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Lady Diana The Princess With the Heart of Gold: Celebrity Legacies

I’ve loved providing mental health and relationship commentary on the lives of celebrities for Reelz Channel. One of my favorite Celebrity Legacies episodes airs again today: the life of Princess Diana.  I watched her life unfold in real-time during my adolescence and young adulthood. She was my princess. During her marriage to Prince Charles, she became a fashion icon, and among the most photographed people in the world.

The world was shocked to learn of the untimely death of Princess Diana of Wales on August 31, 1997 in Paris. A combination of factors, including a high speed chase from the paparazzi and an inebriated driver, caused the deadly crash that claimed her life, as well as that of her bodyguard and her boyfriend. She was only 36.

As a young child Diana, was abandoned by her mother, who left the family to be with her lover. This may have contributed to Diana’s shyness and and insecurity. Diana’s emotional problems seemed to be magnified by the intense public scrutiny of being a royal, and her marriage to Prince Charles was not a fairy tale. She struggled with bouts of depression and developed an eating disorder.

Lady Di was born Diana Frances Spencer on July 1, 1961 in Sandringham, England. She officially became royalty at age 14 when her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer. But it wasn’t until she became involved with Prince Charles that she became notably visible in the public eye. The press and public were fascinated by such a seemingly odd couple (he was 13 years older than her), and their subsequent marriage, children, and divorce began fodder for the tabloids. Diana in particular was a media darling. Though she was known to have some insecurities with being so heavily scrutinized, she also took the opportunity to leverage her fame for something close to her heart: humanitarian organizations to help the poor and disadvantaged of the world.

A New Kind of Princess

Nowadays, it’s incredibly common for celebrities or other extremely successful individuals to give to charitable causes. Oprah Winfrey, U2, and Bill and Melinda Gates are some of the most well-known philanthropists today. But Diana was truly a forerunner in this regard. As the Princess of Wales, she followed in the tradition of royal patronage to national schools and hospitals, but of her own volition she became much more involved in humanitarian work than any in her position had done before. Some of her most cherished projects included working with numerous international organizations dedicated to such causes as combating homelessness, fighting leprosy, raising money for medical equipment, and providing assistance for individuals suffering from AIDS. Just months before she died, Diana auctioned off 79 of her dresses and raised over $3 million for cancer charities. The scope of her interests and sympathies for different groups of people speaks to the goodness of her heart. Famed musician Elton John recounted that “Princess Diana made a hell of a difference.”

Her Two Greatest Contributions

Diana made it clear that her children William and Harry were her top priorities. “I live for my sons,” she once explained, “and I would be lost without them.” In her dedication to motherhood, she felt it was critical to instill in them a passion for helping others in many of the same ways she had done. They continued many of their mother’s charitable pursuits and are today supporters of AIDS charities and other philanthropic causes.  

A Legacy of Compassion

Even after her death, Diana continued to inspire others and serve individuals who were struggling. Those close to her created a memorial fund in her name that gives grants to different reputable groups involved in providing care for the sick in Africa, helping refugees the world over, and making progress on cutting edge medical discoveries. She once told a reporter, “Anywhere I see suffering, that is where I want to be, doing what I can.” Her legacy of compassion continues.

For more information (including air dates and times), visit Reelz Channel 

Celebrity Legacies on Reelz Channel
About Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW:
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available.

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