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Cherry Gilchrist

Princess Diana gained the love and admiration
of millions
worldwide by acting sincerely
from the heart rather than as custom demanded.
Cherry Gilchrist chronicles below some of the
steps on Diana’s way to becoming Britain’s
most popular royal figure anywhere in the world.

The Queen called 1992 a ‘terrible year’. It began badly for Diana, too. On 29 March, her much-loved father died. She was on holiday in Austria, and she flew home at once for the funeral. Prince Charles flew back with her to England, but she went to the funeral alone. The newspapers, of course, were quick to notice this. It was a month for royal stories. The Palace told the world that the marriage of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson was over.

Then a new book came out about Princess Diana: Diana - Her True Story by Andrew Morton. The book talked about Diana’s eating illness, and about how unhappy she was with Prince Charles and the Royal Family. It also talked about Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles. At first, everyone was very surprised. Could it all be true? In the end, people realized that most of it was Diana’s real story.

But there was another surprise coming for her - and an unpleasant one. Diana was beginning, secretly, to look for a new love in her life. She had to be very careful, because she and Charles were still married. The world would not think well of a royal mother with other lovers. Then suddenly, recordings of secret phone calls between Diana and James Gilbey came out. Gilbey was an old friend of Diana’s, but here they were talking as lovers. Someone recorded the conversations, the newspapers said, two years earlier.

Then in 1993 recordings of phone conversations between Charles and Camilla appeared, and everyone now knew for sure that they were lovers. Charles was very unhappy about this, and at first promised to live alone without women. A year later he talked about it all on television. But he didn’t stop seeing Camilla.

In the photos of 1992, Diana is often alone. In one, she is sitting in front of the Taj Mahal in India. She is smiling, but she looks very small and alone in front of the big white building. In November 1992, Charles and Diana did make a visit together to Korea, but they were clearly unhappy. Finally, in December they told the public that they were separating. Prince Charles would stay at Highgrove, and Diana would live alone at Kensington Palace. The children would spend time with both of their parents.

The Queen’s family was in trouble all around her. Just to finish the terrible story of 1992, there was a serious fire at Windsor Castle, the Queen’s favourite home. Everyone there, the Queen too, worked hard to put it out. But the Castle and the Royal Family would never be the same again.

Diana’s private rooms at Kensington Palace were full of photos of William and Harry. ‘They mean everything to me,’ she said. But now she couldn’t be with them so much. A lot of the time, they were at school or with their father. She even had to eat her Christmas dinner alone while William and Harry spent Christmas Day with their father and grandmother.

But she was doing her best to help her sons for their future as royal princes, and William perhaps as the future King of England. She decided that they needed to understand some of the country’s problems. She took them to visit sick people in hospitals. But she also took them out secretly to see some of the dark and unpleasant places where homeless people spend the night. In 1995, William went to Eton, one of the top schools in the country, but he didn’t forget the other side of life that Diana showed him. He later gave Diana the idea of selling a lot of her dresses for charity.

Diana’s new life had good times in it, too. She had plenty of friends. Many of them were famous, and some of them were filmstars or popstars. She was friendly with the popstars Elton John and George Michael, and with Terence Stamp and Richard Attenborough, the filmstars. She knew Luciano Pavarotti, the Italian singer, and others from the music and film world, like Michael Jackson, Paul and Linda McCartney, and Liza Minelli. She often had lunch with friends. An Italian restaurant, San Lorenzo, in Kensington was her favourite for a long time. She still loved dancing and pop music, and she went swimming or running every day to keep in good shape. Diana was very serious about her health now.

But she couldn’t escape from the paparazzi. Everywhere she went, they tried to take photographs of her. Sometimes they took photos secretly - you could get a lot of money for a new photo of Diana.

Suddenly, it was all too much for her. In December 1993, she told the world that she wanted to live quietly. She would stop most of her work for charities. She needed time for her children, and for her private life. It was not for long. She soon came back because she wanted to get on with her work, and be ‘a mother to the world’, as one newspaper wrote. And the story of Diana and Charles was not over yet; in November 1995 she recorded her famous appearance on television.

