Diana, Princess of Wales, died 25 years ago on August 31, 1997. But her legacy of activism and charity lives on, as do her bike shorts.
Diana died on August 31, 1997, at the age of 36, from injuries she got in a car crash in Paris. Her friend Dodi Fayed and the driver, Henri Paul, also died in the crash. About a decade later, a jury said that her death was caused by the reckless driving of both her chauffeur and the paparazzi who were following them. Her sons also blame the BBC for her death because of its bombshell 1995 interview, which was obtained through a scheme of forgery and deceit.
Princess Diana showed the world how to use celebrity for good
People didn’t just love the so-called “people’s princess.” Bidisha Mamata, a British journalist, says that she also changed people’s ideas about what it means to be famous.
“In the 21st century, we take it as a given that famous people will also be U.N. special envoys or will use their power for good,” she says. “Princess Diana was a very radical person who came up with the idea of a famous person who does good.”
Diana used her fame to bring attention to many humanitarian and charitable causes. At one point, she was connected to more than 100 charities.
She walked through minefields in Bosnia and Angola to promote the removal of landmines. She also visited people with leprosy in Nepal, India, and Zimbabwe. She opened Britain’s first AIDS ward in London, where she famously shook hands without gloves with a patient to disprove the false belief that HIV/AIDS could be spread through casual touch.
Diana also made news when she hugged a young AIDS patient while visiting a Harlem, New York, unit for children with the disease.
Mamata said, “She was an activist at a time when AIDS and HIV were so stigmatised.” “She was the one who went into AIDS wards and told people, “No, I’m going to talk to you like you’re normal people.” I’m going to shake hands, talk to you, and bring your attention to something.'”
In an interview with Morning Edition right after Diana’s death, the late British historian Ben Pimlott said that Diana would be remembered for her service to the public and for giving the monarchy a breath of fresh air.
He said that she was “a very funny, witty, sharp, human being with a great relationship and a great heart.”
Diana’s life, including her troubled marriage to Prince Charles and how the royal family treated her, and the events leading up to her death still fascinate people today.
In the past few months, her story has been told on both the big screen and streaming services. Emma Corrin plays her on Netflix’s The Crown, and Kristen Stewart plays her in the movie Spencer. Last July, on what would have been her 60th birthday, Princes William and Harry unveiled a statue of her at Kensington Palace. And just this past weekend, an auction sold a Ford Escort that Diana drove in the 1980s for more than $850,000.
On Wednesday, the anniversary, people came together in Paris to lay flowers, write messages, and pay their respects on the bridge above the underpass where Diana was killed. Others put together a temporary memorial outside the gates of Kensington Palace and decorated it. And the flag was lowered to half-staff at Althorp House, the Spencer family home where Diana grew up.