Updated: Dec 1, 2022
I knew what my job was; it was to go out and meet people and love them."
A philanthropist, a humanitarian, a doting mother and a style icon, the beloved Princess Diana defied traditions, opened up about her experience with bulimia and post-partum depression. She knew the value of human connections and was often credited for humanizing the monarchy while capturing the hearts of people around the world. Being one of the most famous members of the royal family, Diana had had her share of trials and tribulations. Her charisma, fearlessness, compassion, humility, and dedication earned her the moniker “the People’s Princess.”
Despite having a lonely childhood and turbulent marriage, she remained a sensation with the public and media. Princess Diana is one of the most photographed women of all time and gave rise to the term “celebrity humanitarian.” She was determined to connect with people and refrained from wearing hats or gloves.
As the world remembers Diana on the 25th anniversary of her death, here are a few humanitarian causes that were close to her heart.
In 1987, Diana opened Britain’s first AIDS ward in London’s Middlesex Hospital. She became the first high-profile celebrity photographed shaking hands with an AIDS patient without gloves to negate the misbelief that the virus was contagious. This single gesture changed people’s perceptions of HIV/AIDS. Gavin Hart of the National AIDS Trust later told BBC after Diana’s tragic demise that "In our opinion, she was the foremost ambassador for AIDS awareness on the planet and no one can fill her shoes in terms of the work she did."
Princess Diana actively campaigned for the worldwide ban of landmines. Her concern over the use of landmines was for the people, especially children, who were hurt by them. The Princess of Wales received both public appreciation and criticism when photographs and videos of her inspecting land minefields in a flak jacket and visor were broadcast across the world-marking a groundbreaking moment as she made the daring decision to walk through an active minefield. She wanted to put herself in the position of the people she was trying to help. Some took it as a bold political statement, accusing her of aligning herself with the labour policy. However, she was quick to clarify - "I am not a political figure. I am a humanitarian figure. I always have been and always will be."
Her visits to war-torn Angola and Bosnia were some of the most memorable philanthropic moments of her lifetime. Her work had international pressure to pass a ban on the use of landmines and encouraged the signing of the Ottawa Treaty in 1997 by 122 countries- an agreement designed to eliminate anti-personal landmines around the world.
Diana was passionate about giving homeless adolescents a future, ending youth homelessness and poverty, and raising awareness of mental health. A single theme of her humanitarian contributions is her undying concern for children. In a 1995 speech for the homeless charity Centrepoint, she said that "every young person deserves a proper start in life," and that "those who have no family to turn to, need to rely on us as a society (to give) the help, the encouragement they need."
Diana had a knack for understanding where some of the most vulnerable people in the world needed her and wanted to ensure that the people who needed attention the most in the world got it. This is why she went to Zimbabwe, a place that doesn't get the world's media attention, and made a difference by putting the spotlight on much-needed leprosy awareness across the world. As the patron of The Leprosy Mission England, she said "It has always been my concern to touch people with leprosy, trying to show in a simple action that they are not reviled, nor are we repulsed,". Diana continued to raise awareness by visiting leprosy hospitals and missions in many countries.
Prince William and Prince Harry continue to support the charities Diana did, and on July 4th, 2021, the princes unveiled a statue of their late mother with the hopes of perpetuating her legacy and recognising her positive impact on the world.
Princess Diana will remain a unique combination of elegance, empathy, and good intentions. She's still loved for the light that she shined, and the places that she visited are still benefitting from her magic. She proved that humanity still existed irrespective of your status in society and that inspired the younger generations to prioritise personable interactions, especially with children.
The photographs of her visiting AIDS patients, hand-held lepers, and walking through active landmines, piques the curiosity of the youth long after her death. More than two decades since Diana’s demise, the people’s princess continues to live on in our memory through her humanitarian legacy.