Princess Diana is one of few figures in British culture that is seemingly unanimously beloved. Here is why we remember Princess Diana so fondly
Princess Diana is as interwoven into the fabric of British culture and society as the pound sterling and red London buses. She is a constant talking and reference point, this year more than ever as Netflix’s The Crown depicts her death and the subsequent effect this had on her close family, the Royal House and the nation. However, unlike many royals in our history, we remember Princess Diana, not for being a princess as such, but more for her work as Diana. Her role is remembered second, where her identity as a humanitarian hero, a symbol of modern feminism and a mother comes first.
Here is why Princess Diana is so fondly remembered, not only in Britain but across the world too.
Diana’s humanitarian work stretched across all fields imaginable. She is famed for changing public opinion on the AIDS crisis, when she hugged children suffering from AIDS and when she opened the UK’s first HIV/AIDS specialist unit in London’s Middlesex Hospital. This humanised the people suffering from HIV and AIDS and helped to change the tone of the press in reporting on the condition.
"Diana's work humanised the people suffering from HIV to both the press and the public"
Outside of her work with AIDS, she advocated against the use of landmines and campaigned against homelessness. Her advocacy for these causes helped to transform and save lives across the world.
An unlikely feminist hero
As the 1980s and the 1990s progressed, Diana and her humanitarian work became the subject of international interest. Although the symbol of immense privilege, having grown up in a wealthy family and then becoming a princess, Diana’s utilisation of this privilege to create positive change made her an unlikely feminist hero. Her humanitarian visits often depicted her hugging crowds. She connected with people on a very human level, being at once strong and vulnerable. In this way, she came to embody third wave feminism, a movement that sought to highlight human and female difference as something positive. Diana's utilisation of her privilege to support minority groups, then, made her a hero to many social justice causes.
"She connected with people on a human level, being at once strong and vulnerable"
Princess Diana’s public struggle with her mental health, suffering from depression and an eating disorder, struck a chord particularly with women and helped to cement her status as a feminist icon. The most famous person in the world was discussing the difficulties she had faced in her marriage and the reality of struggling with one's mental health. In doing this she represented women in a way that, in the 1980s and 1990s, was unfamiliar, but, in private, all too common.
Diana’s influence on fashion
Princess Diana’s impact on 1980s and 1990s culture extends even into influencing fashion. One simply needs to glance at her outfits in 1990s and then they will see those outfits replicated today on the street. Once she separated from King Charles and she was more free to explore her own personal style, Diana embraced casual sportswear, when going to the gym, and a more professional style, comprised of turtlenecks, blazers and blouses, when seen in public.
These are two trends we continue to see today; quiet luxury has been one of the defining trends of the last few years, representing a kind of wealth that is not ostentatious and is, like Diana’s style, classic and minimal. Sportswear has been one of the biggest trends of the last decade, taking notes from Diana’s puffer jackets and baseball caps.
"Sportswear has been one of the biggest trends of the last decade, taking notes from Diana’s puffer jackets and baseball caps"
Where Diana cannot be credited with starting these trends, she did help to popularise them. Her embracing of modern trends is another key reason for the public continuing to admire her today. It symbolises Diana’s efforts to connect with people outside of the royal bubble and make a difference, something reflected by the press dubbing her the "People's Princess".
It’s the eminently human quality that Diana had that makes her such an enduring symbol; while she was able to change the world, she was also just like anyone else, as she cared about how she dressed and suffered with her mental health. In her struggles, she found strength and used this to create positive change across the UK and the world.
Banner credit: Princess Diana (John Matthew Smith)
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