For the vast majority us Gen-Zers, Lady Diana Spencer has been little more than a myth. In an age of iPhones 12s and millionaire influencers, Diana’s story was a far-off folklore of tragedy, passed down by parents and older siblings; occasionally acting as a pawn in the endless game of conspiracies delving into the fascinating (and sometimes terrifying) lives of the royal family. Despite being the most famous woman in the world at the time of her marriage to Prince Charles in 1981, for a generation cruelly robbed of sharing a lifetime with Lady Di, this enigmatic mystery of a princess was little more than an unsuccessful fairytale lost in history.
Until now. In 2020 we have seen the every-growing rise of Diana style-inspo on TikTok (fair play - the People’s Princess was rocking biker shorts and sweatshirts decades before many of us were even born), alongside viral threads of Charles slander by twenty-somethings on Twitter. Whilst Diana may not have made it to the throne, this estranged princess was undoubtedly regal in her empathy, as well as holding the title of Queen of the Little Black Dress. But what has reignited the idealisation of a fallen princess decades after her death?
"this estranged princess was undoubtedly regal in her empathy, as well as holding the title of Queen of the Little Black Dress."
November 2020 saw the hotly anticipated fourth series of The Crown released on Netflix (one of the few joys this year has had to offer). With the new series came a new protagonist: Diana Spencer portrayed very much as a victim of Britain’s oldest and meanest institution, as well as Prince Charles’ sloppy-seconds to Camilla Parker-Bowles. 24 year-old Emma Corrin is the mastermind behind Diana’s rebirth onto the big-screen, carefully crafting every essence of the Princess’ character, tentative head tilt and all. The story is marked by grandeur and inconceivable wealth, intertwined with absurdly militant traditions and 11th century etiquettes.
Why then has her life touched a nerve with (the sometimes intolerant) Generation Z? In a woman whose father held an Earl title and regularly holidayed with the royal family as a child, you may at first be hard-pressed to find obvious relatable characteristics in Lady Diana Spencer. But if there’s one thing that The Crown’s captivating fourth series has shown us it is that Lady Di was, in many ways, just like us. For a large group of us Gen-Zers dipping our toes into our early twenties, it’s not only the faint-hearted of us which see much of ourselves in the People’s Princess. Diana was plagued by eating disorders, relentless mental health burdens and a globally speculated upon adulterous relationship.
"if there’s one thing that The Crown’s captivating fourth series has shown us it is that Lady Di was, in many ways, just like us."
Whilst the Netflix’s biggest period drama is a cross-generation and global success, it is important to note that The Crown is ultimately a product of artistic licence and we will never truly know the whole truth of the secrets behind those infamous palace doors. Despite this, following the (if a little exaggerated for dramatic effect) life of Princess Diana is no less riveting. More generally, as depicted in The Crown, Diana was just a young woman battling with her self-esteem and against the selfishness of others. Patronised by her snobbish elders and scolded by aristocrats with egos to match their statuses, Diana was a lost soul; a feeling which might well be universal for many women on the cusp of true adulthood. Whilst her life was in many ways far out of reach for the average young woman of the 80s, given the splendour of her environment and proximity with unimaginable prestige, Diana’s likability seemed to arise from all the ways in which she was not like the rest of the musty monarchs. Emma Corrin’s depiction of Lady Di perfectly encapsulates her famous youthful naivety, a quality recognisable to countless young women today, endearingly unaware of the brutality of life.
Though much of Diana’s second wave of popularity is ruled primarily by her, nothing short of iconic, wardrobe and the voice which was heard through her clothes (her black sheep jumper couldn't be more symbolic), perhaps much of the ex-princess’ reincarnated charm is due to her activism and charity work in an era of growing tolerance. If you’re optimistically inclined that is. It’s undeniable that Diana grew into herself as she navigated the dynamics of the Royal Family. Visiting active landmines, homeless charities and embracing victims of HIV, this positioned Diana as an authentic marvel in ways that the deep inner circle of the Queen was unable to achieve.
"Diana’s personal growth is an inspiration to Gen-Z as we begin to tread the waters of our twenties and realise just how strong young women can be."
For many women across the world, Princess Diana is once again a symbol of tolerance and rebellion against authority. Whilst her life was ultimately and devastatingly cut short, her tragic end doesn’t strip Lady Di of her countless successes. Though The Crown introduces Diana as a timid, uncertain and afraid young girl, we know that this youthful wallflower blossomed into a woman sure of herself and of her beliefs. Diana’s personal growth is an inspiration to Gen-Z as we begin to tread the waters of our twenties and realise just how strong young women can be. The People’s Princess has captured the hearts and minds of yet another generation even 23 years after her death; through her kindness, empathy and, of course, her sensationally timeless style.
If you’re interested in finding out more about the real life of Princess Diana, check out the ‘Diana in Her Own Words’ documentary and the ‘You’re Wrong About’ podcast for a thorough and digestible insight into the People’s Princess.