A lot has been written about this lady, one of the most famous women of the 1990s. A lot of this has revolved around her life, her marriage to the royal family, her charity work, among other highlights of her life. Given this high profile focus on this lady, one can not help but wonder whether or not Princess Diana was a hero. This will be the focus of this essay. The writer will try to address the question, “is Princess Diana a hero?”
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It is the opinion of this writer that Princess Diana was in fact a hero. This is given the fact that she used her high profile position as the princess of Wales to give hope and comfort to the hopeless and neglected members of the society (Burrell, 2007). She used the power and influence that came with her title to fight poverty, social injustices and such other negative attributes of the society. Her involvement with charity work went beyond thee conventional and mandatory involvement called for the members of the royal family.
Princess Diana: Historical Background
The story of this heroic woman began on 1st July 1961, when she was born as the third child of John Spencer, the Viscount of Althorp, and Frances Spencer, the Viscountess of Althorp (Fryer, Fryer, Bousfield & Toffoli, 1983: 73). The father was of British descent, while her mother had a mixture of English and Irish ancestry (Fryer et al., 1983).
Princess Diana can be viewed as having grown up in a characteristically unstable family, having witnessed the separation of her parents in 1969 (Burrell, 2007). A court gave her father the custody to the four children, meaning that the young Diana had to grow up with her step mother after her father remarried. Given that Diana and her three siblings were not in good terms with their step mother, she spent her early life shuttling between her father’s and mother’s residences (Burrell, 2007).
The life of Diana as part of the royal family began in the early 1980s. This is when they met and started dating Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales (Burrell, 2007). The young man proposed to the nineteen years old school teacher in early 1981. They got married on 29th July, the same year. This was when she acquired the royal title of The Princess of Wales (Levchuck, 1999: Princess Diana.com, 2010).
The media referred to her as Princess Diana, even though she had no right to this title, which is conferred through birth. This became her popular title, and no one paid attention to the fact that she had no birth right to it.
Her marriage to Prince Charles gave rise to two sons who were born roughly two years apart (Levchuck, 1999). On 21st June 1982, Prince William was born, roughly one year after the marriage of the parents (Burrell, 2007). The second heir to the throne, Prince Henry, was born on 15th September 1984 (Burrell, 2007). According to her admissions, her pregnancy with the second child was one of the happiest periods in her royal life, given that she received a lot of attention from her husband.
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The high profile marriage between Princess Diana and Prince Charles started coming apart in the early years of the 1990 decade (Burrell, 2007). However, the difficulties between the two started as early as 1985, immediately after the birth of their second son. Prince Charles was accused of infidelity, and the same was said of his wife (Burrell, 2007).
Both parties traded counter accusations, blaming each other for the failure of the marriage. Referring to her husband’s infidelity, and talking about his presumed mistress, Princess Diana told a reporter that “there were three of us in this marriage” (Burrell, 2007: 67). On 28th August 1996, the two officially separated after both parties negotiated a settlement that was acceptable to all (Levchuck, 1999).
The curtains fell on her life on 31st August 1997 after a fatal accident on the streets of Paris (Burrell, 2007). She was in the company of her then-boyfriend, Dodi Al-Fayed, who also died in the accident (Burrell, 2007).
Princess Diana: Her Heroic Deeds
Even after her divorce and severance from the royal family, Princess Diana continued with her charity work that touched many lives around the world (Princess Diana.com, 2010). It is to be remembered that during the divorce, she said that “I would like to be a queen in the hearts of the people” (Princess Diana.com: 1), and her life can be seen as a true representation of this desire.
It is to be noted that it is required of the royal family members to make contributions to charity and social work by visiting hospitals and donating to humanitarian causes. However, Princess Diana went beyond this by displaying a passion for what she did (Levchuck, 1999). She empathized with sufferers of serious illnesses, with whom she developed close ties, something that was not common in the royal family.
For example, she was the first high profile personality in the world to be photographed while touching people suffering from AIDS (Levchuck, 1999). She was quoted as saying that “HIV does not make people dangerous to know. You can shake their hands and hug them; heaven knows they need it” (princess Diana.com: 3).
This alone had a profound effect in changing the opinions that were held by the society towards HIV and people living with AIDS. Against this background, it can be said that Princess Diana was a hero to those living with HIV, and in extension to the AIDS cause in general.
The princess was also a hero to the survivors of landmines that are left scattered and maim people long after a conflict is resolved (Levchuck, 1999). For example, in the year 1997, shortly before her demise, she visited a landmine field in Angola and later in Bosnia (Burrell, 2007).
Her concerns were the lives lost from the explosion of these mines, especially in children, and the loss of limbs. The Landmines Bill of the year 1998, which was signed by the House of Commons long after her death, can be seen as the culmination of her heroic deeds to the cause of landmine survivors and victims (Burrell, 2007).
Princess Diana received several honors and recognition for her charity work. For example, she is the recipient of the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II, and the Grand Officer, Order of the Crown, the latter having been recognition from Netherlands (Burrell, 2007). Her legacy includes the establishment of the Diana Memorial Award, Diana, Princess of Wales Awards among others aimed at motivating people to further her cause.
Princess Diana: A Hero?
It is a fact beyond doubt that this iconic figure was, and remains, a hero to many people in the society. Her campaigns to fight the stigmatization of patients with HIV, her fight against landmines are just a few of the causes that make her a hero. Her role at the helm of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children is an indication of her determination to fight for the health of the poor and the vulnerable in the society (Burrell, 2007).
It can be argued that princess Diana occupies a place of honor on the table of the world’s heroes. This is evidenced by the charity work she engaged in and the recognition she received for the same. The statues and other monuments erected in her honor are witnesses to this role. It can be said that, without doubt, humanity lost one of its significant heroes on that fateful August 31 day in 1997.
Burrell, P. (2007). The way we were: Remembering Diana. New York: HarperCollins Entertainment.
Fryer, M., Fryer, M. B., Bousfield, A., & Toffoli, G. (1983). Lives of the Princesses of Wales. Toronto: Dundurn Press Limited.
Levchuck, C. M. (1999). Learning about charity from the life of Princess Diana. New York: The Rosen Publishing Group.
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Princess Diana.com (2010). Welcome on Princes Diana. Web.