Even though it has been a long 21 years since she passed, Princess Diana has remained firmly in the hearts and thoughts of people all over the world.
She was a revolutionary Princess who refused to hide behind the walls of a Palace indulging herself in the luxuries of being a Royal. Instead, she used her immense influence to shine a light on forgotten causes ranging from mental health to animal rights.
During her short-lived time as the Princess of Wales, she was known as a beautiful soul who touched the lives of many during her heartwarming visits to children and dying patients. Diana made admirable efforts to connect with those around her, but much of her personal life was marred by depression due in part to her failing marriage and the deep disapproval of the Royal Family.
Even today, tributes are still being lovingly placed at her grave and in front of Kensington Palace where she lived. So now we offer a small tribute of our own: a collection of the most awe-inspiring facts about Lady Di to remind the world why she was truly the “People’s Princess”.
1. She worked to destigmatize AIDS
Princess Diana’s life revolved around so much more than just being part of the Royal Family. She was a passionate supporter of AIDS charities and regularly visited patients in hospitals across the country. She made sure the media captured her embracing them to change the public opinion that touching a person with AIDS was risky.
Diana famously noted, “HIV does not make people dangerous to know. You can shake their hands and give them a hug. Heaven knows they need it.”
2. She raised awareness about leprosy
Similar to her work with HIV/AIDS victims, Diana made a point to visit leprosy victims around the world and defy the taboo surrounding the disease.
Queen Elizabeth II was reportedly against these sorts of visits and famously asked if she could support a “much more pleasant” cause instead. Fortunately, Diana was never one to succumb to the Queen’s opinion and continued her mission to help those most in need.
Today, her youngest son Harry continues his mother’s tireless crusade and travels around the world spreading awareness and funding charities of his own.
3. She campaigned to ban landmines
In 1997, Princess Diana decided to re-direct her constant media attention and led them to Angola to raise awareness on the issue of landmines.
She famously walked through a former minefield during her International Campaign to Ban Landmines and drew attention to the lack of prostheses for victims. Her efforts won a Nobel Peace Prize a few months after her death.
4. She was an activist for homeless youth
Diana was an active supporter of over 100 charities during her lifetime, including Centrepoint, a charity which provides support and accommodation to the homeless.
She became a patron of the charity in 1992, and would often say, “We, as a part of society, must ensure that young people – who are our future – are given the chance they deserve.”
5. She sold her iconic dresses to raise funds for charity
While many celebrities wouldn’t dream of parting with their luxurious outfits, Diana auctioned 79 of her iconic dresses shortly before her death to raise funds for AIDS and breast cancer charities. This was actually a suggestion by Prince William, who was 15 at the time.
6. She stood up to the Royal Family
Princess Diana was known for rebelling against the deep-rooted traditions of the British Royal Family. She did this in seemingly small ways that shook the Royals but delighted the people.
Of the many things she did, Diana was the only royal to ever work with AIDS charities. She dismissed having a royal nanny for her sons. She broke protocol and never wore lavish hats or gloves on her visits to hospitals out of respect for the patients. She was also the first royal to have a “common” engagement ring picked out of a catalog (this ring is now worn by Duchess Kate Middleton).
7. She initiated a more equal wedding tradition
At her wedding, Princess Diana broke tradition and omitted the royal vow to “obey” her husband. This small act was unheard of and stirred up quite the controversy at the time. But Diana was a free spirit and a firm believer in equality, so she felt it was her duty to lead by example.
Three decades later, her daughter-in-law, Kate Middleton did the same at her own wedding to Prince William. And Prince Harry and Megan Markle did the same at their wedding.
8. She was an advocate for women
More than just being a “gracious royal” to all, Diana had a genuine affinity for women and girls. She would visit centers and sit with female homeless youth, sipping from a mug of coffee while chatting with them about their lives. Nurses around her said she was “never patronizing” or detached, she truly cared about them and wanted to help them become strong women themselves.
9. She defied the norm of a “royal wife”
Diana’s compassion for others was not to be confused with submissiveness. Through her cheeky humor, natural charm, and pointed statements to the press, Diana made sure everyone was aware she had a strong character and was not to be underestimated.
This came as a surprise particularly to her husband, Prince Charles. He would invite her over to Buckingham Palace to “sit and watch him work”, but she would bluntly decline and choose to spend time with the public instead.
She also refused to “dutifully” turn a blind eye to her husband’s infidelity and gave the now infamous 1995 BBC Bashir interview where she sparked the popular phrase: “three is a crowd”.
10. She publicly admitted to her flaws
There’s no denying that Princess Diana is a role-model in many aspects, but she too had flaws and made questionable choices during her lifetime.
While dealing with crushing loneliness throughout her marriage brought on by her husband’s constant affair with Camilla Parker, Lady Di began to seek the company of others too. She later recognized her actions and admitted to having affairs in a BBC interview just before her divorce.
