Princess Diana was chased to her death 25 years ago. It has taught us nothing.

This post discusses suicide and could be distressing for some readers.

Listen to this story being read by Adrienne Tam, here.

When Princess Diana died 25 years ago, in the early hours of August 31, 1997, it sparked something that only comes around once every so often. 

A global outpouring of grief - and outrage. 

While it was determined that the driver of the vehicle, Henri Paul, was ultimately responsible for the car crash that killed him, the Princess, and her partner Dodi Fayed, it was also found that the paparazzi chasing the car that night likely contributed to the fatal accident.

Watch: The trailer for documentary Diana: 7 Days That Shook The Windsors. Story continues below.

Video via Channel 5 UK.

They'd been hounding Princess Diana for years. And at the time of her death, having divorced Prince Charles the year prior, before embarking on a relationship with Dodi Fayed, the son of prominent Egyptian businessman, Mohammed Al-Fayed, she'd never been bigger fodder for the British tabloid press.

Paparazzi scrambled over each other to get the perfect picture, the 'money shot'. It was an unending cycle, and it ended in the most tragic, horrifying way possible.


Does that sound... familiar?

It should. Because it has happened since. And it's happening now.

Being a woman in the public eye is not easy. Not only are their bodies and faces scrutinised, so too are their choices, their love lives, their style, their children or lack of. They're treated like commodities, rather than human beings. And there is no let-up to the intensity of it.

And for some, it all becomes too much.

In 2012, New Zealand-born, Australian model and TV presenter Charlotte Dawson was admitted to hospital after attempting to take her life. That morning she had spent a number of hours on Twitter, defending herself against trolls, including one who told her to hang herself. 

In the early hours, she wrote on Twitter, "You win. Hope this ends the misery", with a picture of her hand holding sleeping tablets.

She survived, and went on to become a prominent advocate against cyberbullying. Dawson pushed for those who hid behind their keyboards to be named and shamed, and possibly face legal repercussions.

"If you're going to express those points of view, you should do it with a face and a name so that you can be accountable. It's the anonymity they celebrate because they think there are no consequences," she said.

Despite her strength and advocacy, the scrutiny didn't stop. In 2014, Dawson ended her life. 

Charlotte Dawson. Image: Getty. 


Two years ago, Love Island UK host Caroline Flack was charged with assaulting her boyfriend, Lewis Burton, which she denied. Burton didn't support the assault charge. 

After intense media scrutiny and sensational tabloid headlines about the alleged assault, the 40-year-old ended her life. 

A coroner's inquest into her death found that Caroline was fearful of "press intrusion" and had killed herself after an "exacerbation and fluctuation of ill health and distress". The inquest ruled that "sections of the media had been hounding the presenter" and that her mental health had deteriorated.


"For some, it seems she had a charmed life - but the more famous she got the more mentally distressed she became," the coroner stated.

"Her trauma was played out in the national press and that was incredibly distressing for her. I find the reason for her taking her life was she now knew she was being prosecuted for certainty, and she knew she would face the media, press, publicity - it would all come down upon her. To me, that's it in essence."

Lewis Burton told the inquest that when he saw Caroline last, she "had not been in a good place. The media were constantly bashing her character and writing hurtful stories."

Hounding. Bashing. Intrusion. Trauma. Distressing.

Those words can be used to describe what is happening right now to Meghan Markle.

After marrying into the Royal Family in 2018, it initially seemed as though Prince Harry and Meghan would be embraced by both the public and the British tabloids, which is notoriously one of the most aggressive tabloid circuits in the world.

Then, the tides turned. In fact, it could be more likened to a flood than a tide.

From how she touched her belly during pregnancy, to how she held her baby afterwards, to her clothes and hair, to her goody-two-shoes demeanour, to her family, to how she waved, to how she smiled, to how she looked at Harry, to her job as an actor, to her American-ness, to the way she talked, to the way she didn't talk, there has been wave after wave of criticism for Meghan Markle. 


Meghan Markle and Prince Harry at the Queen's Jubilee this year. Image: Getty.

Currently, there is no-one else in the "celebrity" sphere who elicits such emotion from people - be it confected rage or adoration. Her recent The Cut cover story interview has spawned numerous think pieces and articles and comments - most of it negative, if you deign to wade into it.

And much like with Princess Diana, it is expected that she should just put up with it; it's par for the course for being a royal (or being married to one.)


Prince Harry alluded to the comparison between his mother and wife firstly in 2019, saying in a statement: "I've seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person. I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."

He reiterated this again in last year's interview with Oprah Winfrey. "My biggest concern was history repeating itself," he said. "And I've said that before, on numerous occasions, very publicly. What I was seeing was history repeating itself. More perhaps, or far more dangerously, because then you add race in, and social media in. And when I'm talking about history repeating itself, I'm talking about my mother."

Now that Meghan is using her voice again, trying to write her own narrative, will we allow her to, or will we shout her down?

When will we learn? What will it take for us to be kinder, to be more aware, to stop and think about the impact of our words and how they translate into action?

Will it take another tragedy? For history to repeat itself yet again?

Let's desperately hope not.

Feature Image: Getty.

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