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Diana's legacy lives on through William and Harry

Tributes left above the tunnel in Paris where Diana's car crashed. Credit: AP

In the road tunnel which was the focus of the world’s media attention on this day 20 years ago, the cars and vans drive in and out, just like they are supposed to.

It’s another normal day in a very normal looking Paris underpass, close to the River Seine.

Princess Diana’s car was supposed to do just that on August 31st 1997: to drive in and out of the tunnel and complete her journey from the Ritz Hotel to her boyfriend’s apartment.

But her driver was drunk. He was driving at 100 km per hour.

There were greedy paparazzi photographers following her car.

And Diana was not wearing a seat belt.

Princess Diana died from her injuries, as did her boyfriend at the time Dodi Al Fayed, and her driver Henri Paul.

The only survivor, Diana’s body guard Trevor Rees-Jones, was the only one of the four who had fastened his seat belt.

Diana died alongside her boyfriend at the time Dodi Al Fayed. Credit: PA

What happened in the early hours of that Sunday morning was to stun the world.

It shook the Royal Family.

It was the biggest crisis for the British Monarchy since the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936.

The most famous woman in the world at that time was suddenly dead.

Diana with sons William and Harry. Credit: PA

We’ve written a lot about the events of that Paris night in recent weeks.

We’ve heard from Prince William and Harry about how they were told the news, how they reacted, their regret over their last ever phone call with their mum.

We’ve listened to her charities talk of the impact she had on their work.

We’ve discussed the public displays of emotion which gripped Britain in the week between Diana’s death and her funeral.

And we’ve examined what role the press –in particular the behaviour of the self-employed paparazzi photographers – played in Diana’s death.

None of which is very new.

Diana was just 36 years old when she died. Credit: PA

But we have learned something significant in these last few weeks: her two boys have inherited many of their mother’s qualities.

How did they chose to mark the anniversary this week? They chose to invite into Kensington Palace the charities Diana supported right up to her death.

William and Harry stood in the pouring rain and chatted to them in the garden which was recreated in their mother’s name.

No big concert. No huge public event.

Just a chat with the charity workers who knew Princess Diana well.

Diana's sons William and Harry view tributes to their mother outside Kensington Palace. Credit: PA

There is nothing easier in this job than to write warm things about the royal family, to report uncritically on what they do.

So it’s important we remain objective and impartial.

They make mistakes: William might have been better advised to come back from his lads’ weekend in the Alps a day or two before; Harry might now wish he had never stepped into that Nazi fancy dress costume.

But for the way they have conducted themselves in the weeks before this anniversary, I suspect their mother would have been very proud.

Yes, the two princes enjoy a lifestyle more privileged than most will ever know.

But they have continued to champion their mother’s charity work and take their mother’s approach to their royal duties.

In so doing, they present an open, honest and compassionate face to the world.

The new face of the royal family resembles much of Diana's era. Credit: PA

Prince Charles' role in raising William and Harry is often airbrushed out of this part of the story. But remember, the boys were 15 and 12 at the time, and the Prince of Wales was the only parent they had left.

I watched them with members of the public at Kensington Palace yesterday.

It was a week in which they have been dealing with their own personal grief.

But Harry took flowers from a little girl and placed them at the gates just where she asked him to. William did the same.

They did the dutiful thing.

Today, they will mark their mother’s death in private – away from the cameras.

As they do so, most people will agree that Diana’s legacy lives on through her two sons.