Thirty four years ago today, a shy young girl walked down the aisle and into the annals of history. As an estimated 700 million people around the world watched, little did we or Lady Diana Spencer know that decision would forever alter her life and her fate.
From the first moment I saw Diana on the cover of MacLean's magazine as a young girl of 19, I as we all no doubt were, was captivated by her beauty, her shyness, and her charmingly endearing personality. Over the course of 17 years, we all watched and shared in her journey, as she progressed from a shy bride to a confident and glamorous woman the likes of whom we never see again. Unfortunately though, the road for her wasn't to be a smooth one. Her "fairy tale" contained an unfaithful prince, an eating disorder, and unyielding self doubt all played out under the unrelenting glare of the spotlight as she became the most photographed individual of modern times.
Through it all though, she raised two wonderful boys, William and Harry, while at the same time crafting a role for herself in an archaic and somewhat medieval monarchy. Not only did she eclipse her wayward husband in popularity, the shy former schoolteacher blossomed to eventually overshadow the rest of the Royal family as well. Although this caused massive dissension amongst the ranks, her refreshing and relaxed attitudes are actually credited with modernizing the attitude of the British royals, and ultimately leading them to a resurgence popularity. Her dedication and love for people was unabashedly pure, and her dedication to serving her country without question. She was one the patron of more than 100 charities, and eventually paired this down to the 10 of which she was most passionate as she sought an exit and eventually a divorce from Prince Charles and the Royal Family.
After her divorce was granted in 1996, it seemed as if Diana was finally free to pursue her own destiny in life. She dedicated herself to her remaining stable of charities, her newfound interest in the abolition of land mines, and of course her sons. Although it is reported she had several romantic interests, most seemed fragile and doomed due to the unrelenting publicity of the press. In fact, few folks would realize that the world's most famous woman spent many nights home alone, watching television or sitting at her desk working on correspondence.
There has been much conjecture on the details of her relationship with Dodi Fayed with whom she was involved in the summer of 1997, but most of those closest to her have steadfastly maintained that this was but a "summer fling" for Diana. Unfortunately however, this erstwhile coupling was to ultimately seal her fate. In the early hours of August 31st, 1997, Diana, Dodi, their security officer Trevor Rees Jones, and driver Henri Paul were involved in a fatal accident while under the pursuit of photographers in Paris France. Their Mercedes crashed into the 13th pillar of the Pont de l'Alma tunnel under the Seine River. Dodi and Henri Paul died instantly, Trevor Rees Jones was seriously injured, and the most famous and beloved woman of our times succumbed to her injuries a few hours later in a Paris hospital. She was 36. The fairy tale begun 17 years ago had come to a tragic end.
A week later Diana was honoured with a state funeral at Westminster Abbey. Almost as many people gathered to bid her farewell as had there been for her wedding. William and Harry, their father Prince Charles, and Diana's brother, the Earl Charles Spencer along with the representatives of more than 100 of her favourite charities followed along with her casket as a horse drawn carriage brought it to the Abbey. Diana was laid to rest on an island at Althorp, her childhood home and the Spencer Estate in Northamptonshire. Somewhat ironically, the name "Diana" refers to the "goddess of the hunt." The most hunted woman of modern times was finally free at last.
As I said before, I adored Diana and was fortunate enough to meet her several times during their Canadian tour of Canada in the autumn of 1991. My mom Mary was with me, and the first place we met her was at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto on Friday October 25th, 1991. There is an amusing story behind our meeting, and I will share it sometime with you all in another post. I snapped the photo above just after Diana had purposefully come over to talk with me after I made her laugh while she sat on stage. I got to talk to her on two more occasions, later that day and weekend. I have photos, a video, and some amazing memories that will remain with me forever, as will my admiration and respect for this wonderful lady and truly beautiful person.
I made this video earlier today to commemorate the 34th anniversary of the Royal Wedding. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it!