She talked openly to reporter Martin Bashir about her life in the Royal Family, and she was clearly hurt and angry about the past. But she also talked about her future. ‘I don’t think many people will want me to be Queen ... because I do things differently, because I don’t go by a rule book.’ She worked, she said, ‘from the heart, not the head’. But she wanted ‘to be Queen of people hearts’. These were words which the world never forgot.

A lot of people that she helped will never forget her either. One of her favourite charities was Centrepoint, which looks after homeless people. Vincent Seabrook, a man of 35 now working as a private guard, remembers her well. He was living homeless on the streets when Diana came past and stopped to talk to him. ‘She got me something to eat and drink, listened to me, and gave me the number for Centrepoint,’ he said.

She wasn’t frightened of illness, or of people who had serious problems with their bodies. She was ready with a hug or a kiss for everyone. A man who couldn’t see wanted to know what Diana was like. ‘Is it all right if I touch your face?’ he asked. ‘Of course you can,’ she said. He moved his hands over her eyes, nose and mouth until he could see a picture of her in his head. ‘You’re very pretty!’ he said.

When someone was in trouble, she tried to help them. Once in hospital, she heard a woman crying. The woman’s son, Dean, was badly hurt in a car accident. Diana sat with the young man that night, and visited him again later. She even went to his house when he was better, and met his children. ‘What shall we call you?’ they all asked. ‘Just Diana,’ she said.

She often visited children’s hospitals like Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. Victoria Hemphill, a young girl with a serious heart problem, felt that the Princess was her special friend, and kept photos of Diana by her bed. Diana often talked to her about William and Harry, and the boys wrote to her. ‘Dearest Victoria, I wanted to send you lots of love while you were in hospital,’ began a letter from Prince Harry.

Diana had time for her friends who were in trouble, too. She helped a friend called Rosa when her baby died, and gave time to another friend, Cosima, when her marriage ended. She knew what it was like to feel hurt inside. She still travelled to other countries. In 1994 she visited Zimbabwe, in Africa. Photos show that she helped to give out lunch to children in a special school. She visited hospitals in Pakistan. In India, she became friends with Mother Teresa, who was famous for her work with poor people who were dying on the streets. Diana once said, ‘I’m not frightened of dying, if I can die happy.’

Her Last Days

After Diana’s marriage finally ended in August 1996, she was a rich woman. But she wanted to go on working. She specially wanted to stop the use of landmines. She visited Angola and Bosnia, where there are still terrible problems with landmines after the wars there. She met people who lost legs or arms from these landmines - not only men, but little children too. When she spoke out against landmines, not everyone agreed with her. But Diana was still ready to speak from the heart.

Source: New English Digest


worldwide: all over the world (mundialmente)
: records in chronological order; makes a historical record (registra)
she flew home
: she went back home by plane (regresó en avión, voló de regreso)
was over
: had ended (había terminado)
came out
: was published (apareció, se publicó)
: were fully aware of (comprendió)
to look for
: to search (a buscar)
: all of a sudden (de pronto, repentinamente)
he didn't stop seeing
: STOP > ING verb (no dejó de ver a)
did make
: emphatic use (realmente hicieron)
in trouble
: in disorder, with problems (en caos, con problemas)
to put it out
: to extinguish the fire (para apagar el incendio)
sick people
: people not in good physical or mental health (gente enferma)
homeless people
: people without a home (las personas sin hogar)
paparazzi: freelance photographers who do not respect the privacy of the people they photograph (fotógrafos del ambiente artístico)

came back: returned (regresó)
to get on with
: to continue (continuar con)
I don't go by a rule book
: I don't guide by a collection of rules on which decisions are made (no me guío por reglamentos)
: after a negative statement this word used as an intensive meaning something like 'likewise' or 'also' (tampoco)
looks after
: takes care of (cuida a)
came past
: passed him by (pasó a su lado)
a hug: an embrace (un abrazo)
who couldn't see: who was blind (que era ciego)
what Diana was like
: what Diana looked like (cómo era Diana)
she even went
: she also went (incluso fue)
to give out: to distribute (a repartir)
to go on working
: to continue working (continuar trabajando)
: explosive mines hidden underground (minas explosivas ocultas)
spoke out against
: raised her voice against (denunció públicamente)