In this season of “The Crown,” a young Princess Diana, played by Emma Corrin, makes her debut. I was delighted to see more people, especially young women, empathize and learn more about Diana her struggles in the British monarchy.
While Diana will also be featured in the next two seasons of “The Crown,” her portrayal is already making the British monarchy upset, given how it portrays Diana and Prince Charles’ loveless marriage (and may I say, given the historical facts we know about their marriage, the show’s portrayal was much nicer than the reality), and how the monarchy is a cold and unaccepting place for a woman with ideals and a strong personality. Although the monarchy seems to object to this because of how it makes them look bad, Meghan Markle might have a few words about that.
Before the show’s popularity, I always knew Princess Diana to be an icon. Generations of Muslim women in my family sang me her praises, so even as a young girl, I was obsessed with finding out more about this enigmatic woman and why she was so important to women worldwide.
As an Egyptian, it was extraordinarily unusual to find people in Egypt who love someone within the British monarchy so much. I only learned a lot about the British monarchy, not out of awe about “royalty,” but out of curiosity for the kingdom that once colonized Egypt and how its colonialism affected Egyptian modern history.
It didn’t take long to figure out why everyone loved Princess Diana: she pushed back against the monarchical institution itself, and although she gave birth to Britain’s future king, she remained an outsider and a rebel even before her divorce.
It didn’t take long to figure out why everyone loved Princess Diana: she pushed back against the monarchal institution itself, and although she gave birth to Britain’s future king, she remained an outsider and a rebel even before her divorce.
So why does she hold such a special place in the Muslim community?
To me personally, her humanitarian work and her yearning to understand global crises set her apart. She prioritized human rights in her charity work – which was a step away from “safe” animal rights charities that the royals usually took upon themselves because many of that non-animal charity work was considered “political.”
Human rights, of course, are not political, even if cultures and governments politicize it. Her approach to helping others is in sync with how I personally think we should act as an Ummah and strive as people. Our work must be intersectional. We must not be afraid of the cultural barriers that pressure us not to speak up to protect other people’s human rights – whether those issues arise within the Muslim community or outside of it.
With such an extensive legacy of human rights work, it’s hard to sum up everything you admire about Princess Diana’s work without writing an extended essay.
It’s also hard not to be biased and ignore her love for Muslim culture and people – whether through her royal tours, charities, and even romance. In a world that still dehumanizes and hates Muslims for merely existing, having validation that an influential non-Muslim figure stood up for marginalized communities’ rights increased Diana’s popularity in Muslim-majority countries.
Khan was widely described as the love of her life, and Princess Diana wanted to marry him. Her family didn’t approve, and neither did the British public. Her mother reportedly called her a “whore” for falling in love with Muslim men, and Khan became the target of racist hate mail after tabloids published information on their relationship. Unfortunately, racism and Islamophobia prevailed, and they never got to reconcile their relationship before she died.
In life and death, the Muslim community had Princess Diana’s back. Egypt went as far as having a lawyer sue Queen Elizabeth and then-Prime Minister Tony Blair for £100,000 after her death, with the basis being the popular conspiracy theory that the British monarchy and government killed Diana to avoid a Muslim man becoming a stepfather to royalty. (I can confirm that to this day, people still believe this conspiracy theory).
Conspiracy theories or not, there’s no denying that the Muslim community was one of the many communities in which Princess Diana left a mark. In essence, she was the people’s princess because her impact on the world belonged to all of us. A piece of her belonged to all of us – her work, her love, and her efforts to humanize the most marginalized among us.
And I’m thrilled even younger generations are getting to learn more about the people’s princess through accessible and engaging mediums like TV shows.