Princess Diana 'was no saint', says leading human rights campaigner

Matilda Long
Princess Diana (PA Archive)

Twenty years after her death, Princess Diana is remembered as a woman who worked tirelessly throughout her life for charity.

She lent her time and her name – along with the valuable publicity it brought with it – to a number of causes, most notably raising awareness around the use of landmines, and working to eradicate the stigmas affecting people suffering from AIDs and HIV.

As such Princess Diana was, and still is, widely recognised for her compassion and philanthropy.

So it came as a surprise to a number of people that she failed to remember any charitable organisations in her will.

Peter Tatchell, a human rights campaigner who has fought to raise awareness of those suffering from HIV and AIDs, told Yahoo News UK about the shock he felt about this at the time.

‘I was very surprised and shocked that Princess Diana’s will included no bequests to AIDs charities – or indeed any other charitable organisations,’ he said.

‘It left me feeling that perhaps her kindness and compassion wasn’t as great as I had believed.

‘It revealed that her humanitarian instincts had limits when it came to her own wealth.’

Princess Diana shakes the hand of a man suffering from AIDs without gloves – a landmark moment (PA Archive)

Diana left behind a fortune of more than £21 million when she died in 1997.

A sum of £50,000 went to her former butler Paul Burrell, and some other items were left to her 17 godchildren. The remainder of her estate passed to her two sons, Princes William and Harry.

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Mr Tatchell was outspoken in his criticism of Diana at the time.

‘The publication of Princess Diana’s will has, at last, revealed the truth behind the hype. While the total value of her estate was a staggering £21.7 million, not a penny was left to charity,’ he wrote in 1998.

‘The caring Princess clearly wasn’t that caring after all. She was very happy to do charity work for people with AIDS, providing it didn’t cost her anything.

‘But when it came to parting with her own money, she chose to keep it in her already super-rich family, rather than share it with those in need.

‘It would have been easy for Diana to bequeath £5,000 to each of the dozen charities she claimed to “really care about”, including London Lighthouse and the National AIDS Trust.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell

‘That would have set her back £60,000 – an insignificant sum considering that her personal fortune amounted to nearly £22 million.

‘Let’s face it, Princess Diana was a privileged aristocrat and multi-millionairess, who had more than a streak of selfishness.

‘Far from being the “People’s Princess”, she was, in fact, a rather ungenerous royal masquerading as lady bountiful.’

Mr Tatchell said that his statement met with mixed reactions.

‘There was some support, but a lot of abuse and criticism,’ he said.

‘Others were so caught up in the adulation of Princess Diana that they were extremely hostile to any criticism of her lack of charitable giving in her will.

‘Some people had misgivings but most felt it inappropriate to express them.’

Despite her failure to leave any of her money to charity, Mr Tatchell acknowledges the difference her work made for many good causes.

‘One can be supportive of Princess Diana’s humanitarian work without having to hold fire on legitimate criticisms.

‘Given that Princess Diana made a big deal of her charity work it is entirely legitimate to question why she left no money to charities in her will,’ he said.

‘She did great humanitarian work, but she wasn’t a saint.’

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