Britain’s very public grief: How the loss of Princess Diana changed our response to death

17 August 2017 | by Catherine Pepinster

The Diana legacy


In the summer of 1997 I was – like many people at the time – more than a little intrigued by Princess Diana. I was working on the newsdesks of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday; my day began with scanning the papers, and they were brimming with stories about Diana. Like many women, I sympathised with her over her problems with her ex-husband, her difficulties with the former in-laws, and her desire to be the best possible mother to her two young sons.

What most struck me, though, was her genius for empathy. She never wore gloves and always warmly touched those she met, unlike other gloved, formal royals; she would crouch when she met small children or elderly people who couldn’t stand up; and she never patronisingly bent over someone in a wheelchair but would kneel beside them.

But in the summer of 1997, Diana’s life seemed not so much about empathy but hedonism.

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