Rest in peace? Fat chance if you happen to be the People’s Princess.
As the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death approaches on August 31, the posthumous royal is as busy as ever, or at least her image is.
And nowhere is that more the case than in Australia.
Indeed we have already been bombarded by television specials, with the likes of 60 Minutes and rival Sunday Night trawling through the archives and re-interviewing a long conga-line of Diana’s friends and associates, who have collectively exhumed ancient scandals to breath new life into one of the most photographed women who ever lived.
Magazines such as Woman’s Day, New Idea and the Australian Women’s Weekly, have all been fuelling the demand, and helping to fill the coffers of photographers who own the portraits now being dusted off to grace covers across the land.
During the past 20 years those glamorous photo shoots taken decades ago have poured untold millions of dollars into photographers’ hands around the world, but right now they are a particularly hot commodity.
And of course, there is always the merchandise, from Diana trinkets such as the reproduction plastic tiaras that are practically worthless and flooding onto sites like eBay, to the more-serious end of town, where the late Princess’ likeness is considered a global memorabilia market worth $250 million to $500 million a year. That’s a lot of trinkets … and mugs.
In the days after she died, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund was established in response to public donations that poured in to Kensington Palace.
The public, community groups and companies donated about £34 million.
Another £38 million was donated from sales of Sir Elton John and Polygram’s CD of Candle in the Wind ’97.
A further £66 million was subsequently raised through investments, an eight-year program of commercial partnerships, and proceeds from the exhibition Diana: A Celebration, donated by her brother, Lord Spencer.
Set up as a grant-making charity, the aim was to create “a lasting legacy” to the Princess’ humanitarian work, though not all its decisions were greeted quite so warmly, especially a move to sell Diana’s name to Flora for a series of commemorative tubs of margarine, and another deal that resulted in scratch lottery tickets bearing Diana’s image being sold throughout Britain.
Then there was the bitter six-year legal battle the fund started with American firm Franklin Mint.
The fund refused the American doll maker an official licence for its Diana dolls and plates.
In July 2003, after its initial case against Franklin Mint and an appeal had been dismissed, the fund found itself faced with a countersuit.
This saga overshadowed the much-needed grant giving and resulted in grants being frozen to 127 charities, as a whopping £4 million was spent defending the Diana “brand”.
But the battle was doomed and in November 2004, the Diana Memorial Fund agreed to pay £13.5 million in an out-of-court settlement with the Franklin Mint.
A disastrous outcome by any measure, though by the time fund closed in 2012, it had awarded 727 grants to 471 organisations, and spent more than £112 million on charitable causes.
In March 2013, The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry assumed legal ownership of the fund, and now own the intellectual property rights to their late mother’s image and name.
But even now, 20 years after her death, there is no denying there are a lot of people who still want a piece of Diana, even if that means she arrives in a tub of margarine.