In 1995, after she was separated from but still married to Britain’s Prince Charles, Princess Diana said in a BBC television interview: “I’d like to be a queen in people’s hearts.”
For many people, she was.
Diana became and remains beloved for her high-profile support for various charities, like the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, her un-Royal-like rapport with the public and, of course, for her beauty.
Her tragic death in a car accident in Paris on August 31, 1997 led to a huge outpouring of emotion from those who knew her and from the public.
Tony Blair, Leader of Britain’s Labour Party, was British Prime Minister at the time of Diana’s fatal crash.
On the night of her death, he was one of many notable people the press asked for reactions.
Blair’s widely-published response was poignant and memorable. He said:
“She was the people’s princess and that is how she will stay, how she will remain in our hearts and our memories forever.”
Since then, the phrase “the People’s Princess” has been inextricably linked to Diana.
In his Yale Book of Quotations, quote expert Fred Shapiro notes that Blair wasn’t the first person to use that nickname for her.
More than a decade earlier, it had appeared in a souvenir booklet about Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s 1983 tour of Australia.
The heading of a section in in that publication was “Diana: the People’s Princess.”
However, it was Blair’s more widely-publicized use that made the phrase forever associated with the beautiful, doomed “Princess Di.”
Diana was not actually the first British Royal to be called “the People’s Princess.”
A century earlier, Royal watchers and the press used that nickname for Princess Mary Adelaide, the Duchess of Teck (1833-1897).
This reflected the fact that Mary Adelaide was one of the first of “the Royals” to actively support a broad range of public charities.
Indeed, if she had been as stunningly beautiful as Diana, she might be more widely known today.
Alas…well, you can judge for yourself. The photo above is one of the better ones of the first “Peoples Princess.”
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