I couldn’t help thinking about Princess Diana when I watched her older son, William marry the girl of his dreams, Kate Middleton. It would have been so great if Diana were still alive and could have been a part of her son’s big day. She would have been so proud to see her handsome son standing there in his uniform exchanging wedding vows.
Two things I really admired about Princess Diana–her role as a mother and her charitable work. I will always remember the time when she got down on her haunches and held out her arms and enveloped her two boys in a bear hug. The cameras were on her but she seemed oblivious. All she could focus on were her sons and how delighted she was to see them. It was obvious how much she adored them.
She was regarded by a biographer as a devoted and demonstrative mother. She rarely deferred to Prince Charles or to the Royal Family, and was often intransigent when it came to the children. She chose their first given names, dismissed a royal family nanny and engaged one of her own choosing, selected their schools and clothing, planned their outings and took them to school herself as often as her schedule permitted. She also negotiated her public duties around their timetables.
Prince William reminds me of her. His shy look and smile and personable way of interacting with people. He seems comfortable talking to people and making them feel comfortable, something Diana was great at. Prince Harry is the same way. They both have her interest and Charles’ in charitable work. They give of themselves just as she did for so many years.
The princes carry out charity work in Africa. When Harry was asked whathis mother would have made this work he and elder brother William are doing, the young prince said, “Every day, whatever we do, wherever we are and whoever we’re with, I always wonder what she’d think – what she’d be doing – if she was with us now. “If she’d be sitting here having a laugh, whether she’d be in the background sticking her tongue out – or whether she’d be playing football with the children. That’s what keeps us going every day – that thought of what she’d be like if she was around today.” I know that she would be very proud to see that they share her love for reaching out and helping others.
As Princess of Wales she was expected to visit hospitals, schools, etc., in the 20th-century model of royal patronage. Diana developed an intense interest in serious illnesses and health-related matters outside the purview of traditional royal involvement, including AIDS and leprosy. In addition, the Princess was the patroness of charities and organisations working with the homeless, youth, drug addicts and the elderly. From 1989, she was President of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.
During her final year, Diana lent highly visible support to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a campaign that went on to win theNobel Peace Prize in 1997 after her death.
I can still see an image of her holding an AIDS infected baby. As a mother it must have broken her heart to know that someone so tiny has an incurable disease.
In January 1997, pictures of the Princess touring an Angolan minefield in a ballistic helmet and flak jacket were seen worldwide. It was during this campaign that some accused the Princess of meddling in politics and declared her a ‘loose cannon.’ In August 1997, just days before her death, she visited Bosnia with Jerry White and Ken Rutherford of the Landmine Survivors Network. Her interest in landmines was focused on the injuries they create, often to children, long after a conflict is over. I remember thinking how brave she was when she was doing this and of her sitting on a concrete step in Angola holding a young girl on her lap who had been maimed by a landmine while chatting with two other victims.
She is believed to have influenced the signing, though only after her death, of the Ottawa Treaty, which created an international ban on the use of anti-personnel landmines. Introducing the Second Reading of the Landmines Bill 1998 to the British House of Commons, theForeign Secretary, Robin Cook, paid tribute to Diana’s work on landmines:
All Honourable Members will be aware from their postbags of the immense contribution made by Diana, Princess of Wales to bringing home to many of our constituents the human costs of landmines. The best way in which to record our appreciation of her work, and the work of NGOs that have campaigned against landmines, is to pass the Bill, and to pave the way towards a global ban on landmines.
The United Nations appealed to the nations which produced and stockpiled the largest numbers of landmines (United States, China, India,North Korea, Pakistan, and Russia) to sign the Ottawa Treaty forbidding their production and use, for which Diana had campaigned. Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that landmines remained “a deadly attraction for children, whose innate curiosity and need for play often lure them directly into harm’s way”.
The princess angered government ministers after calling for an international ban on landmines and was described as a “loose cannon”, ill-informed on the issue of anti-personnel landmines. However, Shadow defence spokesman, David Clark begged to differ. “I think we should all welcome the fact she has gone to Angola and she has tried to warn the world of the dangers of these terrible weapons. I think we should be applauding what she’s doing.” The princess was up close and personal and saw the damage these landmines could do and I too applaud her for what she did. Diana supported the International Campaign to Ban Landmines which went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 after her death.
Diana was truly a people’s princess. She paused to speak to people in the crowds. She was engaging and warm. In 1987 there was still a lack of widespread education on how AIDS was contracted and many people believed that AIDS was contagious through casual contact. Diana however, was one of the first celebrities photographed touching and holding HIV/AIDS patients and many experts credit her with removing the stigma associated with AIDS. There’s a beautiful picture of Diana holding a baby at a Hostel For Abandoned Children In Sao Paolo, Brazil. The Hostel cares for HIV positive children.
I recently saw a picture of Prince Harry hugging an HIV positive child, very reminiscent of his mother. I also saw a picture of Harry holding a sick baby at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados. He was cuddling the infant and smiling down his tiny face just as his mother did when she held a baby at the Red Cross during her visit to Angola. It’s really nice to see that Harry has inherited his mother’s natural instinct and ease with the less fortunate. He is referred to as the “prince of hearts”.
Diana was a terrific mother. I regret that her marriage failed and that she died so tragically. Her memory and legacy live on. She admitted that she found it very difficult to cope with the pressures of being the Princess of Wales, but she learnt to cope.
August 31 will mark 14 years since Diana died. Today, we salute this amazing woman who was the patroness of charities and organisations working with the homeless, youth, drug addicts and the elderly and was the President of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. She was known for her interest in serious illnesses, including AIDS and leprosy. She became a patron of The Leprosy Mission, an organization dedicated to providing medicine, treatment, and other support services to those who are afflicted with the disease.
In the 1980s when people knew little or nothing at all about HIV and were afraid that shaking an infected person’s hand would spread the virus, Princess Diana held an HIV positive man’s hand. That gesture gave people a greater understanding of how the virus is and isn’t transmitted.
Diana will be remembered as a compassionate person who reached out to people whom no one else wanted to visit and touched those whom no one else wanted to touch. She was also known as a champion for children who had been forgotten or written off. England’s rose will continue to bloom in the hearts of many, especially those whose lives she touched.
Anywhere I see suffering, that is where I want to be, doing what I can.
Being a princess isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Family is the most important thing in the world.
HIV does not make people dangerous to know, so you can shake their hands and give them a hug: Heaven knows they need it.
Hugs can do great amounts of good – especially for children.
I knew what my job was; it was to go out and meet the people and love them.
I live for my sons. I would be lost without them.
It’s vital that the monarchy keeps in touch with the people. It’s what I try and do.
Nothing brings me more happiness than trying to help the most vulnerable people in society. It is a goal and an essential part of my life – a kind of destiny. Whoever is in distress can call on me. I will come running wherever they are.
The kindness and affection from the public have carried me through some of the most difficult periods, and always your love and affection have eased the journey.
What must it be like for a little boy to read that daddy never loved mummy?