Belfast Telegraph

Home Life

Living in the shadow of Princess Diana

Interviews by Susie Rushton

The people whose lives continue to be defined by her almost 10 years after her death

The dressmaker

Elizabeth Emanuel, co-designer with David Emanuel of Diana's wedding dress

After 26 years, it is the thing I'm most known for. Making Diana's wedding dress - and I'm sure I speak for David as well - changed our lives completely. I often wonder what it would have been like had we not done that dress. We have been asked a couple of times to recreate it but we would never, ever do that. We wouldn't want to because we knew her during the Eighties, when she was developing her style. It was quite interesting and, for us, it was fantastic to be a part of that.

I've now got a new evening wear and bridal wear studio called The Art Of Being. I've been dressing Charlize Theron,Liz Hurley, Daryl Hannah and Joan Collins in "dress-up" clothes - there's a lot of glitz and glamour. We've been in business under the new name for two years - I sadly lost the right to design under my own name. We are about to do a collection with a department store and we are flying out to LA to dress somebody famous for the Emmy awards. Only three people work in our studio but we hope to grow. Things are getting quite buzzy and exciting.

I have always loved fashion and it's what I've always wanted to do, but there is no doubt that Diana's wedding dress has been a very important part of my life. All over the world, no matter what I've ever done, I will always be "Di's Designer". It can be frustrating, but I can't get over the fact that it was an honour for us to get that commission. I'll never say I wish it had been otherwise. I don't mind if that's what I'll always be known as, even though I've done lots of different things.

The Editor

Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine since 1983

I spent the morning with Diana at Kensington Palace shortly before she died and I felt that she was a champion for women, because she experienced what a lot of women all over the world have - a divorce, an unfaithful husband, eating disorders.

I think there are a lot of unanswered questions because Diana said different things to different people. And she was different things to different people - I think that's what makes her endlessly fascinating. It's a puzzle and we're looking for the parts that will make it fit but we're never going to find them. That's why it's such an enduring industry.

It doesn't really make any difference to our sales if we put her on the cover because we're a specialist magazine, people are inclined to buy it anyway. We've done a "special" which came out in April, and is going to be on sale for the rest of the year, but we've done an anniversary issue too - but that one isn't totally Diana. We don't do a great deal about Diana unless there's a big story. You can't just keep inventing things, because it does irritate our readers - I can tell that from their letters.

A lot of people are still interested in Diana, but others think, let her rest. I think Mohamed Al Fayed is really determined to prove it was more than what it was. I don't think he'll get that, but he's got the wherewithal to keep pursuing it.

The Fan

Margaret Funnell, co-founder of The Diana Circle, is a retired British Telecom employee who lives in Brighton

The Diana Circle UK was founded at our second visit to Kensington Palace in 1999. The purpose of the group is to keep Diana's memory alive and to make sure that she's given her proper place in the annals of history. We have to make sure she's not swept under the carpet and forgotten as some people would like her to be.

The founders are myself and my husband Vic, and Jo and Ken Dobson, who live in Gloucester. We have 80 members in the UK, but there are Diana Circles in Canada, France, USA, Australia. We keep in touch by email and some of Diana Circle USA are coming over for the anniversary to join us at Kensington Palace. We usually just have a few prayers said, but this year we're going to have music and sing Diana's favourite hymn, "I Vow to thee My Country ". We've had the order of service printed out for us and all the members have a copy in their handbags by now. We write to the Queen, to Mrs Parker-Bowles, to Charles whenever we feel we need to, like this business of Camilla going to the official memorial service. We have written to her and said, "Please Ma'am, this cannot be." We have written to Camilla herself saying, "You are the last person that should be there at a memorial service for Diana, I am sure you know why, it is inappropriate on this auspicious occasion". I try not to be rude or offensive. I said, " You certainly did not love her or care about her otherwise you wouldn't be where you are today." We just have to let her know.

