The plans for the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, this week
underline the central role she played for a wide variety of
But once the formalities are over, some of her most prominent mourners
at Westminster Abbey, will be faced with the task of filling the gap
left by one of most high profile patrons and fundraisers ever.
Officially Diana, Princess of Wales surrendered much of her public role
as president or patron of 104 charities the day after her decree nisi
was granted in July 1996, retaining public links with only Centrepoint,
the Leprosy Mission, the Great Ormond Street Hospital, the Royal Marsden
Hospital, the National Aids Trust and the English National Ballet.
According to Jane Atkinson, the Princess of Wales’ former press
secretary, one of the main reasons she scaled down her work was because
she wanted to retain an indepth knowledge of those she charities she
’She had a great deal of interest in the background of what she talked
about. She wanted to understand why it was important. She couldn’t
continued doing what she wanted with her life and spread her self so
thinly, she says.
But despite the public paring down, she continued to work on a large
number of projects privately. Her high profile and controversial trip to
Angola earlier this year to campaign for a ban on anti-personnel land
mines was undertaken on behalf of the International Red Cross, a charity
from which she publicly parted company at the time of the divorce.
British Red Cross director of marketing and communications John Gray
claims the Princess’ involvement not only helped to influence
governments around the world, but also focused public awareness on the
treatment of land mine victims, raising funds for clinics and healthcare
’She got it (the land mines issue) on the world agenda. Within weeks
Labour changed policy and I suspect it is because of what she said to
Robin Cook and others.’
Gray says that Diana had planned to make a further announcement on 1
October at an event on board the QE2. The exact details of the
announcement are not known, but Gray confirms that she was interested in
visiting parts of Asia to highlight the plight of landmine victims.
On a long term basis, the Red Cross is having to completely re-evaluate
many of its plans internationally. Earlier this week, Urs Boegli, head
of the communication department of the International Committee of the
Red Cross and Ian Piper, communications director of the International
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, met in Geneva to
discuss the way forward following the loss of their high profile
Gray says that rather than trying to replace Diana, the Red Cross needs
to look at a new structure, possibly involving a number of
There are contradictory reports about what the Princess’ plans were for
the future in terms of her charity work. On the one hand she apparently
wanted to scale down her public work after November but at the same time
was rumoured to be planning to increase her work with children’s
According to David Longman senior consultant at Hammond Communications,
the Princess of Wales had agreed to host and present an international
pop concert next spring in aid of heart charity CORDA, which she was
introduced to by renowned heart surgeon Professor Magdi Yacoub.
The concert, which was to be held in the Royal Albert Hall aimed to
raise more than pounds 20 million for the charity. Pending clearance
from her office, Longman still plans to run the event using Diana’s
planned involvement as the main PR focus, but he admits that the chance
of raising the required funds has probably ’dropped by half.’
’We could not replace her - it would be unwise and insensitive. There
are precious few people in the world that had the potential to do as
much good as she did.
’To my mind Diana is, and was, a passport to do anything. If she said
yes, sponsors and artists just come out of the woodwork. The sadness is
that without her some charities are really going to founder.’
Diana undoubtedly was able to make a unique contribution to the
charities she worked with. Her presence at fund-raising events ensured a
turnout of people and pockets, and her relationship with the media,
however fraught, paid dividends for the causes she espoused.
’She would have liked more peace but at the same time she welcomed the
fact that she had so high a profile when she wanted to use it for
charity work,’ says Atkinson.
But what has emerged most clearly over the last few days was her ability
to touch ordinary people at a human level.
’Her ability as an ambassador for Aids awareness around the world was
incalculable. No one else had that ability to say that people with HIV
were human beings deserving of compassion,’ says Gavin Hart, press and
communications officer at the National Aids Trust.
Alistair Whitington, director of marketing and contracting at the Royal
Marsden Hospital, of which Diana was president, agrees: ’She had a
genuine concern for the plight of others and an ability to talk to
anybody and make them feel special and the only person that
In the direct aftermath of Diana’s death, organisations such as these
have found themselves the recipients of donations as part of the general
outpouring of grief, but in the longer term, they may find Diana’s
patronage and PR skills almost impossible to replace.
’There is no silver lining in this whole event. No one else at any level
can fill the vacuum,’ says Hart.