The Hunted Huntress
by Michael Sones
There are few people in the modern era who have so captured the imagination of the public like Princess Diana who was alternately revered and vilified, portrayed both as an angel of good works and a disturbed publicity-seeking anorexic.
She was born Diana Frances Spencer on July 1, 1961 and died tragically in a fatal car crash aged 36, while being sped through a Parisian tunnel in flight from the voyeuristic cameras of the paparazzi. Her brother, Charles, in his memorial speech, commented that although the name Diana was associated with that of the ancient Greek goddess of hunting, his sister had herself become the most hunted woman in the world. She had become a living myth and an industry, making fortunes for photographers and charities alike.
Why did the public and media develop such an obsessive and intrusive interest in her life? By many she was felt to be a combination of great beauty and great warmth. She was idealized by some, and very devalued by others; for every story about good works, there are stories about her propensity to become hysterical, manipulative and demanding.
There is something overwhelmingly compelling about great beauty. It attracts, pulls us, and yet disturbs and frightens us. This has always been and it seems to be even more so in these chaotic times. Certainly envy seeks to spoil it by finding fault and criticizing every blemish. Both Marilyn Monroe and Diana benefited from their beauty but Beauty eventually exacted a great cost on them in return for her original blessing.
Princess Diana was born into a privileged if otherwise ordinary family. She had two older sisters, Sarah and Jane, and a younger brother, Charles. The family home, on the Sandringham estate, was rented from the English royal family. Her parents’ marriage failed when Diana was six, and this was to affect her deeply. She remained with her father and her siblings, and kept in touch with her mother.
In 1975 her father became the Eighth Earl of Spencer and Diana therefore became Lady Diana. Her school life found her a keen competitor at sports and she was particularly good at swimming. When she grew to be 5’10’ her childhood dream of becoming a ballerina was dashed as she was much too tall for any of the classical roles. She left school in 1978 and was variously occupied through being a nanny and a waitress before finally landing a job teaching young children at a kindergarten in London.
It was while at the kindergarten that she was noticed by Prince Charles, heir to the throne of England. He was looking for a bride, and for someone who could provide a future heir to the throne. Unfortunately, the real but secret love of Charles’ life, Camilla Parker Bowles, was already married and thus unavailable.
Diana was young, beautiful, shy and charming, all at once. Prince Charles was the most eligible and best known bachelor in the world. As soon as his interest in Diana became public knowledge a media interest in her began which was to soon to become like an avalanche sweeping all consideration for privacy for the courting couple before it.
Diana bravely struggled to cope with the huge interest in her which put her every move under the microscope of scrutiny. Understandably, she found it overwhelming and unbearable at times. And who, among us, would not? We all like attention but too much becomes persecuting in itself to say nothing of when green eyed envy directs the camera in its search for blemish. It is a commonplace of the human condition that people are only put on pedestals in order to knock them off.
The romance continued, and Charles and Diana were married in July, 1981 in St. Paul’s Cathedral. It is estimated that 750 million people in 74 countries watched the televised proceedings. Whilst having come from a privileged background there was a naturalness and charm about Princess Diana that ordinary people from ordinary backgrounds found touching and compelling. At the same time she had a real flair for fashion and style and she set trends everywhere.
Two sons, William and Harry were born in 1982 and 1984, respectively. Diana breast-fed both her sons and tried to give them as ordinary an upbringing as was possible within a royal and extraordinary environment. Gradually, her marriage to Charles began to show strain, and an increasingly sad and desperate Diana developed an eating disorder, bulimia, and apparently tried to commit suicide. Her disillusionment with royalty and the failure of her marriage led her to try to give her life new meaning through the championing of many charities for which she worked tirelessly.
Once again, millions were touched by her natural warmth and the easy way in which she could empathise with the suffering of humanity. She once said that it was as the ‘Queen of people’s hearts’ that she would like to be known. In 1992 she and Charles became formally separated and their divorce was decreed in 1996. She was to keep her title The Princess of Wales and to share joint custody of their sons with Prince Charles.
Her life came to a tragic end when a year later, in August 1997, she was killed in a fatal car crash whilst being chased by paparazzi.
However, the tragedy did not end there. Many websites sought to commercially exploit her life and death and, apparently, one even diverted surfers to a porn site.