It’s a long story but I once found myself sitting in Kensington palace, leafing through photographs of Diana, Princess of Wales.
I confess I had not previously considered Diana beautiful during her dazzling reign as the most photographed woman in the world. Attractive, certainly, but not quite beautiful.
Looking through these unposed, candid shots of her, however, I changed my mind. She didn’t have ‘classic beauty’ features but goodness, was she beautiful. There was a radiance about her, a goldeness that the camera loves. Marilyn Monroe had it, in spades, and so did Diana. But the physical is only part of it. It’s the undefinable aura that comes from somewhere within that captures hearts.
Diana captured many.
From the moment she appeared in the public consciousness as the shy 19 year old bride to be for the heir to the throne, Prince Charles, the media and public were captivated.
At times there were squabbles and criticism, even insults (just prior to her death, she was called horrible names in the press) but she never stopped intriguing people.
A million bouquets were laid outside Buckingham palace in the wake of her death. Millions more at venues across the country, indeed, the world.
Rewind – How did I end up in Kensington Palace?
I didn’t personally know the princess but I have friends who did. They’re not the kind of people who go to the press and I don’t want to breach any of their confidences. Let’s just say I had a few encounters with royalty through these friends.
When I started writing this article I jotted down a few stories about the princess, my own distant stories plus a few I heard from the friends who knew her closely. They’re not scandalous stories. They’re just small tales that humanise a woman who ended up dehumanised and something of a commodity.
But after I started writing them I thought, maybe not everything needs to be made public.
Maybe it’s just enough to share that she didn’t stop hugging the dying children once the cameras stopped rolling. She took her charity role seriously. She also had a knack for spotting the child or the adult at the back, the one who was forgotten. She would pull them out of the shadows and enfold them in her arms, for a brief moment, giving them the limelight.
That, although she was chased by Hollywood and cameras she didn’t seek cheap celebrity. She turned down tacky media opportunities and interviews with the likes of Oprah.
That she wasn’t an angel or a saint, just a flawed human like all of us but despite global adulation she could still laugh at herself and recognise her limitations.
Or maybe it’s just enough to wish her the happy 60th birthday she didn’t have.