30.08.2022, Großbritannien, London: Blumen und ein Portrait von Diana, Prinzessin von Wales, stehen an anlässlich ihres Todestages vor dem Kensington Palace. Vor 25 Jahren, am 31. August 1997, starb Prinzessin Diana mit nur 36 Jahren in Paris bei einem Autounfall. Foto: Alastair Grant/AP/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

Even during her lifetime, Princess Diana was one of the most photographed people in the world. Since her death, which marks the 25th anniversary this Wednesday, the ex-wife of the British heir to the throne has become a legend – and a goldmine for sellers of souvenirs and memories. Dresses, jewellery, autographs, cars – everything she has come into contact with in her 36 years of life achieves record profits.

And there were commemorative years when the media filled the entire silly season with lots of photos and memories of the dead princess, and the BBC broadcast various documentaries.

This year: almost nothing. The BBC will once again show the Oscar-winning film “The Queen”. Almost bashfully, London’s tabloids these days are announcing photo pages of the icon from the past century.

“Where were you when Diana died?” The presenter of the “Times” radio asked this question – after all, the British feel the same way as the Americans did when their President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963: everyone remembers the circumstances, when they received this message. “Well, maybe you and me,” Jenny Bond replies soberly. However, one should not forget that more than one generation has grown up since then. “When I talk to young people, they ask me, ‘Diana who?'”

Bond was working as the BBC’s royal correspondent at the time, so she remembers the moment news of the accident in Paris reached her at her holiday home in western England.

During the hour-long drive towards London, the false report that “a blonde woman” had gotten out of the wreck without outside help gave way to the terrible certainty that not only the driver of the accident car, Henri Paul, and Diana’s lover Dodi Fayed were dead; the Princess of Wales also died.

Thousands of mourners marched to Kensington Palace, laid flowers and hugged each other crying. The British and Diana fans all over the world were stunned by the banality of her death: unbelted in the car with a drunk speedster at the wheel. All the more culprits were sought. First the paparazzi had to take care of it and the newspapers that had printed their pictures; then the anger of the mourning masses turned against the royal family.

For millions of people, the image of 15-year-old Prince William and his three-year-old brother Prince Harry walking behind their mother’s coffin with their heads bowed is unforgettable. Her death bonded the brothers.

25 years later, the once close relationship has deteriorated significantly. “Harry and Wills have hardly spoken to each other since Megxit,” wrote The Sun tabloid this month, referring to Prince Harry and his wife Meghan’s surprise announcement in 2020 that they would step down from the front row of the royal family.

While Harry lives with Meghan and their two children Archie and Lilibet far away from the conventions of the palace in Meghan’s native California, his older brother William is taking on more and more tasks in the British royal family. His wife Kate and their three children also make the 40-year-old appear as the perfect contender for the British throne.

Another thing that William and Harry have in common is their dislike of the British tabloid media, which made life miserable for their mother and played a key role in her accidental death on August 31, 1997 in Paris. Prince Harry compared the media’s treatment of Meghan to the hunt for his mother. He left the UK to prevent “history from repeating itself,” he said.

Due to more and more anniversaries, the public investigation into the question of guilt and statements by the now adult Princes William and Harry – today at 40 and almost 38 years older than their mother became – new interest in the dead arose. Jonathan Freedland, prominent author of the left-liberal “Guardian”, recalled almost enthusiastically the quasi-religious worship of the dead in the first week of mourning: “The mood was almost tender. There was a moment of togetherness.”

Diana and the mourning for her changed Great Britain or made visible a change that had already taken place. The contradictory feelings apply to a contradictory woman with many weaknesses and at least one great strength: the instinctive devotion to her fellow human beings, not least the sick and weak.

On the side of the road in front of Westminster Abbey, white housewives from the London suburbs mourned alongside black working-class families and leather-look gays.

The country looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize itself, analyzed BBC anchorman and bestselling author Andrew Marr: “The face was no longer white, closed and silent. Diana was the queen of another country, multicultural, liberal, emotionally outspoken.” No wonder the real queen was left speechless by the scenes from the capital.