Mark Dolan: 24 years after her death, the world still mourns Princess Diana
She was the perfect princess, not in spite of, but because of her imperfections
Amid all of the huge issues currently engulfing the world, one story hasn’t had the attention it perhaps deserves. Today marks the 24th anniversary, of the untimely death of Princess Diana, killed in a car crash in Paris.
Diana is a woman who changed the royal family, changed Britain and in her own way, changed the world. In terms of her background, although she wasn't exactly Dick Van Dyke from Mary Poppins, she certainly wasn't the typical aristocratic Royal Princess.
When she met Charles, she was described in the press as a commoner, but she had uncommon gifts. Not burdened by the pomposity of royal protocol, Diana was fresh, real, honest, authentic. From day one, she did things her way and on her own terms, at times in the face of the unforgiving might of the royal family, known of course, as the firm.
She took on the firm and won, becoming the most high-profile royal in the country, above even the Queen herself, and her popularity extended beyond these shores. She was a globally recognised, loved and admired figure.
She reached out to and comforted AIDS victims, hugging them and taking their hand, when it was a taboo.
She sought to represent those with no voice and campaigned vociferously against landmines, among many other good causes. She served as a beacon of humanity and empathy for all of her years in the public spotlight.
Her wedding to Prince Charles was one of the cultural events of the century. People had street parties - remember the tea towels, mugs and t-shirts? I’ve still got a Charles and Diana egg-cup somewhere.
It was a massive moment for the country, and you could argue the beginning of Royals becoming celebrities.
The crossover between our constitution and traditions on the one hand, and the media and popular culture on the other, happened overnight, all thanks to Diana. Her face, even after she tragically died,
would supercharge the circulation of any newspaper or magazine, even if there wasn't a story to report. The public loved Diana, and they just wanted to see her and hear about her.
Her marriage to Charles wasn't to be. It didn't help that, to put it in her words, there were three people in that relationship.
Charles clearly always loved Camilla, and should've married her in the first place. Diana paid the price for the stifling Royal rules that made that impossible. The Queen would not have allowed Charles to marry Camilla, and the rest is history.
They are together now, clearly happy and I think most people wish them well. In my view Camilla has been dignified and good-humoured since day one. I’m a fan.
But it's when thinking about Diana’s doomed marriage to Charles, that one feels colossal sadness about her. She married for love, clearly adoring of the Prince of Wales and the anguish she went through in the early years of their marriage, was palpable.
And Diana was used and abused, far too often in her life. I know she encouraged the press at times, but they often went too far and crossed the line.
And the way she was deceived and hoodwinked into that notorious Panorama interview on the BBC with Martin Bashir, was a true scandal. It led to Diana losing her royal titles, and crucially her elite royal protection.
And we know the rest of this sorry tale, as she was taken from us in a horrific car accident on this night 24 years ago.
Do the BBC have blood on their hands? I couldn't say. But her sons William and Harry certainly think so.
Prince William made his feelings clear in May after an inquiry by former supreme court judge, John Dyson...
Diana’s story is one of a life lost, but not a life wasted. Quite the opposite. She made the world a better, brighter place.
And of course she was a devoted mother, perhaps her greatest legacy.
As with everything else, she rewrote the rules of royal parenting, teaching her children to share hugs and express affection for each other. And to be open about their feelings. And she tried to give them as normal a life as possible. It's abundantly clear, she was an incredible mother.
Which is why she would be truly dismayed by the recent estrangement of her youngest son Harry from his family, and most importantly from his own brother William. There is no way that this split would've happened on her watch. She would doubtless have used a bit of carrot and a bit of stick, a bit of the hairdryer treatment and a bit of arm around the shoulder.
And yes, heads would've been knocked together.
Which is why Harry ought now, to consider ending the Civil War against his own family. I don't know whether it's fuelled by his wife Meghan, but it doesn't matter. His relationship with his family, is his responsibility. If Meghan is driving the rift, he can overrule and reach out. Let's hope for the sake of Diana's memory that he does just that, and that they can heal.
I will never forget where I was that fateful night when she died, and when the grim headlines came in. I think most of us remember where we were. I was in Central London, working at a Radio station owned by The Harrods owner Mohammed Al Fayed, whose son Dodi, of course, also tragically died.
It's a cruel irony that Diana appeared to be her happiest in years, when pursued into that Paris tunnel, by avaricious foreign paparazzi. Diana set the template for a more sustainable, more human, more relatable royal family. That legacy continues today. You can see it in the way William and Kate relate to each other, and the way they are raising their kids.
Diana brought her warmth, charisma and stunning good looks into our daily lives. She was the People's Princess absolutely, Queen of hearts, but she was the perfect princess too.
Not in spite of, but because of her imperfections. This was a princess so sparkling, even Disney, couldn't conceive such a creation. The public outpouring of grief at her funeral, whilst sneered at by some in the media, was sincere. The public were devastated to lose her and we've missed her ever since.
She’s never been replaced, and she never will be. May God bless the memory of Princess Diana, who we lost 24 years ago today.