Diana’s embrace: The legacy she left her sons – BBC News

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Lady Diana Spencer in 1980Image copyright
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Lady Diana Spencer was immediately thrust into the media spotlight in 1980 after rumours she was dating Prince Charles

Twenty years after the death of Princess Diana in a car accident in Paris her legacy seems most apparent in the open and candid nature of her sons – Princes William and Harry – and the media’s relationship with the Royal Family.

Sun photographer Arthur Edwards was one of the first people to photograph the future Princess of Wales. He recalls his surprise at seeing how the 19-year-old reacted to the media attention generated by her courtship of Prince Charles.

“Other girlfriends were quite shy,” he says. “She wasn’t like a lot of celebrities… ducking and hiding. Mostly she was head-up smiling, taking it all on the chin and coping very well.

“A lot of the royal watchers, me included at the time, thought this was a sign that this girl was obviously quite keen to get the job of the Princess of Wales.”

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PA, Rex Features, BBC

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Arthur Edwards’ picture of Lady Diana Spencer with two nursery children gave an early hint of her tactile nature

Edwards ended up taking one of the most iconic pictures of the princess-to-be at the nursery school where she was working in 1980.

She refused to do interviews but agreed to a picture with two of the nursery’s children [above, centre], an early hint to the press of her tactile nature.

Few could have predicted then that this apparently benign trait would herald a change in our future expectations of the UK’s most famous family.

The following year, Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles in front of a global TV audience of 750 million. She established herself as a global figure, using royal visits around the world to establish her empathy with the ill and impoverished, and overturn the aloof image of the royals.

For Edwards, the contrast between the old and new guard of royals was epitomised by a visit Diana made to a leprosy hospital in Nigeria in 1990.

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Princess Diana used the media to attract attention to charitable causes, like the Child Feeding Scheme at a school in Zimbabwe

“I always compare it to a trip I did with Princess Anne in Africa for Save the Children,” he said.

“There were 5,000 mothers and children… being inoculated, and I never got one frame of Princess Anne with an African mother or an African child being inoculated.

“When we went to Africa with Diana, we couldn’t stop her hugging them, feeding them, embracing them. [S]he was embracing them… looking straight into their eyes and made them feel a million dollars.”

To Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty Magazine, the difference was just as stark: “She made the rest of them look completely old fashioned really.”

Closely scrutinised split

Princess Diana was a patron to more than 100 charities before her death in 1997. She is widely credited with helping to challenge the public’s perception of HIV and Aids by shaking the hands of patients at the London Lighthouse, a centre which pioneered services for sufferers.

BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell believes Diana’s different style was down to her “coming from outside the Royal Family”.

“She was a person of her generation who found it rather implausible that one was expected to step back and not embrace people, quite literally.”

But this familiarity with the press and natural candour translated into close scrutiny of her personal life and failing marriage.

After the publication of Andrew Morton’s biography in 1992, which claimed infidelity in the royal marriage, the Prince and Princess of Wales separated.

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In her Panorama interview with Martin Bashir, Princess Diana admitted to having bulimia during her marriage

The book, thought to have been aided by interviews with Diana, led to Prince Charles discussing his relationship with the-then Camilla Parker-Bowles in an interview with ITV’s Jonathan Dimbleby.

The princess hit back, telling her side of the story in a 1995 TV interview with Martin Bashir on the BBC’s Panorama.

As well as discussing her marriage with Prince Charles, Diana openly talked about her struggles with bulimia, depression and anxiety. It was unprecedented territory for a member of the Royal Family.

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