Why do we want another Diana? "Social icons have all sorts of functions," says Dr Margaret Mitchell, of Glasgow Caledonian University's department of psychology. "Diana was a particularly complex example. She was seen as an ordinary girl with ordinary problems, but at the same time, she was on a pedestal."
So who are the figures that have found themselves filling the breach? The anti-landmine baton has been handed on jointly to footballer David Ginola and Queen Noor of Jordan. The elegant, American-born Queen Noor has the requisite royal glamour but she also boasts a Princeton education very far removed from Diana's populism. Tottenham Hotspur star Ginola also possesses glamour and is less averse to taking up the Diana mantle. "I cannot take her place ... but I can carry on her message," he has said. And, like Diana, he has been touched by the whiff of scandal. The tabloids exposed his extra-marital canoodling with Guinness advertisement actress Vicky Lee.
Anthea Turner's perky blondeness has similarly been tainted by her relationship with businessman Grant Bovey. But she has cited Diana as the catalyst that inspired her to take the plunge into scarlet womanhood. "The Princess of Wales's death really affected me," she explained at the time of her marriage break-up. "It struck me that you really do have to live every day as if it is your last because you just don't know what is going to happen to you."
A sterner new model is Cherie Blair, who was compared to Diana earlier this year when she was photographed kneeling by the bedside of a child with cancer. Observers have praised the radical improvement of her image over the past 12 months. However, she is unlikely to throw herself into Diana-type occupations.
Someone for whom hospital visiting is high on the agenda is Jemima Khan, nee Goldsmith. Beautiful and classy, she is an active supporter of the Shukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, founded by her husband Imran Khan. However, she is rather out of the loop, having decamped to Lahore, and, sadly, Vogue editor Alexandra Shulman feels she just doesn't come up to scratch any more in the glamour stakes. "[She] let the side down badly when she became Jemima Khan and turned her talents to making the salwar-kameez look sexy and converting us all to the joys of extended family life," she wrote recently.
Jemima Khan looks like a latter-day Jackie Kennedy, though, compared to Sally Becker, the self-styled Angel of Mostar. A freelance distributor of humanitarian aid, she has alarmed more orthodox helpers in eastern European war-zones by her recklessness, her courting of publicity and her habit of refusing to eat in order to make a point. Sounds familiar? More likely to be seen in battle fatigues than ball gown, though.
There are even less likely candidates for Diana's crown. Her brother, Charles Spencer, has been spotted visiting orphanages in Cape Town. Although at first he insisted he wanted to keep his good works secret, he allowed local journalists to accompany him. "I prefer to be thought of as doing what I can to improve the lives of others," he said modestly.
For a substitute that comes anywhere close it's necessary to look nearer to home. Royal-watchers have noticed a change in Prince Charles over the past year. He is displaying a new taste for comforting the sick and dying and going out of his way to meet drug addicts. His stock is rising, but not as high as that of William, the pin-up Prince, who, at 16, is already turning heads. "There beside Prince Charles stood a tall, blushing teenager, a show-stealer," noted the Daily Mail of last spring's hugely successful royal trip to Canada. "That same tilted head. The same flashing eyes. The same shy smile. The screaming crowds. And so it all begins again. Not Diana-mania, but Will-mania." Hester LaceyReuse content