Today would have been the fiftieth birthday of Diana, Princess of Wales (or “Princess Diana” as she was colloquially known). The third and youngest daughter of the future 8th Earl Spencer and his first wife Frances, the Hon Diana Frances Spencer was born at Park House on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk on 1 July 1961.
The facts of her short life are certainly well enough known to render it unnecessary to repeat them here, but what has been interesting to note during the last months is how it has somehow again become “acceptable” to mention her in connection with the British monarchy. There were some years where she was something of a “she who is not to be mentioned” and only Richard Kay at the Daily Mail and other such stalwarts kept on grinding their axes on her behalf, but these days her impact on the monarchy has again become an issue.
To a certain extent this is probably due to the anniversary itself, which has attracted quite a lot of media attention, and to the fact that she has now been dead for so long that she may be considered more part of history than of recent memory.
But the most obvious explanation is of course the wedding of her eldest son. From the moment the then Catherine Middleton stepped out in front of the cameras at St James’s Palace wearing her late mother-in-law’s engagement ring and Prince William explained that it was his way of ensuring that his mother did not “miss out” on it all, the name of Diana has again been frequently mentioned.
Although her one-time rival the Duchess of Cornwall played the part of the groom’s mother at the wedding and Diana was barely mentioned by the BBC commentators, the wedding of her son inevitably “provokes” comparisons to his parents.
Prince William’s marrying in itself points towards the future and this is where the mentioning of his mother again becomes natural and indeed almost unavoidable as it is when he comes to the throne that one will see Diana’s impact most clearly.
The photo shows a floral tribute outside Kensington Palace at the time of Princess Diana’s 49th birthday in July last year.