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In 1995, as Princess Diana‘s marriage to Prince Charles broke down, she realized she would never be the United Kingdom’s queen. Instead, she instead wished to be a “queen of people’s hearts.” However, Diana, first and foremost, always thought of herself as a humanitarian with a duty to shine a light on causes that could benefit from her star power.

Princess Diana found joy in connecting with the public

Princess Diana became a prominent philanthropic force during her time in the public eye. She worked tirelessly on behalf of charities worldwide, using her fame to raise awareness of several important humanitarian issues.

However, Diana always thought of herself as a humanitarian. In the National Geographic Special: Diana, In Her Own Words, she discussed her life in the public eye.

“I’m not a political figure, nor do I want to be one,” she said in 1997 during a BBC1 special Heart of the Matter. “But I come with my heart, and I want to bring awareness to people in distress, whether in Angola or any part of the world.”

She continued, “The fact is I’m a humanitarian figure. Always have been and always will be.”

Princess Diana changed the face of the House of Windsor

Princess Diana highlighted how royalty, previously known for its stuffiness, could be in touch with the public. She allowed an up-close look at how accessible the monarchy could be. Plus, shining a light on a specific cause could effect change.

In a 1995 interview with BBC’s Panorama, Diana said she was “confused” about which charitable areas she should go into. She later found a genuine affinity for working with those she claims were “rejected” by society.

“Drug addicts, alcoholism, battered people; I found an affinity there,” she revealed. “And I respected very much the honesty I found on that level with people I met. Because in hospices, for instance, when people are dying, they’re much more open and vulnerable and much more real than others.”

“I think so. I remember when I used to sit on hospital beds and hold people’s hands, people used to be shocked because they said they’d never seen this before, and to me, it was quite a normal thing to do,” she continued.

During her tenure as Princess of Wales, Diana patronized 100 charities

Princess Diana campaigns on behalf of landmines in Angola in 1997.
Princess Diana campaigns on behalf of landmines in Angola in 1997 | Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

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It is estimated that while she was married to Prince Charles, Diana patronized some 100 charities. After their divorce, she whittled them down and focused on the most important ones. 

However, by the time of her death in August 1997, Princess Diana was the official patron of the Royal Marsden NHS Trust (a cancer fund). She also worked with the Greater Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, London; the National AIDS Trust (an umbrella for various AIDS causes in the United Kingdom); The Leprosy Mission; and the English National Ballet.

In addition, she also devoted time to Centrepoint Soho (which provides services to homeless youth) and the British Red Cross Anti-Personnel Land Mines Campaign. The Princess of Wales spoke strongly in favor of the proposed treaty banning land mines in Angola, Africa, before the Labor government took office.

Princess Diana died in a car accident in Paris, France in 1997. She was 36.