Princess Diana, almost 10 years after her life ended in a Parisian tunnel, still holds a treasured place in the hearts of so many. Now, here's a complete picture of the tragic, beloved princess of Wales that could be told by only one woman: Tina Brown, who many consider the most-renowned magazine editor of her generation for her work at Vanity Fair and The New Yorker.
Talking about her new book, "The Diana Chronicles," Brown says, "I felt that Diana had been obscured by all the stuff about her, rather than illuminated. That at the core of it was a young woman who had an extraordinary gift for empathy on the one hand, and on the other hand, was also emblematic of so much about the era of the 1980s and the 1990s."
That intuitive empathy led "the people's princess" to connect with others as no royal ever had. Her glamorous look and trying times brought her state-of-the-art celebrity, and she would leverage that fame to draw attention to her causes, as Bono or Angelina Jolie do now.
"She was not a victim," says Brown. "Diana really was somebody who took control of her life in the most amazingly empowered way. She fought herself out of that box that she found herself in as a very young girl. …"
Even as a child, Diana was a girl of radiant beauty. Yet the end of her parents' marriage left her with emotional scars that would never fully heal. "Most of Diana's flaws really came from her chronic insecurity, the great wound of her early hurt, which was her mother leaving when she was 6," says Brown. "That really caused her to have this kind of rocky foundation, the thing that she was always trying to compensate for. The MP Hugo Swire said to me, 'Diana wanted more love than any Englishman can give.'"
Certainly, she wanted more than Prince Charles could provide. After what looked like a fairy tale wedding, this young, exuberant woman found herself trapped in the chilly, emotionless world of Charles and the royals. Mary Robertson, an American businesswoman who'd hired a young Diana to be her son's nanny, recalls letters that suggest how lonely she was. "I remember one of her letters had a very poignant line saying, 'I long for the company of people my own age,'" Robertson says. "So she just, you know, had nobody."
"It meant that she always had to seek approval outside of herself," says Brown. "When she didn't get it from her husband, it drove her to be obsessed with the approval of the media -- to the point that she and the media developed a kind of symbiotic relationship where, on the one hand, she was fleeing the media, but on the other hand, she was embracing and dancing with the media. And it became a kind of dance of death at the end."
Diana's 'Recurring Illness'
After Diana and Charles divorced, the acclaim her charitable work received might have set the tone for the rest of her life. But old habits returned.
"Unfortunately, the hurt that Diana had experienced in her life kept surfacing -- it was like a recurring illness for her," says Brown. "I see her last kind of spiral into all of that craziness with Dodi Fayed not as a direction that she was moving into, but really like a relapse."
The images that followed, from her last night in Paris, stunned and saddened the world.
"The most poignant thing to me was that scene of her in the [Hotel] Ritz when she was seen crying on her last night," says Brown. "She, I'm sure, was sitting there thinking, 'What am I doing here? I want to be home with my boys.'"
Now, 10 years after those boys helped to bring their mother to her final rest, happier images of Diana's life can again take precedence.
'Full of Surprises'
"At The Sun newspaper, we were having a big fundraiser for a children's charity," recalls royal photographer Arthur Edwards. "And she sent me a check! I mean, she could have sent me a scarf or a coat, a blazer. But she didn't -- she was full of surprises like that. First time I ever told that story."
"I think my favorite Diana moment was the night that, when Prince Charles was confessing his adultery with Camilla Parker Bowles on television, she elected to go out in a really sexy little black dress," says Brown. "It was like, come and get it!"
It is a luminous image that symbolizes "The Diana Chronicles"' take on this complicated, compassionate woman, who moved from royalty to celebrity, and in doing so, transformed the nature of both institutions.
"She had this gift of being the princess who palace walls couldn't and wouldn't enclose," says Brown. "And she became a citizen of the world. In that sense, there was something very magical about Diana."