Remember the first time you saw a picture of her, the blue eyes dancing downward, a shy smile on her youthful face. It was all a fairy tale back then, the story of a girl marrying her prince, and the next chapter was to be that they lived happily ever after.
The reality was different, of course. The marriage was troubled, and then it ended. Her fame soared and then became a nearly unsupportable burden, creating expectations that probably no one could have met.
But people still believed in the fairy tale and saw something desperately alluring in this brittle, beautiful woman. Maybe because she was a princess who was also the mother of two children. Or because men and women agreed on her beauty. Or because the pleasures and terrible disappointments in her glaringly exposed life were not so unlike the ups and downs in the lives of others.
Her legacy includes her two sons, William and Harry, and the causes she fought for in her last years. She tried to give the British a monarchy that was warmer and less afraid to, literally, touch. "I think the biggest disease this world suffers from in this day and age is the disease of people feeling unloved," she told an interviewer in 1995, "and I know that I can give love for a minute, for half an hour, for a day, for a month, but I can give - I'm very happy to do that, and I want to do that."
She died Aug. 31, 1997, at age 36.
Pub Date: 9/07/97