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Lady Di

Agosto 2021
La tragica storia della principessa del Galles, che avrebbe compiuto sessanta anni a luglio, continua a echeggiare dopo più di due decenni dalla sua morte e a influenzare il modo in cui consideriamo la famiglia reale nel XXI secolo.

di Alex Phillips

File audio:

The Princess of Wales in Hong Kong in 1995
The Princess of Wales in Hong Kong in 1995
Princess Diana visits the Neves Bendinha Orthopedic Workshop in Luanda, Angola in 1997
Princess Diana visits the Neves Bendinha Orthopedic Workshop in Luanda, Angola in 1997

Speaker: Rachel Roberts (British accent)

Nearly a quarter of a century on from her death in a car crash in a Paris underpass, the legacy of Diana Spencer still occupies a special place in the British public consciousness. Millions around the world watched Diana’s funeral service at Westminster Abbey, and the public display of grief in Britain was unprecedented. It prompted the prime minister Tony Blair to call Diana “the people’s princess” because of the way she captured the hearts of the nation.

PRESS HUNT BEGINS

During her life, the Princess of Wales became the most photographed person in the world, with paparazzi being offered up to half a million pounds for pictures of her. Interest had arisen after Diana and Prince Charles met in 1977 and he’d invited her to his family’s Scottish estate, at Balmoral to meet the Queen. At the time, Britain was in recession. Many, especially in the manufacturing sector, had lost their jobs after nationwide strikes. The royal romance provided glamour to counterbalance the gloom. People felt Diana was down-to-earth, as she worked part-time as a nursery teacher and lived in a shared flat in London. Lady Diana, however, was born into an aristocratic family and had studied at an exclusive boarding school for girls, though she left with no academic qualifications.

THE WEDDING

Charles’ proposal of marriage was allegedly provoked by tabloid suggestions of an improper liaison between the couple. There were also rumours of rifts with the Crown regarding “revealing” outfits that Diana wore, as well as sexist comments about her figure. These later contributed to Diana’s struggles with an eating disorder. The couple married on July 29, 1981. The ceremony took place in St. Paul’s Cathedral, which better accommodated their 2,500 guests than Westminster Abbey, the usual venue for royal weddings. Some 750 million people around the world watched the event.

GLAMOUR

Just months later, Diana announced her pregnancy. Already, issues had emerged regarding the marriage. Diana fell down a staircase at the royal-family owned estate Sandringham, an incident that she later said was a deliberate cry for attention. After William was born in 1982, Charles, Diana and their nine-month-old son embarked on their first royal tour together to Australia and New Zealand, where Diana proved a big success. The couple’s second son, Harry, was born in 1984. The following year, Diana conquered America after she danced with John Travolta at the White House.

COMPASSION

Thanks to her popularity, Diana saw a way to do good even though it sometimes breached royal protocol. She became patron of many charities, including those banning the use of landmines, battling poverty and addressing the stigma surrounding mental illness. Most controversially, in an atmosphere of homophobia, she shook hands with a man suffering from AIDS, without gloves, at a London hospital. Her gesture helped combat the misconception that the illness could be transmitted by casual contact, and showed Diana to be a compassionate, inclusive person. But it was controversial for a royal; the Princess became more isolated and more paranoid.

IN HER OWN WORDS

As a means to regain control over her life, Diana confided in journalist Andrew Morton who published the 1992 biography Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words. On tapes answering questions sent to her in secret, Diana described her difficult life among the royals. She was candid about her unhappy marriage, revealing that Charles had been having a long-term affair with his first love, Camilla Parker Bowles.

YOU MAKE MY LIFE HELL

Diana’s own romantic affairs led to separation and then divorce. Diana was awarded a settlement of £17 million in cash, as well as £400,000 a year. She retained the title Princess of Wales. In 1993, exhausted with the persistent press harassment, Diana announced that she wished to retire from public life. The year before her death, she confronted some of her most relentless hunters, screaming at one: “You make my life hell!”

MURDER PLOT

On August 31, 1997, Diana departed the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Paris with her date, Dodi Fayed, the Egyptian son of the owner of luxury store Harrods. Their driver, Henri Paul, tried to outrun the paparazzi but crashed the Mercedes into a cement pillar in a tunnel. Diana died in hospital and only bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones survived, but suffered memory loss. While courts in the UK ruled that the excessive alcohol in the driver’s blood provoked their deaths, rumours of a murder plot have persisted ever since. These rumours were taken seriously. In 2005 Prince Charles was actually interviewed by the British police as part of an investigation into Diana’s death, but as a witness, not a suspect.   

 


 

ON THEIR OWN TERMS

Today, as a consequence of Diana’s experience, the UK has some of the strictest privacy laws in the world. The press respects an unofficial agreement that photographing the royals is only permitted on official engagements. There is widespread public support for the Princess of Wales son Harry and his wife Meghan’s open rejection of royal duties and attitudes. Initially, like many celebrities, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex used social media to publish their most intimate moments on their own terms. However, the couple became disillusioned with the amount of hateful comments they received, and now choose to release carefully timed and controlled photographs and statements instead. Among them are intimate photographs of family life, which include pictures of their son Archie and daughter Lilibet Diana named after her grandmother and the nickname of her great-grandmother, the Queen.


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