Diana, Princess of Whales: Her Life and Charitable Impacts (Fall 2012)

On July 1, 1961, Diana was born to Edward John Spencer and Frances Spencer as the fourth out of five children. Throughout her younger years, Diana wasn’t particularly academically successful. She did, however, show a strong interest and love for dance, music, and children. After attending finishing school, she held a wide variety of jobs, including a dance instructor, pre-school playgroup assistant, part time nanny, party hostess, and also a cleaning lady for her older sister, Sarah. In 1975, her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer of the Spencer family, and Diana was then referred to as Lady Diana Spencer.

Lady Diana had known Prince Charles for several years before their courtship. It was reported that she had played with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward as children when Diana’s family would rent property in Queen Elizabeth II’s estate. In 1977, she was introduced to their older brother, Prince Charles, who was 13 years older than her. Prince Charles had supposedly been in a previous relationship with Diana’s older sister, Lady Sarah Spencer. Pressures to marry and his interest in Diana ultimately led him to invite Lady Diana to accompany him to his family functions beginning in the summer of 1980. She was received well by his family, including Queen Elizabeth II, and their following courtship led to their official engagement in February of 1981 and their marriage later that July. They were given the couple names of The Prince and Princess of Whales.

In 1982, The Prince and Princess of Whales were blessed with their first child, Prince William Arthur Philip Lewis. He was later joined by younger brother Prince Henry Charles Albert David, popularly known as Harry, in 1984. Princess Diana was thrilled. Her love for children contributed to her wanting to give her two children the best life they could have considering eminent royal upbringing. She was adamant about giving them life experiences outside the palace. Princess Diana became known for her dedication to her two boys.

The public knew that there was an impending royal split. It was apparent through media coverage that Princess Diana and Prince Charles were growing apart and that there were reports of infidelity from both sides. The announcement of their divorce by the British Prime Minister came to no surprise to the public, and they were officially divorced in 1996. Diana then became romantically involved with an Egyptian film producer, Dodi Al-Fayed. Because Diana was so loved by the world for all her charitable contributions, her media coverage was at an all-time high. In 1997, the intoxicated driver of Diana’s car was attempting to escape the ravaging paparazzi when they were involved in a fatal accident that killed both Diana and Al-Fayed. The news of Diana’s death shocked the world. But even after death, Diana’s legacy will live on for decades to come.

With her rise to royalty and fame, Princess Diana quickly got involved in charities and humanitarian work. Because the royal family is in constant exposure to the limelight and under close scrutiny of the public eye, Diana’s charity work became widely known and appreciated. Diana was most famously known for her work with AIDS charities. She is credited for helping change the way the world sees the disease and for having a major influence on the campaigns that aided victims.

One thing that really stuck with the people about her work with AIDS was her physical touching of the patients she visited. During the outbreak of AIDS and HIV during the 1980s, people thought that it could be spread through casually touching people that have the disease. Diana was one of the first high profile celebrities to be seen publically touching AIDS patients, including holding their hands, hugs, and giving them reassuring pats on the back. This ultimately led to the changing of how the world perceived the disease. She did the majority of her work through the National AIDS Trust, which is an organization that helps with the education, research, and also treatment of the disease. As well as her work with AIDS/HIV, Diana also did a lot of charity work for leprosy foundations in the same manor of changing the world’s perceptions.

Along with AIDS, Diana also headed major campaigns to end the use of dangerous land mines. In 1997, Diana visited Angola as a volunteer for the International Red Cross. Her goal was to raise awareness of the dangers that landmines and war explosives serve to nearby villages and homes. She mostly emphasized the harm and injuries they can cause children in the areas. During her time spent volunteering for this cause, Diana attended education classes about awareness of the danger of anti-personnel landmines, visited victims of landmine accidents, and visited a minefield. One of the most famous photos from the project was of Diana wearing a safety hat and jacket while touring the minefield. This particular photograph was seen worldwide and which ultimately spread the awareness that she hoped for while gaining more love from the public.

