After separating from Prince Charles, Princess Diana famously said in a 1995 television interview that she wanted to be a “queen of people’s hearts.” Following her tragic death two years later, Tony Blair, who was Britain’s prime minister at the time, called her the “People’s Princess.” It was a name she certainly earned given all her charitable work, and in the ways she tried changing the British monarchy to connect better with the public.
More than two decades after her death, her legacy still lives on. Here are the biggest reasons why Diana really was the “People’s Princess.”
Princess Diana bonded with the public in a unique way
When she was alive, Diana was one of the only royals people felt they could actually relate to because she found ways to bond with the public. One of those ways was through TV shows. She said:
If I go out and about, whether it be to Birmingham, Liverpool or Dorset, I can always pick up on a TV program and you are on the same level. That I decided for myself. It works so well. Everybody watches it and I say, ‘Did you see so and so? Wasn’t it funny when this or that happened?’ You are not the princess and they the general public — it’s the same level.
She went into crowds with open arms
When she would be out and about for public engagements, the Princess of Wales did things that really set her apart from the other royals because they hadn’t been done before. Diana wanted to get up close and personal with the people, and so she did.
She was often seen walking into crowds and giving people hugs. She would also bend down onto the ground when she would speak directly with small children.
Diana had friendly relationships with palace staffers
Another thing Diana did, and something she encouraged her children to do, was mingle with palace staffers. Instead of conforming to the norm of royals not mixing with employees, the princess had a friendly relationship with them. She told her kids they could talk with the kitchen wait staff, as she did on many occasions.
According to her chef, Darren McGrady, unlike the other royals, Diana had no problem striking up a conversation and eating in the kitchen with the staffers. She also allowed Princes William and Harry to play with the children of the kitchen workers.
She interacted with AIDS patients when others wouldn’t
At a time when the world didn’t know much about HIV/AIDS and thought that merely touching someone infected was a danger, Princess Diana interacted with patients who had the virus. Photographs of the princess shaking hands with patients went public and countered the idea that it was possible to contract the disease through touch.
Prince Harry has continued his late mother’s work with his charity Sentebale, which raises funds and awareness about HIV and AIDS. The prince also encourages others to get tested and has publicly been tested himself.
The princess visited with leprosy sufferers
Diana was patron of The Leprosy Mission and visited hospitals in Zimbabwe, Nepal, and India. There, the princess herself sat next to, conversed with, and touched the bandages of those suffering from the disease.
“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,” she said.
She walked through a minefield
Months before her death in 1997, the Princess of Wales also raised global awareness for landmine victims when she walked through a minefield in Angola.
Prince Harry later became patron of The HALO Trust, which according to its website is the “world’s largest humanitarian mine clearance organization.” By 2017, the organization had destroyed more than 92,000 landmines and 800 minefields in Angola.
Diana got candid in interviews
Finally, perhaps one of the biggest reasons she was the “People’s Princess” is because so many felt that she was very relatable; especially when she spoke candidly about her failed marriage to Prince Charles. The public was used to seeing somewhat stuffy or coached interviews from members of the royal family, but Diana let it all out after she and Charles separated, even though the palace wasn’t pleased about it.
She gave the public a glimpse into her life behind palace walls and made people understand that it certainly wasn’t perfect or all glamorous just because of who she had married. Her revelation about her eating orders and the infidelity that plagued her marriage were serious issues some people could relate to because it happened in their lives, too.
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