‘Royal family has shown Princess Diana’s memory too little respect’, say a third of British public

Diana, Princess of Wales with her son Prince Harry. Diana, Princess of Wales was a woman whose warmth, compassion and empathy for those she met earned her the description the "people's princess".  Martin Keene/PA Wire
Diana, Princess of Wales with her son Prince Harry. Diana, Princess of Wales was a woman whose warmth, compassion and empathy for those she met earned her the description the "people's princess". Martin Keene/PA Wire
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Almost a third of the British public feel the Royal Family has shown Diana, Princess of Wales’s memory too little respect.

But more than 40 per cent believe the Windsors have “got the balance about right”, a poll revealed ahead of the 20th anniversary of the car crash that killed the Princess.

The Prince and Princess of Wales in  Balmoral. Diana, Princess of Wales was a woman whose warmth, compassion and empathy for those she met earned her the description the "people's princess".' PA/PA Wire

The Prince and Princess of Wales in Balmoral. Diana, Princess of Wales was a woman whose warmth, compassion and empathy for those she met earned her the description the "people's princess".' PA/PA Wire

YouGov research commissioned by the Press Association showed that 30 per cent thought the Royals showed too little respect to Diana’s memory, 44 per cent felt the balance was about right, four per cent felt there was too much respect and 22 per cent were unsure.

More than two fifths of British adults also believe that the Royal Family changed for the better because of Diana.

Only five per cent felt the Windsors had changed for the worse, while nearly a third said the Royals had not changed at all.

The monarchy faced one of its most turbulent times in the aftermath of Diana’s tragic death in a Paris underpass on August 31, 1997.

Princess Diana in Preston in 1990

Princess Diana in Preston in 1990

The Queen, who was comforting her grandsons in Balmoral, was criticised for failing to return to London quickly enough, and for keeping the Buckingham Palace flagpole bare, as was protocol when she was away, rather than lowering a flag to half mast in respect.

In her speech to the nation ahead of the funeral, the monarch even acknowledged Diana: “There are lessons to be drawn from her life and from the extraordinary and moving reaction to her death.”

When the Queen opened a memorial fountain in London’s Hyde Park in Diana’s honour seven years later in 2004, she said there were “difficult times” in Diana’s life but spoke of how “memories mellow with the passing of the years”.

Royal author Penny Junor suggested that publicity surrounding the 20th anniversary 
had led some people to regress two decades amid polarised views.

Princess Diana in Preston in 1990

Princess Diana in Preston in 1990

“I think we’ve gone straight back to square one actually, emotionally as a nation,” she said.

“I mean obviously not everybody, but I think there are quite a lot of people who have emotionally been taken back 20 years, polarised in their views.

“All the films and all the articles and all the documentaries, they’re not helping people to move on at all.

“Rather than this 20th anniversary being a great celebration of her legacy and looking back at all the marvellous things she did, an awful lot of this has been celebrated by going back 
over the same old ground, the marriage and her unhappiness, and I think that is really regrettable because it’s not helping anyone.”

Junor argued that Diana had, in part, changed the Royals for the better.

“She had a positive input. She was a product of her age. She was young and hands-on, and the Royal Family were inevitably more traditional and less hands-on,” she said.

“But the business of baring their souls in public has not been a positive move and I think she was the one that started that.”

In terms of the Princess’s legacy, the research found, 20 years on, that Diana is most well known in Britain for being the “People’s Princess”, rather than for her personal troubles, her charity work and being William and Harry’s mother.

But most younger people know her best for dying in a car crash.

Among those aged 18-24, who had either not been born or who were very young when Diana died, 37 per cent said she was most remembered for being killed in a crash.

Some 26 per cent of young adults said she was best known as the People’s Princess.

Buckingham Palace, which has a longstanding policy of not commenting on opinion polls, declined to make a statement.

Timeline

July 1, 1961: Diana is born at Park House, Sandringham, Norfolk.

November 1977: Charles meets 16-year-old Lady Diana Spencer at Althorp.

February 6, 1981: Charles, who dated Diana’s sister Sarah, proposes to 19-year-old Diana.

July 29, 1981: Diana marries the Prince of Wales at St Paul’s Cathedral and becomes HRH the Princess of Wales and a future Queen.

June 21, 1982: Prince William is born.

September 15, 1984: Prince Harry is born.

December 9, 1992: Prime Minister John Major announces Charles and Diana are to separate amicably and on August 28, 1996 the final divorce decree is granted for the couple.

August 31, 1997: Diana and Dodi al-Fayed are killed in a car crash in Paris, along with their driver Henri Paul.

September 6, 1997: Diana’s funeral takes place at Westminster Abbey.