*Please note some video links no longer work and others have been updated*
Even the hard-hearted among us probably will admit to being a trifle smitten or at least fascinated with the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Sporting a halo of influence which spanned generations, Diana was a constant figure on television and viewers all over the world shared milestone moments in her relatively brief but incandescently charismatic life.
Royalty junkies must have seen it becoming before most of us did, but even those of us late to the party got up to speed once the engagement between Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer became official on Feb. 24, 1981. The shy soft-spoken preschool teacher -- and an extra-comely one at that -- captivated the planet and made us all into transfixed onlookers wondering if indeed fairy tales really sometimes did come true. Perhaps a beautiful innocent Cinderella -- though Diana was hardly a charwoman and was nearly a Royal by birth already -- could actually win the heart of a Prince and grow up to be Queen of England and then, by virtue of her loveliness, to charm the entire world.
Television was there for it all. I'm going to warn you right now: Many of you will want to settle in and just do some Diana binge-watching. We've got a lot of great clips and programs for you but you don't have to watch it all at once. This post isn't going anywhere so just enjoy these links at your leisure. (I've just watched one of the documentaries and I can't wait to watch some more.) Not only do these TV moments bring her back to life, they bring an entire era back to life, including our younger selves who experienced these moments live. It is certainly a lost time, but worth trying to find again.
The Royal Wedding was a media extravaganza. How many of you here in the U.S. set your alarm clocks or simply didn't go to bed at all that night to watch the entire proceedings live on TV? It was tremendous television, especially for those of us unused to quite the level of pomp, circumstance and pageantry on display on July 29, 1981 as seemingly all of London -- and thanks to technology all of the world -- were entranced by the wedding coverage. Wedding footage is included in a lot of the documentaries we'll post, but here is the coverage as it was seen on BBC TV from St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
On the occasion of the wedding of Charles and Diana's son William to Kate Middleton in April of 2011, British TV took a look back thirty years to that earlier Royal Wedding.
Less than a year after the wedding Diana gave birth to Prince William, and two years after that to their second child Prince Harry. A warm, devoted and protective mother, Diana tried to limit the media's access to her children though of course it wasn't easy or often even possible.
Diana devoted herself to her duties including tireless charity work for traditional causes but also went down roads less-traveled by most Royals, including AIDS and eating disorders, complete with frank talk about her own struggles with the latter.
Here's some great footage with Michael Jackson waiting around to meet Charles and Diana and having a chat with them. Jackson the King meets Diana the Princess, July 16, 1988, Wembley Stadium.
This Royal Fairy Tale was not to have a happily ever after ending. Tensions increased between Diana and Charles stemming from a myriad of causes, with both parties eventually coming clean about the state of their deteriorating marriage. In 1992 it was publicly announced that the Prince and Princess were separating, though the marriage had started to unravel much sooner. Charles had reignited his longstanding affair with Camilla Parker Bowles and Diana had found romantic solace of her own. In 1994 Charles sat down for a TV interview about his side of the story, and in November of 1995 Diana met with journalist Martin Bashir for her famous interview on the British Panorama TV series.
The divorce between Charles and Diana was finalized on August 28. 1996. At that point she was no longer Her Royal Highness but instead Diana, Princess of Wales though still a member of the Royal Family by virtue of being the mother of the heir to the throne.
In addition to her post-divorce romances with a famous heart surgeon -- the subject of the recent feature film Diana starring Naomi Watts -- and playboy millionaire Dodi Fayed, Diana continued her charity work including a groundbreaking campaign against landmines which garnered international support. She also famously and to much fanfare auctioned off many of her historic custom gowns to benefit her favorite charities, support that continues even today with the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fund.
Though the fairy tale had become tattered and the marriage which epitomized it was no more, at the center of it all the beautiful Princess still reigned in the popular press with a grace and beauty that continued to delight her followers. And then on August 31, 1997...
On September 5th, Queen Elizabeth delivered this message to the world:
The funeral on September 6, 1997 was an unprecedented event, the outpouring of public grief at a level unheard of in modern times. On the tenth anniversary of the funeral, the BBC replayed its entire day of coverage in honor of Diana. We can't embed the video here, but here are the links to the seven parts, each approximately an hour long: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7. Here is just a short segment of the service, Elton John's version of his "Candle in the Wind" dedicated to the late Princess:
On the 10th anniversary of her passing, Prince Harry delivered this tribute to his mother:
There are countless documentaries and TV movies about Princess Diana. This one was made a couple of years before her passing and shows her busy public life:
Here's an interesting one focusing on Princess Diana's wardrobe throughout her public life and it's more engaging than it perhaps sounds.
Here's one that focuses on more general topics and is very watchable:
This is an intriguing documentary featuring Andrew Morton, author of the bestselling 1992 biography Diana: Her True Story, later updated for a commemorative edition:
This next documentary is about three hours long and is the complete life story of Princess Diana:
Apart from all the documentaries, TV movie fans will remember a pair of competing Charles and Diana telefilms here in the United States which both aired within days of each other a year or so after the Royal Wedding in the summer of 1981.
Charles and Diana: A Royal Love Story aired on September 17, 1982, Diana played by Caroline Bliss.
The Royal Romance of Charles and Diana followed just a couple of days later on September 20th, with Diana played by Catherine Oxenburg.
After the Royal Marriage went sour, producers put together Charles and Diana: A Palace Divided aka Charles and Diana: Unhappily Ever After from 1992, with Catherine Oxenburg reprising her role as Diana.
Diana: Her True Story, a long biopic from 1993, with Serena Scott Thomas as Diana:
Diana: Last Days of a Princess from 1997, with Genevieve O'Reilly as Diana.
Princess Diana: A Tribute to the People's Princess from 1998 about Diana's romance with Dodi Fayed with Amy Secombe as Diana.
Diana, Princess of Wales, would have celebrated her 53rd birthday today.