Diana (July 1, 1961, to August 31, 1997) was born to aristocratic parents who divorced when she was six. With her mother gone and her father deep in depression, she had a lonely childhood. “I’d have 20 stuffed animals… that was my family.”, remarked Diana about her childhood. She grew up to be introverted and had multiple insecurities. She was physically active and learned ballet and tap dancing. At nineteen, she was engaged to Prince Charles and that marked the beginning of her long-drawn battle with Bulimia Nervosa (Binge-eating/Purging Type). “The bulimia started the week we got engaged. My husband put a hand on my waistline and said, ‘Oh, a bit chubby, here aren’t we?’”, said Diana. Her eating disorder was inflamed by the intense media scrutiny she received, which was not always positive.
She had scar tissue and trauma from her childhood, and the onslaught of media attention magnified her insecurities, making her feel like an outsider. Her pregnancies were surrounded by speculations which plagued the lives of her children. She suffered from Postpartum Depression, which she revealed after her separation. At the peak of her popularity, cable TV news emerged. This socio-cultural development stoked the media frenzy, and many of her trusted friends and acquaintances sold information about her to the press, which led to distress and paranoia. She was attracted to suffering which motivated her to support charities for HIV, addiction and the homelessness. As a public figure, she outshone the members of the royal family, rebranding and popularising a dynasty whose approval ratings were getting dangerously low.
Her family life was fraught with difficulties. While she enjoyed a close relationship with her sons, her husband was in love with another woman. “The worst day of my life was realising that Charles had gone back to Camilla.”, said Diana. In the search for love and support, she had affairs with the likes of Barry Mannakee, James Hewitt and James Gilbey. Post the announcement of her separation, she slowly became obsessed about being viewed favourably by the public. She lived her life in the public eye, and her popularity eclipsed that of Prince Charles. Every move of hers was watched closely, and emulated by admirers from around the world.
Her death, which was caused by a car accident while she was being chased by the paparazzi, was mourned by the world on an unprecedented scale. Millions watched her funeral online, and the grieving public confronted the newly emerging tabloid culture that intruded on Diana’s life, forcing her to take extreme measures to find privacy. Her life and death serve as an admonishment to those media houses that are willing to overlook the ethics of journalism as long as their stories sell. More than twenty years after her death, when we witness the steady rise of tabloid journalism, we need to ask ourselves if we could afford to have another death weigh on our collective conscience.
“A girl given the name of the ancient goddess of hunting was in the end, the most hunted person in the modern world.”- Charles Spencer, Diana’s brother.