It is believed that because of the vast publicity Diana gained political influence through her volunteer work to help end the use of anti-personnel landmines that it had a major impact of the signing of the Ottawa Treaty. After Diana’s death later in 1997, this Treaty was signed to internationally ban the use of anti-personnel landmines. She is given credit in influencing the movement of this treaty because she had large public following.

The vast media coverage of Diana and all her good doings have had the largest effect on the public’s perception of her. She was never afraid to shake hands or hug an ill person. She believed that the best way to help someone heal was by offering them love and kind words. She often did not follow traditions or protocols of the Royal family, but her extension of herself to the public was received well by the masses and she gained worldwide love and following because of it.

Aside from the major AIDS and landmine charities that Diana campaigned with, she also did a lot of volunteer work with sick children and homeless people. Her love of children prompted her to visit children’s hospitals to offer her hugs and love to children battling cancer and kids who needed surgery. Some famous photos are of Diana holding recovering children. Diana was also an advocate of Centrepoint, an organization that helps homeless youth get off the streets. Her work involved helping them find shelter, food, and a job. After Diana’s death, Prince William took over her efforts with this organization to carry on her legacy.

When Princess Diana died in August of 1997, the world was shocked. It was estimated that over two and a half billion people worldwide, almost half the population of the world, tuned in to watch the funeral procession at Westminster Abbey on television, and more than a million people gathered to watch the cortege in person.

As tribute to his friend, Elton John retitled his song, “Candle in the Wind”, which was originally a tribute to Marilyn Monroe. He entitled the new version, “Goodbye, England’s Rose”, in dedication to Princess Diana and it became the best-selling song of the time. Elton John gave some of the proceeds from the song to some of the late Princess’s favorite charities.

The Royal family, including Diana’s two sons William and Harry, has made it their mission to continue on the work that she started and made headway with. Among these efforts is an organization formed after Diana’s death called Diana, Princess of Whales Memorial Fund. This organization maintains efforts and funds for refugees and sick children in Africa and also her charities with AIDS and landmines.

There are many memorial sites around the world that are dedicated to Princess Diana. Of these include, in London, a memorial fountain, a memorial walking path around garden parks, a memorial playground, and many more in other parts of the world. In addition, there is bronze statue dedicated to Diana above the tunnel in which she died in a car accident in.

Aside from her compassionate charitable contributions, Princess Diana’s fame was also impacted by some forces of history. One of the most prominent history forces the Diana encountered was in family and society. Being a member of the Royal family, Diana was expected to act a certain way and represent the Royal family in a positive way. She often did not stick to the traditions or protocols of the Royal family, yet she was ultimately received well and loved by the public. This goes to show that Diana’s personal values extended beyond the realms of the Royal family and it was the perfect way to win the world’s love, acceptance, and fame.

Technology also had a large impact on Princess Diana’s fame. Media contributed to the worldwide distribution of her charities and Royal works. Without photos, videos, mass article distribution, and news coverage, Diana would not have had such a worldwide impact. So, the technological advancements in video cameras, cameras, and media distribution technologies made her reputation what was and still is today. Because of the media coverage of the Royal family and Diana’s extra efforts, media technologies played an irreplaceable role in her life.

Diana can be compared to Gandhi because her ways of communication and advocacy are similar. Gandhi took a path of non-violence to communicate to the masses and gain public approval and awareness through media. Diana also utilized herself as a public figure to publicize her charity works and gain worldwide awareness. The both used love and passion to communicate their styles of service to the greater good.

The last history force that had an impact on Diana’s public successes was the role of specific individuals. Because of her immense media coverage, her charitable contributions, and her worldwide acceptance and fame, Diana became a very high profile individual. She easily became a world icon for love and charity because of her status and hard work through volunteering. Along with Queen Elizabeth II, Diana was a major face in the media and this had a large impact on her lasting impact on the world after her death.


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