Royals | Retro

10 Ways Princess Diana Changed The Royal Family Forever

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's tragic death, which is the perfect time to reflect on her lasting legacy.

Despite only being a princess for a short time, Diana refused to play by the rules and wound up changing almost all of them. Here are 10 cases where she made a change for the better:

1. Using charity to change the world

Every royal has their pet causes and interests, but no one pursued them as intensely as Diana did. Her work to end the use of landmines is a great example of how much she could achieve with just her influence and popularity.

When she visited Angola in 1997, 71 countries around the world still used land mines. The princess walked through an active minefield to show the world just how dangerous they are. Her work helped pass the Ottawa Treaty, which bans the use of land mines in 162 countries.

But her sons still carry on her legacy, as Prince Harry continues to work with the Halo Trust to rid the world of land mines by the year 2025.

2. Her fashion choices

From the stunning designer gown she wore at her royal wedding to the "Travolta dress" that sold for more than $360,000 at an auction, Diana had a flair for fashion that few public figures before or since could match.

She was known for some dramatic choices, like wearing a diamond choker given to her by the Queen as a headband while touring Australia with Prince Charles.

But her most iconic outfit of all was the "Revenge Dress," which she wore to steal the thunder from the Prince's public announcement of his affair with Camilla Bowles.

Wherever she went, Diana's wardrobe always made headlines, and people still compare Princess Kate's style choices to the late princess's.

3. Her public life

Until Princess Diana came along, the tradition was for all royal births to happen at home - even Prince Charles was born at Buckingham Palace. Diana insisted that William would be born at a hospital, just one of the changes she made that brought the royal family into the public eye.

Prince William and Harry were also the first royal children sent to a public school, and Diana often brought them outside the palace to visit candy shops, burger restaurants and water parks. Today, Prince William and Princess Kate often take their own children out into the "real world" to let loose and have fun.

4. Her hands-on approach to life

Contrary to expectations for a princess, Diana was "not really a gloves person," as her brother Charles explained. "She was very real and very about human contact." Diana made good use of her "no gloves" policy when she visited AIDS patients, helping to dispel the stigma surrounding the disease.

Royal protocol still insists that the public can only shake the hand of a visiting royal, but Prince William recently broke this rule when he hugged a victim of the Grenfell fire. Where did he learn that compassion? From his mother of course! Prince Harry remembers how their mother "would just engulf you and squeeze you as tight as possible."

"And being as short as I was then, there was no escape, you were there and you were there for as long as she wanted to hold you. Even talking about it now I can feel the hugs that she used to give us."

But there's another reason Diana was able to connect with people around the world.

5. The People's Princess

Diana turned heads when she chose to shine a light on homelessness in the UK, making it her first priority soon after her marriage to Prince Charles. "If I’m going to have cameras pointed at me the whole time, I might as well use all this publicity for good," she said at the time, and it's a message that resonated with people around the world.

While even today the royal family can seem stuffy and cold, Diana brought a touch of humanity to everything she did. Her decision to focus on the needy and the helpless proved she had a heart of gold, and her very public divorce made the royal family seem much more relatable to us commoners.

All of these things earned her the nickname "the People's Princess," and brought the royal family into the 21st century.

6. Speaking openly about her health

Diana famously called her eating disorder a "shameful friend," and gave a number of interviews about her fight to overcome the disease. It was something many young women around the world could relate to, but before Diana made the issue public they had no one to share their struggle with.

Her example was probably a big inspiration to her sons, who have both spoken candidly about mental health and their own struggles in the wake of their mother's death. In an interview this year, Prince William admitted losing his mother had a "quite serious effect" on him.

The princes, along with Princess Kate, are all part of the Heads Together campaign raising awareness for mental health. Like Diana, they're setting a very public example that will help people struggling privately.

7. Taking her family on the road

Princess Diana and Prince Charles with a young Prince William.

Another strict tradition that got an update from Princess Diana was the rules about traveling with the royal family. She and Prince Charles took a 10-month-old William along for their tour of Australia and New Zealand.

The royal family normally avoids flying on the same plane (in case there's a crash) and it's customary to leave children at home with a nanny or governess during a state visit. Diana refused to accept this, and so do Will and Kate.

8. Helping to curb the paparazzi

Wherever the royals go, cameras are sure to follow, but the young, beautiful, and rebellious Princess Diana attracted more attention than most royals. The aggressive way paparazzi chased after her for photos is part of what caused her fatal car accident.

After her death, a number of legal changes were made to keep photographers at an arm's length from the royal family and protect her children. The rules cut down on intrusive photography and made the princes off-limits to journalists, letting them grow up out of the public eye (as much as possible).

9. Raising her sons

While William was 15 years old and Harry was only 12 when their mother died, there's no question which parent they take after. The princes are informal, fun and friendly, which is exactly what Diana raised them to be.

"She understood there was a life going on outside the palace walls and she wanted us to understand that from a very young age," William remembers, and she would go to great lengths to remind the princes they were just boys.

"If that meant sneaking us out for a burger or to the cinema or driving out on country roads in her old BMW with the top down and Enya playing," Harry said, "then so be it.”

10. Making royalty cool

There's no denying that Hollywood movies and TV shows have capitalized on the royal family's popularity over the past few years, and that's all thanks to Diana. She singlehandedly turned an ancient institution into something cool and modern.

Today everyone wishes they could be royalty like Princess Diana - or be married to a princess as cool as her - and that's not something you can say about any older generations of the royal family.

Share this list if you can't believe it's already been 20 years since Princess Diana left us!