Nowhere was Diana's ability to inspire adulation more evident than on her early tours abroad as Princess of Wales. While her mother-in-law the Queen had dazzled overseas, Diana took it to new heights, attracting fans on a scale formerly reserved for pop stars and Hollywood idols. "The arrival of the Waleses in America was the most frenzied British invasion since The Beatles," Newsweek quipped of the couple's 1985 tour.
Indeed, who can forget the image of the young Princess, stunning in her off-the-shoulder midnight-blue gown, taking to the dancefloor with John Travolta in Washington, D.C? That now-legendary night at the White House etched Diana into pop culture history. It also encapsulated her magic. Making official engagements as much about pleasure as duty, as much about rule-breaking as tradition, had already become a hallmark of the Princess's reign of popularity.
Diana's determination to breathe new life into an old institution was clear from her very first tour abroad in 1983, when she and Charles travelled to Australia and New Zealand. Diana had insisted she wouldn't endure a six-week separation from nine-month-old baby Prince William, and the public adored her all the more for it.
Disembarking from the plane at Alice Springs with little William in her arms, the 21-year-old Princess of Wales exuded a carefree spirit that was infectious. A smiling Prince Charles, 34, waved his hand around his son's face. "His first Australian fly," the Prince jokingly explained. Less than two years into their marriage, the royal couple appeared very much in love. It was a fairytale sprung to life, and the world was captivated.
Barely taking a breath after their trip Down Under, in June 1983 Charles and Diana embarked on a tour of Canada – where Diana Mania was much in evidence. "It's really the royal visit of the Princess of Wales," observed one official to the Toronto Star. "The Prince is playing second fiddle." Charles took it in good part, noting in his Canada Day speech in Edmonton, Alberta, that it was Diana's first visit to the country. "I have a feeling, of course, that if my wife hadn't married me, she wouldn't have met nearly so many Canadians," he added humorously.
It was July 1st, Diana's 22nd birthday. Many years later, on 1 July, 2011 – what would have been the Princess's 50th birthday – her newlywed son Prince William and his wife Kate were on their 'honeymoon tour' of Canada. Fans, who had taken William to their hearts, particularly after his mother's death, were poignantly reminded of Diana – especially when Kate mingled with the crowd on walkabouts. "We had a longing to come here together," said William. And when the royal couple made their Hollywood debut at a glamorous gala in LA, Kate outshone every celebrity – just as Diana had done on that starry night in Washington.
The People's Princess might be lost to the world, but her magic is still very much alive.
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