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Reports & Essays: Biography - Famous Women

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Princess Diana
Throughout her life all eyes were always on Princess Diana. Millions came to identify with her and, when she died, they felt as though they have lost a best friend. More than a year after the sudden end of her privileged but imperfect life, Princess Diana's charity work still motivates many others to donate their own time in hopes to help the lives of others. Through the vigorous fund raising and campaigning, Princess Diana has greatly effected the lives of the patients she has reached out to. The honorable Diana Frances Spencer weighed in at seven pounds, twelve ounces when she was born on July 1, 1961. Her father announced at the time of her birth, she was nothing less than a "perfect physical specimen." She was the third surviving child of her parents. In 1967 her parents, Johnnie and Frances separated, then in 1969 their divorce became final. Johnnie Spencer won custody of their four children(Brennan19). On February 24, 1981, Princess Diana's life changed forever. Her engagement to Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, was announced. They were married in Saint Paul's Cathedral on July 29, 1981. The ceremony was internationally televised. People all over the world tuned into the beautiful day when Princess Diana was married into one of the most powerful families in the world(Encarta). The young Princess of Wales unofficially came of age when she was twenty- six years old, married for nearly six years, and the mother of two young sons. That moment was a turning point in her life because she decided to become involved with AIDS, a subject shunned by "the great and the good" of British society. Overnight, Princess Diana changed from a young mum who liked to shop or listen to pop songs on her Walkman, to a mature young woman who had created a role for herself(Davies260). The metamorphosis came the day in April 1987 when Diana opened Britain's first purpose-built ward for AIDS sufferers, at London's Middlesex Hospital. Many were shocked at the fact that she didn't wear any protective clothing(Davies260). At that time the average Briton knew very little about AIDS. Some believed it could be caught and passed on by touch, kissing, or even hugging someone who was infected. The revelation that a royal, like Princess Diana, the mother of two young sons, one the heir to the throne, had taken such an enormous risk with a deadly disease shocked many people(Brennan88). Many people wondered, and still to this day wonder if it was advisable for the Princess of Wales to get involved. Buckingham Palace was torn. Some of the Queen's advisers totally opposed the young princess becoming involved with AIDS, a taboo subject never discussed in polite company or at British upper-class dinner parties. In 1987, many Britons condemned it as "that gay disease" which only affected "homosexuals and drug addicts," two groups which received very little sympathy from the chattering classes, many of whom believed the victims were reaping the harvest they themselves had sown. The advisors argued strongly that the public would be unsympathetic and warned that becoming associated with AIDS charities could harm her position as the future Queen. They also feared it could weaken public sympathy for the Royal Family(Davies261). Despite much criticism, Diana was determined. She contacted many charities to produce studies showing how innocent babies and mothers who has nothing whatsoever to do with homosexuality or drug addiction had caught the disease(Davies261). The Palace bureaucracy reluctantly capitulated Diana's determined arguments and pleas and officially met the senior members of the charity. The Department of Health and the Charity Commissioners had already investigated the National AIDS Trust and reported that the charity was efficient and well run. It seemed a highly reputable charity, one in which a member of the Royal Family could become involved without risk of scandal by the trustees. Only then did Buckingham Palace agree that Diana could go ahead(Brennan88). Five years later, in 1992, Buckingham Palace adopted a different attitude. Press spokesman Dickie Arbiter explained: "It's abundantly clear that Princess Diana is determined to break down prejudice about HIV. Nobody told her to adopt this cause. Everything she does is spontaneous and nothing is premeditated. It was her own decision to show someone infected with it(Davies262)." This quote proves the kind heartiness of Princess Diana. It shows the only reason she did the community service was to help others. The point that must not be forgotten is that Diana does all this knowing that people are misjudging her, but she's got the sense and compassion to follow her own inner beliefs. Diana came far in helping others realize the truth about those with HIV and disproved the many stereotypes of the sick. "She was the first important person in Britain to show you can touch an AIDS victim and not catch it. One cannot overestimate the importance of what Princess Diana did that day. Before that no one would