Princess Diana
Almost 25 years after her death, Princess Diana remains in the world's collective memory. (Illustration by Sonja Vasiljeva, San Jose State University)
Screens /// Thoughts x
Princess Diana

The People’s Princess lives on, helped in part by an upcoming musical and motion picture about her life.

The British royal family has been one of the most followed families for many years, and the late Princess Diana is no exception. Diana, Princess of Wales, as her official title stated, married Queen Elizabeth’s eldest son and heir to the throne, Charles, the Prince of Wales. However, Diana was no stranger to the life of British aristocracy, acquiring her first title, “Lady Diana Spencer,” when her father, John Spencer, gained his earldom in 1975. Princess Diana, however, is not merely known as the future king’s wife; she was extremely involved in both her royal duties and significant charitable work. Though she tragically passed away in a car crash on Aug. 31, 1997, the late princess’ legacy has not died with her, but rather grown immensely in the 21st century, granting Diana her final title: “The People’s Princess.”

Shortly after her marriage to Prince Charles, Diana “became an international icon and used her celebrity to raise awareness for a number of causes” that had never been sponsored before by the royals, said an article by CNN. She used her time to advocate for various organizations involved in issues like leprosy, domestic violence and mental health, but she gained the most international attention for her efforts in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s.

Princess Diana opened the HIV/AIDS unit in 1987 at London’s Middlesex Hospital, which according to ELLE magazine was the first in the UK; upon her first visit there she controversially shook hands with a terminally ill AIDS patient. This stirred international media because many believed that the disease could be spread through touch. The young princess continued to shock viewers around the world when she embraced several children who were infected with AIDS on a visit to a New York City hospital. Regarding Diana’s involvement with the HIV/AIDS epidemic, author Andrew Morton declared that she “had done more than anyone alive to remove the stigma surrounding the deadly AIDS virus…While she was not able to fully articulate it, Diana had a humanitarian vision for herself that transcended the dull dutiful traditional royal engagements.”

Diana’s ability to transform the traditionalism of the British royalty is exactly what garnered her the title of “The People’s Princess.” Throughout her time in the media spotlight, she reached a greater portion of the citizens she served than any of her predecessors and pushed the boundaries for the expectations of British royals. Diana’s daughter-in-law, Duchess Catherine of Cambridge, has followed in her footsteps, solidifying the persona of a beautiful yet brilliant young royal who has a heart for service and helping others. However, the legacy of Princess Diana will surely never be surpassed, and commemorations of her influence have continued into the 21st century.

Arguably the most famous present-day representation of the late princess, Netflix’s “The Crown” Season 4 follows the story of a young Diana Spencer’s early years as part of the royal family. Though there are details and events in the series that are not factually correct, one of the most important contributors to the show’s prominence comes from its realistic view of the darker side of Diana’s life in the limelight. An article published by Insider detailed Diana’s struggle with the eating disorder bulimia and her tumultuous relationship with her husband, Charles, despite the outward presentation of fairytale bliss.

However, this representation of Diana throughout the TV show does not provide such details to diminish her, but rather to highlight her strong character, resilience and ability to make such a lasting impact upon the world despite her personal struggles. “The Crown” has garnered rave reviews from around the world, and actress Emma Corrin is praised for her “spot-on” portrayal of Diana herself.

More than 20 years after her death, however, the world is still hungry for Diana content. With that comes the emergence of two major productions in her honor: a Broadway musical and a major motion picture. “Diana: The Musical” was set to premiere on New York City’s acclaimed Broadway in March 2020; however, its debut was delayed until November 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the musical’s website, the production follows the full story of Diana’s personal development as she “finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage, eventually finding her voice by devoting herself to those in need,” and “[defying] all expectations to emerge as her own woman and create a legacy that will endure forever.” The musical, in all of its glory, was put together by a large group of Broadway veterans but also features several up-and-coming performers on the Broadway circuit. When interviewed about her time playing Diana in the new musical by Town and Country magazine, Jeanna de Waal said that “to bring Diana to life onstage is obviously a huge privilege,” which is an even bigger undertaking for the young performer as it is her debut role on Broadway.

For those who aren’t as big into Broadway musicals as they are major motion pictures, a new movie titled “Spencer” starring Kristen Stewart is set to be released to the public in the United States in November of this year. According to another article published by Town and Country magazine, the film centers around three days of Diana’s life in the early-1990s as her marriage to Prince Charles is falling apart and she is forced to put her animosity aside for a holiday visit to the royal family’s Sandringham Estate; the movie itself will focus on her emotions and internal thoughts rather than the public knowledge of the latter days of her marriage.

Star director of the film Pablo Larraín later stated that he “decided to get into a story about identity, and around how a woman decides somehow, not to be the queen. She’s a woman who, in the journey of the movie, decides and realizes that she wants to be the woman she was before she met Charles.” Upon its world premiere at the Venice International Film Festival in September, it gained profound critical acclaim and will be a movie not to be missed.

Though Princess Diana tragically passed way before her time, the impact that she had on the world in her short life is admirable and changed the course of the royal family’s reputation for years to come. The world will never forget the beloved Princess Diana and the irrevocable mark she left on anything she touched. It is a joy to see her strong influence and legacy move into the 21st century, and fans around the world are delighted with the emergence of the new spotlight on the irreplicable and unforgettable Princess Diana of Wales.

Writer Profile

Kelsie Westmoreland

Washington and Lee University
Business Administration and Art History

Some of my favorite things include reading any YA novel I can get my hands on, practicing or watching ballet, baking (the more chocolate, the better!) and exercising!

Leave a Reply