NEWS

20 Years On: Remembering Diana, The People's Princess

Diana, Princess of Wales, was just 36-years-old when she was killed following a high-speed car crash in Paris on 31 August, 1997.

31/08/2017 6:19 PM AEST | Updated 31/08/2017 6:23 PM AEST
John Stillwell/PA WIRE

Ask anyone who's old enough to remember and they'll be able to tell you exactly where they were when the news broke that Diana, Princess of Wales died.

The death of one of the world's most famous women sent shockwaves around the world -- in a rare display, many members of the British public abandoned their stiff upper lip and delivered an outpouring of grief for Diana, while an estimated 2.5 billion people from around the world tuned in to watch her funeral.

Since her death 20 years ago, the former wife of Prince Charles and mother of Princes William and Harry, is still remembered for her humanitarian efforts as well as her extensive work with charities around the world.

PA Wire/PA Images
Diana, Princess of Wales whose warmth, compassion and empathy for those she met earned her the title of 'The People's Princess'.

On This Day: 31 August 1997

In the early hours of the morning on 31 August 1997, Diana died after the Mercedes she was travelling in with Dodi Al-Fayed -- son of business magnate Mohamed Al-Fayed -- crashed in a tunnel in Paris after being pursued by photographers.

An inquest into the deaths of the princess and Al-Fayed found that the pair had been unlawfully killed by the "gross negligence" and reckless driving of Henri Paul -- who also perished in the crash -- and the paparazzi who had pursued them.

Tim Graham via Getty Images

While Al-Fayed, 42, and Paul, 41, were killed instantly, initial reports from Paris said that Diana had suffered a fractured arm, concussion and cuts to her leg however, shock soon turned to grief when official reports confirmed her death despite attempts to resuscitate her.

The Aftermath of Diana's Death

Waking to the news of Diana's death, grief-stricken crowds gathered at the gates of London's Buckingham Palace and nearby Kensington Palace -- where she was living at the time -- leaving a sea of floral tributes.

PA Wire/PA Images
A sea of flowers at Diana's residence, Kensington Palace.

Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
Diana's casket is carried from Westminster Abbey.

STR New / Reuters
A woman adds another bouquet of flowers to the growing floral tribute outside Buckingham Palace August 31, 1997.

The Queen's much-covered "aloof" reaction to the death was highly criticised by both the press and the public -- particularly her decision to not immediately return from her Scottish estate of Balmoral to London.

For every day that she remained with Princes William and Harry, the Queen faced increased pressure to make a public appearance -- famously chronicled in Stephen Frear's 2006 fictional drama 'The Queen'.

Ian Waldie / Reuters
Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh look at floral tributes laid outside Buckingham Palace.

In a BBC documentary chronicling the events, 'Diana, 7 days', Prince Harry attempted to explain the situation: "It was a case of how do we let the boys grieve in privacy, but at the same time when is the right time for them to put on their prince hats and carry out duties to mourn not just their mother but the Princess of Wales..."

PA Wire/PA Images

Prince William said he thought "it was a very hard decision for my grandmother to make, she felt very torn between being the grandmother to William and Harry and her Queen role.

"And I think she, you know again like I said, everyone was surprised and taken aback by the scale of what happened and the nature of how quickly it all happened, plus the fact, you know, she was or had been challenging the Royal Family for many years beforehand."

PA Wire/PA Images
Prince William recently revealed the "shock" of his mother's death still remains.

Why did the world love Princess Diana?

Diana wasn't just the former wife of Prince Charles -- during her marriage and following her separation and divorce with the UK's future King, Diana used her public profile to actively campaign for various humanitarian issues.

In her famous BBC interview with Martin Bashir, the Princess said that she hoped to one day see "a monarchy that has more contact with its people".

"And I don't mean by riding round bicycles and things like that, but just having a more in-depth understanding," she said.

"And I don't say this as a criticism to the present monarchy: I just say that as what I see and hear and feel on a daily basis in the role I have chosen for myself."

Tim Graham via Getty Images
Diana holding a baby at a hostel for abandoned children In Sao Paolo, Brazil. The Hostel Cares for HIV-Positive Children.

Mark Cuthbert via Getty Images

At a time when HIV/AIDS had created mass hysteria, the Princess was famously photographed shaking the hand of a man suffering from the illness while opening the UK's first AIDS ward, publicly challenging the notion that the illness could be passed on by touch.

Getty Images
The Princess of Wales helping a patient at Mother Theresa's hospice in Calcutta, India, 15th February 1992.

Tim Graham/Getty Images
Princess Diana Shaking Hands With One Of The Residents Of Casey House, An Aids Hospice, In Toronto, Canada.

As Patron of the Leprosy Mission, Diana visited hospitals in Zimbabwe, Nepal and India where she was filmed interacting with sufferers of the infectious disease, sitting on their beds, shaking their hands and touching their bandaged wounds.

"It has always been my concern to touch people with leprosy, trying to show in a simple action that they are not reviled, nor are we repulsed," she famously said.

Princess Diana Archive via Getty Images
Princess Diana visiting a patient at the London Lighthouse, a centre for people affected by HIV and AIDS, in London, October 1996.

Tim Graham via Getty Images
Diana meets a leprosy patient at Sitanala Leprosy Hospital in Jakarta, Indonesia.

In 1997, she raised global awareness of the plight of landmine victims when she walked through a minefield in Anglola -- a site which is now a thriving community with housing, a small college and a school.

Following in his mother's footsteps, Prince Harry, is now a patron of The HALO Trust -- the world's largest humanitarian mine clearance organisation.

Anwar Hussein/EMPICS Entertainment
Diana Princess of Wales promoting her campaign against the use of landmines in Angola in January 1997.

Tim Graham/Getty Images

In the immediate aftermath of Diana's death, The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund was established in response to the public donations that inundated Kensington Palace. Just over $55 million was raised from donations from the general public, community groups and companies.

The Fund closed on 31 December 2012, by which time it had awarded 727 grants to 471 organisations, and spent more than $180 million on charitable causes.

Tim Graham/Getty Images
The Princess at Neves Bendinha, an ICRC orthopaedic workshop in Luanda, Angola, with 13 year old Sandra Thijika from Saurino in the east of Angola who lost her leg to a mine.

Princes William and Harry Speak Publicly About Their Mother's Death

For the first time since their mother's death, Princes William and Harry have given extensive insights into their relationship with Diana and how they coped following their loss.

Prince Harry, who was aged just 12 when his mother died, gave an extremely candid interview with The Telegraph earlier this year, speaking of how he "shut down all his emotions" for almost 20 years following her death, despite attempts by his brother to persuade him to get help.

"I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12 and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but also my work as well," the Prince said.

UK Press via Getty Images

"My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum, because why would that help?"

Harry, who is now aged 32, said he is now in a "good place" after opening up to mental health professionals, and has encouraged others to do the same.

Tim Graham/Getty Images

Tim Graham/Getty Images

Prince William, who was 15, revealed that she "shock" of his mother's death has never gone away.

"The shock is the biggest thing," he told Rhian Burke in 'Mind Over Marathon', a BBC documentary.

PA Archive/PA Images

"And I still feel 20 years later about my mother, I still have shock within me 20 years later. People go, 'Shock can't last that long', but it does. You never get over it, it's such an unbelievably big moment in your life that it never leaves you.

"You just learn to deal with it."