Friday August 11, 2017

How Princess Diana's legacy lives on 20 years after her death: Andrew Morton

Lady Diana's "unofficial" biographer Andrew Morton says the princess transformed the monarchy.

Lady Diana's "unofficial" biographer Andrew Morton says the princess transformed the monarchy. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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It was 20 years ago this month — August 31 — that Diana, the Princess of Wales, died tragically in a Paris car accident.

Diana was many things in life: a mother, a wronged wife, a feminist symbol, a fashionista, a humanitarian and a rebel. And she has proven to be no less magnetic in death, according to Andrew Morton. 

ROYALS

"I lead from the heart, not the head. And albeit that's got me into trouble in my work, I understand that, but someone has got to go out there and love people and show it," the Princess of Wales once said. (Jose Manuel Ribeiro/Reuters)

In 1992, Morton blew the lid off the royal household in his book, Diana: Her True Story, detailing Diana's unhappy marriage to Prince Charles, exposing his closeness to Camilla Parker Bowles, and revealing Diana's eating disorders and suicide attempts.

'She was flawed, she was vulnerable, and yet she had the courage to take on the difficult challenges that she faced in her life.' - Andrew Morton on Princess Diana's appeal

Morton tells The Current's host Megan Williams that Lady Diana's appeal and profound impact was more than just  "a curious quality that you can call charisma."

"People followed this journey of this shy, blushing teenager who became an international icon, a humanitarian, but also someone who had difficulties in her private life, as we all know, with her husband, Prince Charles," Morton explains.

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"We felt incredibly loved by her and I'm very grateful that the love still feels there," says Diana's son, Prince Harry. (Johnny Eggitt/AFP/Getty Images)

"Many people kind of associated their own lives with her life. They could see that their own difficulties were reflected in Diana's. Obviously, it wasn't quite a perfect comparison by any means, but nonetheless she was flawed, she was vulnerable, and yet she had the courage to take on the difficult challenges that she faced in her life."

'I think that in Prince William you will see the flame of Diana continue well into this century.' - Andrew Morton

Morton suggests the enduring impact of Lady Di's legacy is the result of her extraordinary personal transformation from a "two-dimensional clothes horse to her three-dimensional character who wants to be known for what she said rather than what she looked like."

The renowned compassion and humanity that defined the princess is evident in her eldest son, Morton points out, and serves as another example of how Diana's legacy lives on.

"I think that in Prince William you will see the flame of Diana continue well into this century."

BRITAIN

"I'd like to be a queen of people's hearts, in people's hearts, but I don't see myself being Queen of this country," Diana said in a 1995 interview with BBC's Martin Bashir. (Reuters)

Beyond her own extraordinary transformation, Morton credits Princess Diana for reshaping the image of the monarchy and shifting the culture.

"I think that what you might call Britain's stiff upper lip brigade ended with the funeral. And we have more of a trembling lower lip," says Morton, adding that Diana's death raised over $200 million CAD for 400 charities.

'She's done far more to transform the monarchy than perhaps even the Queen.' - Andrew Morton on Lady Di's impact

The commitment from Prince William and Harry to continue their mother's legacy and supporting mental health charities, while also speaking openly about their own struggles have contributed in Morton's view to "a more expressive nation, a more touchy-feely nation than we were perhaps 30 or 40 years ago."

"So in many respects, she's done far more to transform the monarchy than perhaps even the Queen in the 15 years or so that she was a member of that institution."

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith and Ramraajh Sharvendiran.