There is certainly nothing admirable about having affairs, but it took a unique sense of bravery to admit this on camera, knowing it would be shown to the entire world and taint her worldwide reputation. If anything, it served as a reminder that she too is only human.
11. She raised her sons against Royal customs
As with most areas of her life, Diana had a very hands-on approach to parenting. She was adamant in giving her two sons a “normal” upbringing. She would take them to school herself, indulge them with occasional trips to McDonalds and theme parks, and participate in school events along the other mothers. She also took them to homeless shelters and AIDS clinics to instill empathy in her young children.
“I want my boys to have an understanding of people’s emotions, their insecurities, people’s distress, and their hopes and dreams,” she said.
12. She always sent “thank you” notes
Diana was all about the little details in life. She was known for sending thank you notes for even the smallest deeds and made sure to pass this habit onto her sons.
Prince William quickly followed his mother’s lead and would scribble small notes to their chauffeur to thank him for small things like showing him a fun video that day.
13. She was open about her struggle with depression
With the endless harassment of the media, the disapproval of the Royal Family, and the pain of her failed marriage, Princess Diana began to crumble under her mental health issues.
In her autobiography, she confessed to having suffered from post-partum depression after having Prince William. This was made even more difficult by the fact that her husband was never around and the Royal Family simply turned the other way. Nevertheless, she was talked about it openly in the hopes that depression and mental health would be better understood and harder to ignore.
14. She was one of the first public figures to talk about bulimia and self-harm
In a time where eating disorders and mental health issues were poorly understood, Diana took a major step in bringing these subjects to the public light.
During her BBC interview with Bashir, Diana opened up about her battle with bulimia which began the week she got engaged the moment Charles called her “chubby”. She also spoke of her history with self-harm and her multiple suicide attempts because she simply couldn’t cope with the pressures around her.
Her candidness about her own mental health gave hope to thousands of young women and girls who struggled with the same issues. It also led Diana to help women in similar situations with a whole new sense of empathy and understanding.
15. She shared a connection with Mother Teresa
Diana had a very special, personal bond with Mother Teresa. In 1992, Diana visited Mother Teresa’s hospice in Kolkata, India and met with every single patient who was close to death. The two remarkable women would meet up at least three more times before Diana’s death to discuss their vision for the betterment of humanity. Mother Teresa died just five days after Diana’s fateful car crash.
16. She opened the UK’s first AIDS hospital ward
In addition to her admirable efforts to transform the public perception of AIDS, Diana opened the UK’s first AIDS hospital ward in 1987.
While it was important for the media to capture her touching the patients, hospital staff often reported that Diana would visit the ward “after hours” to spend time with the patients away from the flashing lights and prying cameras.
17. She loved and supported the arts
Diana dreamed of becoming a ballerina in her youth, but grew up to exceed the standard height and was forced to retire from her passion. Nevertheless, she pursued her love for the arts in any way she could. Diana even made an appearance as a ballerina at the Royal Opera House in 1985 as a surprise for Prince Charles.
When Diana married and became too busy with Royal events for any dancing of her own, she continued supporting her passion from afar. She became an avid promoter of the Royal Ballet, along with being a patron of the Natural History Museum and also acted as president of the Royal Academy of Music.
18. She was an accomplished pianist
Aside from her love of ballet, another little-known fact about Lady Di is that she was a classically trained pianist. Her favorite song was Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem and she would often play the piano to distract hospital patients from their pain and to delight children in orphanages.
19. She adored being around children
Even before the birth of her two sons, Diana loved being around children and showing them the love and kindness she felt the world needed more of.
After Diana left school, she took on low-paying (but fulfilling) jobs as a nanny, youth dance instructor, and kindergarten teacher. Then when she entered the Royal Family, she spent much of her time visiting children’s hospitals and orphanages.
She was also a devoted godmother to her friend’s daughter who was born with Down syndrome. Her friend recently revealed that Diana was a “huge encouragement” and told her to “Believe in her [daughter], love her and I’ll be there every step of the way.”
20. She was an animal activist
Between the hundreds of other causes she led, Diana was also heavily involved in protecting animals. She was openly against the hunting obsession passed through generations of the Royal Family.
Her activism for this cause stayed with her sons who are known for campaigning against the ivory trade and the killing of endangered species. Prince William even banned all ivory artifacts from the Royal Palaces to support the efforts against elephant poaching.
21. She always chose to follow her heart
Whatever may be said about Princess Diana, no one can deny that she had a sincere and genuine interest in other people. Publicity was never the driving force behind her charitable actions and her passion for helping others continues to live on in her sons to this day.
In the 1995 interview with Martin Bashir, Diana confessed that she never saw herself becoming queen and she’d like to be a “queen of people’s hearts” instead. She also thought that the Royal Family wouldn’t want her to be queen since she “leads from the heart and not the head.” But Diana had no regrets and felt it was her duty to “go out into the world and love people”.
If you too are an admirer of the late Princess Diana, join us in honoring her by following her most simple yet powerful words of advice:
Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.