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TW: Depression, Eating Disorders

Princess Diana has remained a prevalent icon of grace and glamour. Through the many depictions of her in television and film, and the adoring love people had for her across the world, her memory remains as alive as ever. She was a kind-hearted soul who had a great eye for fashion. She came into the British Monarchy in 1981, when she married the 32-year-old Prince Charles at just 20-years-old. Throughout their travels and her time as a Royal Family member she became known as the “People’s Princess”. And this was rightfully so as her acts of kindness sent shockwaves of impact.

She began her time as a royal princess at the beginning of the 1980s-- at the height of the AIDS crisis. Lady Di played a substantial role in the way these patients were treated. By touching them and talking with them like normal, the world began to drop the stigmas around AIDS patients. As many wanted them to be quarantined and had irrational fears about it, Princess Diana showed humanity, and much of the people watching followed. This contributed to her legacy of being genuine and caring, adjectives that were not always attributed to the Royal Family. After her divorce from Charles, she used her platform to support even more causes like the arts and children’s issues. She was said to have a gift of understanding people’s emotions and as a mother, she hoped to pass that down to her two sons, William and Edward.

Diana’s story seemed like a fairytale. A young woman picked by a prince to be married in an extravagant gown, just to move into a castle and travel as princess, with the expectation of one day becoming queen. However, in reality, it was not that. Almost paradoxically, her and Charles’s marriage was tumultuous. As he had an ongoing affair with Camilla Parker-Bowels, who he is now married to, Diana suffered mentally as she desperately tried to save her marriage and handle the stress of being watched by the press, and then the world, every minute. Her struggles with bulimia and depression were publically talked about, causing them to worsen. She revealed this all in a group of candid interviews with BBC in 1995 and a biography written by Andrew Morton about her in 1992. 

Her honesty about her mental health is one of the most powerful aspects of her legacy. Her willingness to shed light on these feelings helped to break down the stigma around mental health and eating disorder issues. When talking about her impact, Time Magazine even wrote “It is not an exaggeration to say that thousands of people changed their lives because Diana talked about hers.” They also reported that after those interviews, rates of women who were seeking treatment for bulimia more than doubled. This was then dubbed the “Diana effect”. Her interviews allowed for others to empathize and understand what those with a similar diagnosis are going through. Now today, we see a much more open discussion about mental health, with many influential figures, like musicians and actors, spearheading the efforts.

Unfortunately, on August 30, 1997, the world lost Diana as she and her partner, Dodi Fayed, when they were killed in a car accident in Paris. However, the Diana effect never went away. As the world mourned the loss of the People’s Princess, they kept her values in mind and her efforts afloat. Her two sons use their platform to continue conversations about mental health awareness today as well. 

Last year, Netflix’s The Crown released its fourth season. It detailed the struggles Diana endured and how negligent the Royal Family was in helping her. This was the first time many younger people were hearing about this, which then sparked another conversation over Diana, her empathy, and her struggles with mental health. The Crown rejuvenated Diana’s legacy. It offered a chance for her to talk to the younger generations, allowing her story and values to fruitfully live on. By simply speaking her truth, Diana came to the aid of millions. Her good-heartedness allows her to forever be remembered as the People’s Princess.


Sarah McGonigle

Coastal Carolina '22

Sarah is a Political Science major, and she minors in both English and Women's & Gender Studies at Coastal Carolina University. She serves as the President and Correspondent of the Coastal Carolina chapter of Her Campus. Sarah loves listening to music, reading, and attempting to replicate Carrie Bradshaw's style. She finds advocating for social, environmental, and political issues to be an important aspect of her life.
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