Many people wouldn’t be willing to walk through a minefield. It was twice done by Princess Diana.
Diana walked slowly down a narrow path through Angolan minefields on Jan. 15, 1997. She was wearing a flak jacket and protective visor, as well as a flak jacket with The HALO Trust’s name, which is a group that removes mines from war zones. She turned around to take another shot after realizing that some of her photographers didn’t get it.
Later she was reunited with landmine victims. The princess sat on the lap of a young girl who had lost her left foot.
Images of the day were published in newspapers and TV stations around the globe. They drew international attention to the campaign to eliminate underground devices for many decades after the end of conflicts. Today, there are 164 signatories to a treaty that bans landmines.
People who were touched by the life of the princess turned preschool teacher remembered her before Thursday’s 60th birthday. They also recall the complex royal rebel who made an impact on the House of Windsor.
James Cowan, a former major general and now CEO of The HALO Trust, said that Diana had “emotional intelligence” that allowed her to see the bigger picture but also to get it down to individuals. She knew she could reach people’s hearts in a way that was more effective than those who were only an influence from the head.
Diana’s walk through the landmines seven month before her death in a Paris car accident is one example of how she made the monarchy more accessible and changed the relationship between the royal family and the public. She made it easier to connect with the public by interacting with them more closely — sitting at the edge of a hospital bed with patients, kneeling down, and writing notes to her fans — as she worked to make the monarchy more human and relevant in the 21st Century.
The idea of royals visiting the downtrodden, poor and destitute was not invented by Diana. In 1956, Queen Elizabeth II visited a Nigerian colony of lepers. They were touched by Diana, literally.
Sally Bedell Smith, author of Diana in Search of Herself, said that Diana was a hugger in the royal household. “She was tactile in her interactions with people. This was something that the queen was uncomfortable with, and is still not.
She also recognized that these interactions could draw attention to her causes, as she was constantly followed by TV crews and photographers.
Ten years ago, she embraced victims of landmines in Angola. She also shook hands in London with a young AIDS patient during the early days. This was to show people that touch can’t transmit the disease.
Diana continued to tell the truth about her marriage to Prince Charles, even though her marriage was in decline. To show her affection for her sons, she opened her arms and welcomed her children. On a royal visit to India, sitting alone in front the Taj Mahal. As she began a new life, she was walking through the minefield.
Ingrid Seward was editor-in-chief at Majesty magazine. She also wrote “Diana: A Intimate Portrait.” “Diana understood imagery and knew it was powerful. But she wasn’t intellectual.” She was never going to be the one who could give the right words. She did however present the right image.”
That was the moment Lady Diana Spencer, then 20, married Prince Charles, the heir of the throne on July 29, 1981 at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Elizabeth Emanuel co-designed her wedding gown. She describes it as a similar event to the transformation of a babysitter in sensible skirts and cardigans into a fairytale princess.
“We decided to make the most dramatic, fairytale-like dress we could. Let’s go big. Let’s show off our big sleeves. Emanuel suggested that we have ruffles. “And St. Paul’s church was so big. We knew we had to make a statement. Diana was totally up for it. That idea was a favorite of hers.
Emanuel stated that Diana was also simple, making her more accessible to others.
“She was vulnerable, I believe, so ordinary people could relate to. She was not perfect. She was not perfect. They felt that they knew her.”
Diana’s sons took her example as a model and made more personal connections with the public through their charitable work. They also supported efforts to destigmatize mental illness and treat young AIDS victims in Botswana and Lesotho.
William, second in line to throne, was a pilot for an air ambulance before he took on full-time royal duties. Harry followed Diana’s steps through the minefield to find The HALO Trust.
You can see her influence in the lives of other royals. Sophie, the Countess and wife of Charles’ brother Prince Edward, was tearful in a television interview when she spoke about her emotions regarding the passing of Prince Philip, her father-in law.
Even the public began to see a new side to the queen. She was a Bond girl during 2012 London Olympics, in which she appeared in a mini-movie alongside Daniel Craig.
The monarch also spoke out via Zoom calls to joke with children about her meeting in Moscow with Yuri Gagarin. Was he like that, ma’am!
She said flatly, “Russian,”‘ The Zoom was filled with laughter.
Cowan of HALO said that Diana and Harry brought attention to the issue of landmines. This funding allowed thousands of workers to continue their slow progress in getting rid of these devices.
According to Landmine Monitor, 60 countries and territories still have landmines. These mines killed or injured over 5,500 people in 2019 alone.
“She had the ability to reach out to people and inspire them. Cowan stated that their imaginations were fueled by this work. They like it, and they want it to be funded. That’s why she left such a lasting legacy.