Princess Diana captured the world’s attention as a royal trendsetter, but during her time in the public eye, she also became a prominent philanthropic force. Diana worked tirelessly on behalf of charities around the world, using her fame to raise awareness of a number of important humanitarian issues. Twenty years after her death, here’s why Diana will always be remembered as the “People’s Princess.”
1) She changed the face of the British monarchy.
Through her charity work, Diana highlighted how royalty, which had previously been known for its stuffiness, could be in touch with the public. In her interview with BBC’s Panorama in 1995, she said, “I would like a monarchy that has more contact with its people.” This statement became something of a personal mission for the Princess. Diana was at some point patron of over 100 charities. During her many visits to hospitals, schools and fundraising galas, she became known for spending hours talking to people and listening to their stories. Although she found the media’s intrusion into her personal life “intolerable,” Diana found a way to use this to bring attention to the people and the causes that needed it most.
2) She led a campaign for a worldwide ban on landmines.
After a visit to Angola in 1997, Diana became anti-landmine activists’ most prominent advocate. During that trip, which was captured by the documentary, the Princess was photographed putting her own safety at risk as she walked through a recently cleared minefield. “I’d read the statistics that Angola has the highest percentage of amputees anywhere in the world,” she told the cameras. “That one person in every 333 had lost a limb, most of them through land mine explosions. But that hadn’t prepared me for reality.” Diana’s commitment to mine clearance work captured the public’s attention and decades after she started her campaign, the support for the cause continues. Her son Prince Harry, who is now patron of leading landmine charity, The HALO Trust, recently called for the world to become free of the weapons by 2025.
3) She changed the world’s perception of HIV and AIDS.
In April 1987, when speculation around the virus was rife, Diana was invited to open Britain’s first AIDS ward at Middlesex hospital. A photograph, which made front-page news around the world, showed her shaking hands with HIV-positive patients without wearing gloves. This publicly challenged the notion that HIV/AIDS was passed from person to person by touch and highlighted Diana’s affection and compassion for people living with the disease. In the following years, she went on to make several bedside visits to patients at a number of hospitals, including a hostel for abandoned children in Rio de Janeiro and a hospice in Toronto. At the time of her death, Gavin Hart, of the National AIDS Trust, told the BBC: “In our opinion, Diana was the foremost ambassador for AIDS awareness on the planet and no one can fill her shoes in terms of the work she did.”