Diana Frances Spencer was born on the 1st of July 1961 in Norfolk and went on to become the most recognisable and popular woman of our time. Born into the British aristocracy, her mother and father separated when she was only six years old, giving her a sense of not being wanted, something that haunted her for the rest of her life. After moving to the Althorp Estate in Northamptonshire at the age of 13, she was sent away to boarding school where she excelled in swimming, music and dance. After a brief time at finishing school in Switzerland where she had strangely been sent to learn French, she returned to England and purchased a flat in London. Still unsure of her desired career path, she secured a job looking after children, something she really loved to do.
With her family being friends with the royal family, she had always had a fascination for Prince Charles, who was at the time the most eligible bachelor in England. She finally met him at the time he was dating her elder sister Sarah. Some time later, Charles showed an interest in Diana and the Queen Mother did all she could to foster this relationship. Word got out to the media and the chase was on. Diana was pursued everywhere she went with the burning question “will you marry Charles?” In hindsight, this media attention was a good test of how she would fit the role of the wife of Charles and she handled it with ease, quite an achievement considering she was only 19 at the time. Her downcast eyes and obvious beauty also won the affection of the British public.
In February 1981 the engagement was announced, Charles was finally going to marry and Diana would join the royal family and give it the breath of fresh air it so desperately needed. In July 1981 the wedding took place, with the largest television viewing audience in history. The birth of Prince William was the next milestone, followed shortly after by the birth of Prince Harry. After the revelation that Charles was having an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, Diana held onto the marriage, throwing herself into her work for various charities such as AIDS research, landmines and the aged. By now her fashion sense was copied the world over and this shy woman with such low self-esteem had become a world leader in the fashion stakes.
After finally realising the marriage could not be saved, a divorce was finalised in August 1996. From this point on Diana went looking for the one thing she had always felt was lacking – true love. It seemed she had finally found this with Dodi Al Fayed, until they were both tragically killed in a car accident in Paris on August 31st 1997, just one year after her divorce.
The royal family agreed that she should have a state funeral and was rightly treated as a royal, even though her divorce had taken away the HRH title. The outpouring of emotion from the world was incredible with her funeral gaining as large an audience as her wedding had 16 years earlier. Her body was returned to the family estate in Northampton and the estate is opened once a year to the public to allow people to pay their respects.
Contained on this release are two ITN documentaries covering her life as they see it. The first documentary The People’s Princess looks at her life as a child, her wedding, her eating disorders, fashion, her charity work, her overseas trips and the funeral. This is quite a depressing documentary overall that seems to focus more on the negatives. Many of the good things in her life are covered, but a tendency to focus on the funeral, her eating disorders and her lack of self-esteem are a bit excessive. There are also a lot of contributions from authors, so the suspicion is there as to whether this was made to aid the promotion of their respective books. Overall this is a reasonable documentary with a running time of 77:19, with the last 20 minutes concentrating on the funeral alone.
The second documentary Her Life is much better. Although this also looks at some of the negative aspects of Diana's life, the focus is much more on the positive. Through interviews with close friends and those that knew her in her younger years, this gives a much better insight into her life. It looks at her schooling and early childhood, her marriage, her charity work, her trips to Australia and most importantly, how she became the strong woman she was at the time of her death. This documentary runs for a lengthy 101:19 and focuses little on the death and more on her early years and her development.
Both documentaries are quality productions and contain a lot of footage that most viewers would not have seen before, along with the standard footage that has been seen time and time again. It could be expected that two documentaries made by ITN that run for such lengths would contain a lot of the same footage as each other, but thankfully this is not the case. They do double up in certain areas such as the engagement and wedding, but this is only a minimal annoyance.
With a woman that was so closely followed by the media and held such a high place in peoples' hearts, the viewer should be aware that these documentaries are only a part of the story. A lot of issues are not covered much at all, such as her relationship with Dodi, the tragic car accident and Diana-gate and for many this will be a blessing. Many friends that are brought in for comment are ones that most would have never heard of before, so the obvious suspicion is there as to how close a friend they really were. Many comment about how they told her to do things, claiming credit for certain things that she is now remembered for. Taking all suspicions into account, these are both informative documentaries that attempt to show the People’s Princess, as most of us believe she was, as a beautiful, caring and genuine woman.
At the time of writing this review, the fifth anniversary of Diana’s death has just passed and in many ways the world is still grieving her loss. Many Diana fans will enjoy this release as it will rekindle many forgotten things about her and once again remind us all of what a great woman she was. Others may find this disappointing in many ways due to its focus on some of the more negative aspects of her life. Having been made by ITN, a media leader in the UK, the aspect of whether the media were at fault for her death is never touched on and whether they were at fault or not is irrelevant, the story at the time made world headlines and should have been covered.
Overall, this is a lengthy account of her life and the viewer has to decide if the content is what they are looking for. Even taking into account the negative aspects of these documentaries, there is also a lot of positive footage contained and fans with a longing to relive her life should find enough in here to be satisfied.