Humble and shocking, her words continue to ring true.
Diana, Princess of Wales, lived a legendary life by anyone’s measure. Born into British nobility, she was just 20 when she married Prince Charles — sporting a lacy confection of a dress, with a barely perceptible look of doubt behind her ready smile as a huge worldwide audience gushed and cheered.
But things are rarely as perfect as they seem, even for princesses.
Diana suffered from severe bulimia in the castle, and through the height of her popularity as the “people’s princess” she also endured heartbreak as her husband carried on an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles.
The picture-perfect princess divorced her prince in 1996, launching a media feeding frenzy; a year later, a high-speed paparazzi chase through a Paris tunnel killed her at just 36.
In the newly released book Diana: I’m Going to be Me, along with a number of documentaries surfacing this year, we learn that this princess — the subject of so much scrutiny and endless projection — was first and foremost human: preternaturally poised, sure, but also possessed of quirky, often-raw opinions on everything from the notion of perfection, to the merits of custard, boys who showed emotions, and the White House.
For anyone who feels weighed down by unrealistic expectations, frustrated by pressure, yet also drawn toward passion, joy, and adventure which shouldn’t be silenced, but celebrated – Princess Diana’s words are right there with you.
1. Diana experienced imposter syndrome.
On an early visit to Balmoral, where she took her honeymoon, she wrote to a friend, “I feel totally out of place here.”
“I sometimes wonder what on earth I have got myself into. I feel so small, so lonely, so out of my depth.”
2. She gave lie to “boys don’t cry.”
Said to her sons: “It’s not sissy to show your feelings.”
3. She was cool with getting older.
“I know that one day – if I play the rules of life, the game of life – I will be able to have those things which I’ve always pined for and they will be that much more special because I will be that much older and able to appreciate them much more.”
4. She knew “perfection” was B.S.
“I have it on very good authority that the quest for perfection in society can leave the individual gasping for breath at every turn.”
5. Like all women, famous or not, she felt the burn of sartorial scrutiny.
“I just can’t win. They either accuse me of spending too much on my clothes of or wearing the same outfit all the time.”
6. She wasn’t afraid of a little comfort food.
Said to Cliff Richard: “It’s so nice to go home and have a bowl of custard.”
7. In her own [very British] way, she stood up for herself.
At the 40th birthday party of Camilla Parker Bowles’s sister Annabel Elliott, Diana confronted Camilla, whom she suspected of having an affair with Prince Charles, and told her: “I’m sorry I’m in the way and it must be hell for both of you, but I do know what is going on. Don’t treat me like an idiot.”
8. She, um, supported the troops.
“I do so like men in uniform.”
9. She craved adventure.
Asked if she gambled, Diana replied: “Not with cards…. But with life.”
10. Her relationship insights were spot on.
Shortly after she separated from Charles, she posted the following note-to-self on her desk at Kensington Palace: “Greatest barrier to bonding is low self-esteem itself. A woman with low self-esteem…might be terrified of letting someone get too close lest they discover the “real” her and reject.”
11. She was drawn the Land of the Free.
After a tour of the White House: “I would have loved it there.”
12. She coveted what she couldn’t have: privacy.
Said to friends: “I’d love to be able to run along a beach without a policeman following me.” And: “The trouble with being a Princess is that it is so hard to have a pee.”
13. Sometimes she just wanted to hide at home.
“Imagine having to go to a wedding every day or your life – as the bride. Well, that’s a bit what it’s like.”
14. But even if she couldn’t run on the beach unescorted, Diana’s spirit ran wild.
“I like to be a free spirit. Some don’t like that, but that’s the way I am.”
15. She gossiped with her hairdresser.
“Charles must be wearing beer goggles to have an affair with Camilla.”
16. Compared to her brother, she felt inadequate.
“I was always told by my family that I was the thick one. That I was stupid and my brother was the clever one. And I was always so conscious of that. I used to go to the headmistress crying saying I wish I wasn’t so stupid.”
17. She refused to raise her sons to be spoiled brats.
“I want them to realize not everybody has a Range Rover and a country house.”
18. She admitted to being a hot mess – albeit an altruistic one.
“I know there are a million people worse off than me and I should do all I can for them but at the end of the day I have to live with myself and emotionally at the moment I am upside down and confused (so boring for those around me) and putting on this act is desperate but it keeps people off my back then surely it must be worth it.”
19. She was wise beyond her years.
“You can’t comfort the afflicted without afflicting the comfortable.”
20. She believed in karma.
“Carry out a random act of kindness with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”
21. Eerily, she saw her own end coming two years before her death.
“My husband is planning ‘an accident’ in my car, brake failure and some serious injury in order to make the path clear for Charles to marry.”
22. After highs and lows, fame and fortune, scandal and sadness, Diana found herself.
“From now on, I’m going to own myself and be true to myself. I no longer want to live someone else’s idea of what and who I should be…. I’m going to be me.”