her life and the chaos that surrounded it. A mythical, glamourous scandal that we love to hear and retell, one of cheating, suicides, mental illness, Pimms, pints and Queen Elizabeth the second.
Covered in every magazine, the subject of countless books, specials every year on major television channels, the focus of movies and documentaries including National Geographic’s “Remembering Diana: A Life In Photographs” and a Broadway musical in the works, Diana’s life has been told and retold a million times.
So what is so intriguing, so unexplainable about Diana that we feel the need to keep revisiting and re-examining her short life?
People love to love her, and people love to hate her. People love to watch her cry and watch her thrive, but most of all people love that it all happened behind the gates of Buckingham Palace.
The media she claimed to hate documented her every move, snapshots of a royal at the shops, or at the gym. Candid photos of her trips to Africa and India. But were these photos and the information leaked? Or was it a carefully planned PR stunt, one from a marketing genius who knew (so to speak) her angles and what her audience really wanted and what would gain the public’s love and overall empathy?
It’s hard to know.
What is known was the theatre that surrounded Diana, and the coverage that followed was a carefully planned production.
Diana’s narrated image began with her celebrity style wedding. At only nineteen she was depicted as an innocent marrying an old man who was in love with another. She, an aristocrat of ‘noble’ heritage knew all too well of her fiancé’s love for Camilla and yet decided to marry him anyway. And thus began her public image as ‘an innocent wronged’ a victim of circumstance and an outsider.
Headlines read: “ Diana, driven to five suicide bids by ‘uncaring’ Charles” from the Sunday Times in 1992 told of sensationalised stories of Diana being victimised by not only her husband Prince Charles but the royal family at large. These bombshell headlines were shocking at the time as the royal family could exert power over the British press at any time, which meant only one thing- a member of the British royal family was committing a form of treason.
It is certain Diana liaised with popular journalist Andrew Morton on a book that revealed the secret lives of the British Royal family and Diana herself. In it she masterfully divulged secrets of her bulimia, self-harm and sexless marriage. This confessional style admission made the public love her more. Though she denies ever meeting with Morton, she sold her curated narrative to the masses, who was ready to believe every word.
That narrative extended from the day of her wedding until present day.
Today tabloid media continuously speculate Harry’s parentage, conspiracy theories rise and fall about her death and Charles will always be seen as a cheating, disgraced royal.
We should remember Diana for her continuous charity work and the awareness she raised for those suffering from leprosy and HIV. Instead, we remember a fake. A perfectly manicured narrative catered for a public market.
As we commemorate 20 years since her death, and watch the documentaries and read the articles, perhaps it’s worth remembering that there are two sides to every story.
Video: Diana: In Her Own Words Premieres Tuesday 15th August 7.30pm AEST/NZST on National Geographic
Screenshots from Diana In her Own Words