go anywhere near them. AIDS sufferers were treated by the general public as tough were the untouchables, that to touch them meant death(Davies262)," said by Lady Harlech, an AIDS fund-raiser for years. This only proves again the many breakthroughs Princess Diana had with the citizens of Britain, even with people all over the world. Princess Diana made the statement, "HIV does not make people dangerous to know, so you can shake their hands or give them a hug God knows they need it(Davies263)." Many people doubt Diana's motivation. People suggest she is doing it for the publicity. It wasn't only AIDS that commanded Diana's attention and concern. Princess Diana was the royal patron of seventy separate charities and had a hectic work schedule to keep up with all of them. Diana can never rest on these occasions, or put her feet up, or not show that she is interested, no matter how bored she may be or whatever else she may have on her mind. It seldom matters how the princess is feeling personally; she knows she has a duty to perform and she does it(Davies267). Initially, charities devoted to babies and child welfare were singled out for her attention, but soon Diana discovered other opportunities. She decided she wanted to help young people-closer to her own age-with drug and alcohol problems, then later the unprivileged, and the young homeless(Davies269). After AIDS, the charity Diana is most closely related to is Birthright, of which she became a patron of in 1984. Birthright is the appeal arm of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and it's aim is to raise funds for research into problems of the un born child, including stillbirth, infant death, and infertility. Before her support, Birthright had struggled for funds, and it's valuable research had been largely ignored when it came to handing out money. Since Diana came aboard, all that had changed. "Her involvement with the charity has attracted stars from the entertainment world. Big names equal big money: They managed to raise $5,000,000 for the charity, which has helped it improve the survival rate of some premature infants by up to seventy percent. Diana can feel quite proud that the turnabout is due primarily to her enthusiasm, persuasion, and patronage(Davies271)." This quote confirms that Princess Diana's endless help brought more people to donate their time and money to a good cause where people who needed help survived. Princess Diana did more than fund raise for different charities. She actually met with the people who her hard efforts were assisting. This is just as bit as valuable as fund raising. Meeting with the Princess brings new hope to the suffering patients. "There is something quite moving about the way she talks with patients. Not only is she concerned about their problems, but she knows she is. She understands the joy of having a baby and the anguish if something goes wrong. She felt very lucky and privileged to have had one healthy child, says Vivienne Parry, one of the group's national organizers. Supporting charities concerned with drug addiction is another of Diana's concerns. She never smoked and hardly drank herself. In 1987, she became patron of Turning Point, the largest national charity in Britain helping drug addicts, alcoholics, and mental-health outpatients. Diana has not only proved her compassion for sufferers, but has also shown the courage to take risks she believes are worthwhile. Without publicity coverage, Diana would visit clinics-some on her own without detective protcetion- to meet and chat with the patients in an effort to help them kick their addiction and encourage them back to health(Davies273). Princess Diana's determination to help those charities rejected by many others also extended overseas causes. Shocked by the gruesome effects of leprosy on children, Diana agreed to become patron of the Leprosy Mission. In November 1989 Diana visited many young lepers in Indonesia. One of the hospital's doctor's quoted the effects of her visits: "She did so much more than she had to. She need only shake their hand and move on, but she sat on their beds and listened and talked to them. Then she joined the children in a game of bowls, which they loved. She brought happiness and smiles to those children(Davies280)." Kate Dawson, a British doctor at the hospital, also stated,"The Princess has helped so much. She has shown by being so open and natural with them that lepers are not a threat to anybody(Davies280)." Diana was determined to keep up with her charity work, until her terrifying death on August 31, 1997, in Paris, in an automobile accident with her lover Dodi al-Fayed(Brennan136). Diana especially wanted to reach out to those patients and victims who were shunned by the rest of the world. Not only did Diana personally reach out to victims of terrifying diseases, but she also encouraged others to donate their time and money to these worthy causes. Diana showed it wasn't necessary to be apprehensive towards the victims of the various diseases she worked with. Princess Diana lived an influential life and her efforts will never be forgotten.

 



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