The moment we heard: high-profile Kiwi women share their memories of Diana’s death
They’ve informed us of some of the world’s biggest events but these broadcasters will never forget the moment they learnt Princess Diana had died. Judy Bailey, Hilary Barry and Samantha Hayes recall that fateful day.
My beloved dad died just five days later. I thought at the time that Diana would have wonderful company.
For a woman whose life was anything but ordinary, it seemed like the sort of everyday death any of the rest of us might have.”
Diana was the people’s princess, an icon and humanitarian. She was the first of a new breed of royal – real, passionate, complex, fallible.”
I was enjoying a weekend on the Coromandel with my family when the news came through about Diana’s death. I was sure there’d been a mistake – she may have had a car accident but surely she wasn’t dead. So when the details came, my first reaction was shock and disbelief. My beloved dad died just five days later. I thought at the time that Diana would have wonderful company. Diana had been so much a part of world news for so long. We had followed her romance with Prince Charles, had parties to watch the Royal Wedding on TV, saw her blossom as she grew into her role, been happy for her as she produced two beautiful boys and then watched as the fairytale began to unravel so publicly. I admired her for being fiercely protective of her sons and for breaking with royal tradition by insisting on being with them as much as possible. I also admired her for her courage and compassion and for the work she did away from the spotlight. She did a great job raising William and Harry, who are both intelligent, grounded, sensitive and thoughtful men. Her legacy has been to make the royals more accessible and more human. Diana was a total package and so captivated a worldwide audience. She was beautiful, charming, royal, troubled and not afraid to bare her soul. The media couldn’t get enough of her and a legend was born.
I was on holiday in Wanaka when a friend from the newsroom rang and told me that Diana had been seriously injured in a car accident in Paris. I passed on this news to my friends and none of us could quite believe it. Then came the call that she’d died and there was shocked silence. For a woman whose life was anything but ordinary, it seemed like the sort of everyday death any of the rest of us might have – speeding car loses control. Twenty years ago, I admired Diana for her connection with people and her compassion. Now, I watch William and Harry and admire her most as a mother. Although she died when they were still very young, the way she shaped them as children is testament to her ability as a parent. I think for many people that is the saddest thing about her death; that she never saw her sons grow up into kind and good young men. I was just a little girl when Diana married Charles, and this was the real-life fairytale wedding. She was glamorous and kind and wore amazing gowns and she danced with John Travolta. JOHN TRAVOLTA! Of course as the years went on it was obvious her life was no fairytale, but to a little girl in Upper Hutt, whose Dad bought a VCR just so we could record the Royal Wedding and watch it over and over and over again, it didn’t matter. She would always be that Princess from the story books.
I was 13 years old at the time and remember walking down the road in Milton with my friend from school when she told me Princess Diana had died. I stopped in my tracks, gobsmacked; we talked about it for hours. Diana was beautiful, a fashion icon, but also relatable. She retained her independence, despite the restrictions of the life she married into, and she wasn’t afraid to break down barriers and pursue the interests and causes she was passionate about. Her humanitarian work in Africa helping people with Aids and her work to clear landmines stick in my mind. She brought the royal family down to earth and challenged the public’s perception of what it means to be a royal. She reminded us that they, too, are fallible. In turn, she perhaps changed the expectations of the next generation of royals – her children – allowing them to be themselves, without as much judgement as she faced. Diana was the people’s princess, an icon and humanitarian. She was the first of a new breed of royal – real, passionate, complex, fallible. I think her story probably gave other women the courage to change their own lives, which is a remarkable legacy.