By Jide Taiwo
On August 31 1997, the world woke up to learn of the tragic death of Princess Diana of Britain. A few hours earlier, she had been involved in a ghastly car accident in Paris. The news of her death sent shockwaves all across the world, the like of which would not happen for several years.
Princess Diana was a reality star before the advent of reality television: she attracted loving attention from the moment she joined the royal family by marrying the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles as a twenty year old in 1981. She perhaps, is solely responsible for the world’s fascination with the British Royal Family. Like a movie star, her life was filled with fame, celebrity, fortune, sadness and eventually, tragedy.
Born Diana Frances Spencer was born on 1 July 1961, she herself was of noble birth; having being born into an aristocratic family with close ties with the royal family. Her life as a royal began when she met Prince Charles at 16, while he was dating her elder sister. Over the next three years he would start a relationship with her, culminating in the world famous Royal Wedding of 1981.
The wedding of Charles and Diana was the first time the world would have a direct view into the life of the royals. Shown live on televison, the Wedding of the Century was attended by some 3,500 famous guests- including most of the royal families of Europe and beyond; heads of states and governments as well as global celebrities. More than 750 million people watched it on tv.
By the end of the decade however, the fairy tale had all but ended. The couple had two children, Princes William and Harry, but the love between them had soured. Rumours had it that the Prince had started seeing his former lover, Camilla Parker Bowles- who was married at the time. For a while, the family carried on like all was well and Diana became a global figure. Using her fame to raise money for charities and humanitarian works, her popularity soared outside the walls of Buckingham Palace.
In 1993 Prince Charles spoke publicly about his infidelity, claiming to only have gone back to his ex in 1986 (five years into his wedding) because his relationship with Diana had broken down. The Royal Family had never seen this kind of scandal before. By 1995, the couple agreed to divorce and it was made final in 1996.
As Diana became free of her unhappy marriage, she led a life that many believe she missed as a result of her early marriage. She became more open, did more charity work- and of course, dated several men.
In July of 1997 started a relationship with Dodi al Fayed, scion of the al Fayed family who owned the famous Harrod’s in London. Although the couple seemed happy together, the British Royal Family were reported to be dissatified at seeing the mother of the future King of England, cavorting openly with a Muslim.
On August 30 1997, she arrived in Paris to vacation with al Fayed. It was going to be the last day of her life.
As a reality star, the media obsession with her was insatiable. As the car they were in was escaping from the paparazzi, the driver lost control and ran into the pillar of a tunnel. Both the driver Henri Paul and Dodi al Fayed died at the scene while Princess Diana was still alive. Although she had no visible injuries, her heart as been displaced and she died at 4:00 on August 31. The flower of England had been cut down.
In the hours following the announcement of her death at the tender age of 36, the world mourned Princess Diana to no end. Kensington Palace where she lived was thronged with flowers and condolence messages. She was given a state burial one week later.
Her funeral was watched by an estimated 2.5 billion people and was a massive spectacle.
In the twenty years since her death, there have been many theories about what really killed her. Even though the autopsy blamed the accident on the over-speeding driver, many fans believe that she was killed by associates of Prince Charles who wanted to ensure that their friend became king, as a divorced individual cannot attain the throne of Britain.
Princess Diana was more than just a royal; she used her fame for good causes- helping AIDS victims, disadvantaged children, people in war torn countries and so many others. She was known as the People’s Princess and twenty years later, her impact on the world scene is still very heavily felt.
Goodbye England’s Rose…
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