After the anniversary we will have a meeting about the fact that they're going to make Camilla queen. I don't know what we'll do but we'll do something. We meet at my home in Brighton, three times a year. I write a newsletter twice a year and try to generate new members. Sometimes when we're outside the palace, people see my badge and ask to join. I'd say I do something for the Circle every day. There is a subscription of £5 per annum to cover expenses - the link on my email and first-class stamps.

The Park Keeper

Tom Jarvis, park manager of Kensington Gardens and assistant manager of Hyde Park during the inception of the Diana Memorial Fountain

On the actual day of the anniversary we'll see a blip in the visitor numbers for the year but the numbers are high anyway, more than 1.5 million since it opened. The fountain is incredibly popular, and so are the Diana Playground in Kensington, which opened in 2000, and the Diana Walk that goes through the park. When the fountain first opened in 2004, whether I was out checking trees or whatever, the majority of contact I'd have with the public would be them asking where it was. It's brought a lot of people to the park, because it's associated with Diana, but also because of the problems it had to begin with, it's developed a bit of notoriety to a certain extent. It did get very busy but as a design it's wonderful. Some people like to walk in it, some people like to paddle in it and it's balancing those conflicts between different user groups. We didn't know how many people were going to use it. The design of the fountain hasn't changed, although there was some tweaking with regard to a new path and the fence.

But I think whether it's associated with Diana or anyone else, when it's a summer's day, it's wonderful to come and bathe your feet. Especially if you sit on the eastern side where the water bubbles up, you can sit there and look across the lake to Marble Arch. It has a certain tranquillity even when it's very busy. Obviously it's a victim of its own success.

I don't know if Diana would have liked being associated with these features because I never met the lady. But if my life was associated with something like a playground that hundreds of thousands of children enjoy every year, I'd be happy with that.

The Curator

Joanna Marschner, senior curator at Historic Royal Palaces with special responsibility for Kensington Palace and its collections for more than 10 years

I look after the palace, which comprises beautifully painted state rooms from the 17th and 18th century and a house that is connected with royal history throughout the 19th and 20th century. But Diana, Princess of Wales, had a massive impact and her death crystallised that interest.

I'm a historian and I had an expectation of a regular sort of museum existence. You don't expect to become the guardian of a place - not exactly a shrine - where people want to revisit their memories of another one.

Obviously the princess had lived there with her family, and for those of us who worked there, on occasion there would be parties held in the state apartments to benefit her charities.

As soon as the princess died, the focus on the building was extraordinary. It took the palace into a completely different sphere.

You do feel a responsibility for her legacy, it's quite interesting. I find it a challenge, being responsible for a building that's become connected to the national psyche in this kind of way. I think that what we have achieved here is a beautiful and elegant way for people who have a need to mark their memory.

The Fundraiser

Samantha Rennie, head of partnerships at the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund

I'm responsible for developing and delivering the funds strategy in key programme areas, including landmines and explosive remnants of war. It's a large area that the fund has supported over the 10 years the fund has been in existence.

The fund was set up in the immediate aftermath of Diana's death with donations from the public and proceeds from the sale of Elton John's " Candle in the Wind" record. In the past 10 years it has spent more than £70m on 350 organisations; £11m has been spent on landmines.

We're focusing on making a significant change to specific areas over the next five years. They are palliative care in sub-Saharan Africa, refugees and asylum-seekers in the UK, landmines and remnants of war, prison reform and other areas that Diana was associated with. Diana was known for drawing attention to unpopular and marginalised causes, ranging from homelessness to landmines, and we in the fund have supported them. Diana's elder sister is on the board so we have a close link with how she thought.

We don't want to celebrate the death of somebody, but we are launching a small grant scheme for grass-roots organisations in countries affected by cluster munitions, to secure an international ban. It's an opportune time to do it. In the same way that the Ottowa treaty [banning landmines] was signed shortly after the tragic death of Diana, it would certainly be a fitting legacy for a treaty banning the use of cluster munitions. And there's increasing international support for it.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph