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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Diana's Rise, End Share Tragic Fate

The death of Princess Diana is fraught with many tragic ironies. Her life was the story of a enchanting fairy-tale princess who lived in an age of mass culture and democracy.

The world looked on with rapt fascination in 1981 when the beautiful young Lady Diana Spencer married the weathered, debonair Prince Charles of Wales. It was a dreamlike match that would temporarily pull the British monarchy out of the mire into which it had sunk.

When her unhappy marriage fell apart, she had two choices: She could retire from the public eye, or she could dive headlong into it. She chose the second, leading a very public life that, sadly, ended as it began: caught on camera and scrutinized by millions.

Diana lived her life on camera, and it is a fateful twist that she should have died hounded by those she both courted and shunned for so long. The world has lost its most celebrated face. As millions grieve at the death of the world's favorite princess, her short and extraordinary life is being told across the world, and heads of state are publicly mourning her loss.

To millions of people, Diana seemed perfect. She was rich, glamorous and had the most famous smile in the world. But underneath it all she was an ordinary and terribly lonely person. What made Diana so remarkable was that people identified with her; her foibles only made her more attractive.

Diana brought the decaying British royal family into the 20th century. She was the bright comet who made the monarchy young. She made little secret of her disaffection for the royal family. Her legacy, however, may well be to prolong the monarchy, given the widespread sympathy that her death has inspired for her sons, the elder of whom is heir to the crown.

Although she told a journalist in whom she confided shortly before her death that she did not like the word, Diana will become an icon, like John F. Kennedy or Marilyn Monroe.

Just as the media were drawn to her luxurious romps and ill-fated romances, they would bring attention to the good causes Diana championed, such as AIDS awareness and the abolition of antipersonnel land mines. It can only be hoped that her good name will keep such pressing questions in public view. As President Boris Yeltsin pointed out Monday, Russia's newly rich could most certainly learn a valuable lesson from the princess' selfless charity work.

One of the saddest ironies in Princess Diana's far-too-brief existence is that her public life came to an abrupt end just as she may have resolved to become a more private person.