Even 10 years after her death, Princess Diana's legacy continues to stir controversy. From London, Tendai Maphosa has more on the eve of a 10th anniversary memorial service organized by her sons, Princes William and Harry.
The 10th anniversary of Princess Diana's death has resurrected old controversies about the "People's Princess."
|Princess Diana (file photo)|
Since her death in a car crash in Paris in 1997, Diana's legacy has been hotly debated. Some see a troubled woman who courted media attention. Others recall a warm, generous person who focused her energy on charitable causes and dared to hug AIDS victims.
Australian feminist Germaine Greer described Diana as "a moron" this month, but Prime Minister Gordon Brown hailed her as "an extraordinary woman" who "still has the remarkable ability to move and inspire."
Despite the debate, there is no doubt that Diana spent much of her time doing humanitarian work. She was involved in such organizations as the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London, the National Aids Trust and The Leprosy Mission.
The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund was established in September 1997 to continue the Princess's humanitarian work in the United Kingdom and overseas. The fund was established with the proceeds from sales of the recording of Elton John's performance of Candle in the Wind, which was played at Diana's funeral.
Samantha Rennie is a spokesperson for the fund. She said Diana used her celebrity status to draw attention to unpopular causes.
"She supported causes that were in her life unpopular you might remember pictures of her shaking hands with someone who had HIV/AIDS at a time that this was thought horrific and yet now 10 years on it seems quiet normal," she noted. "Similarly she was photographed walking through minefields at a time that this was considered hugely controversial and yet now landmines have been stigmatized so in the intervening years of course peoples' attitudes change, but in many ways they change for the better."
Simon Conway is the director of Landmine Action, which has received support from the Diana fund. He said Diana's work with landmines continues to help the cause.
"I think we have seen significant progress in the last 10 years," he said. "We now have a 153 nations, three quarters of the world, have signed up to the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines, but perhaps more important in purely practical terms, the weapon has been completely stigmatized."
Samantha Rennie says that though the Diana fund is no longer actively raising money, people are still making donations.
"We are making what we are calling proactive grants so in a small number of very specific areas such as palliative care, care for the dying in Africa, refugee and asylum seekers in the U.K. and other areas such as cluster munitions we are working towards an international ban on cluster munitions in these specific areas we are actually identifying organizations with whom we have worked in the past in order to carry forward those very specific goals," she said.
Nearly 500 invited guests are expected to attend a memorial service in the historic Guards Chapel at Wellington Barracks in central London, where her two sons are officers in the British Army. The royal memorial service is not open to the public. Shoppers at Harrods' department store have been invited to remain silent for two minutes on Friday along with Mohamed al Fayed, the owner, whose son, Emad, known as Dodi, died with Diana in the car crash.