Princess Diana's fairy tale wedding and her status as a fashion icon and philanthropist endeared her to millions of women worldwide. Her death sent shockwaves around the world, and throughout the institution of the monarchy when people were not satisfied with their stiff upper lip approach to grieving.
Now, as we see the many tributes on the twentieth anniversary of her death, it raises questions about the role of women in the monarchy and what relevance this has for a contemporary and egalitarian Australia.
A passing glance at British history will tell you that royalty wasn't any place for a girl. Wives frequently ended up beheaded or locked in London Tower and the lineage would skip over you all together if you had a younger brother. (Which was only changed before the birth of Prince George in 2013).
To be an acceptable member of the royal family means women have to conform to a very rigid stereotype.
Diana herself became stridently anti-monarchy, which makes it fascinating when she is often held as an example for why women are attracted to the royals. The highly structured institution has been called "The Firm" by royal insiders for centuries, however she gave this term a more acerbic edge and also hated the "men in grey" that ran the organisation. She publicly and privately railed against the constraints of what was expected of the wife, and then ex-wife, of an heir to the throne.
The simple fact is that the monarchy is mired in misogyny. Yes, the Queen is a much-respected figure, but had her younger sister Margaret been male then the top job would have passed by her completely.
Not to mention that she wouldn't have been Queen either had her Uncle not abdicated the throne for the much vilified Wallis Simpson, the "woman who stole the King."
To be an acceptable member of the royal family means women have to conform to a very rigid stereotype. If they are marrying into The Firm they must be of proper blue blood breeding, or at least a commoner with a whole bunch of money, they must fit conventional standards of attractiveness, they must be willing to provide the requisite heir and a spare and even in the twenty-first century being a virgin before marriage is seen as an advantage.
This doesn't leave a lot of room for a life, or even a personality.
For Australians, from the land of the fair go, with convict blood not blue blood in our veins and with an ancient indigenous culture that goes back tens of thousands of years, it's a glaring anomaly that our head of state comes from a family who live in castles on the other side of the world, and whose position comes not through democratic means, but through birthright.
Princess Diana made her opinions well known during her very public separation and divorce. She gave interviews with media outlets sharing details of her marriage, was a self-confessed "rebel" and gave a voice to a range of traditionally unpopular causes such as AIDS and landmines.
She fought to break the shackles of what was expected of her as a silent, compliant royal wife. She turned her failed fairy tale into a force for good. And while I don't think we can call her a feminist icon, she certainly became much more than a traditional royal wife.
As Aussie women we can be more imaginative than aspiring to gain status and power through a Disney-esque marriage. Let's start a whole new aspirational goal for little girls where they aim to become leaders through their own brilliant brains and ambition, not because they are well behaved or beautiful.
And we can still enjoy the celebrity aspect of royalty, just like we do with the Kardashians, without them holding any constitutional power over us.
Before passing away so tragically young, Princess Di was carving out her own unique identity and way of life that was very different to her fairy tale in the early 1980s.
We need to encourage young girls and women to create their own fairy tale. And one day, one of them could be our head of state.Suggest a correction