Diana 1961-1997: The charities - The final mission of the designer ambassador

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The Independent Online
No one was to know it at the time, of course, but the trip three weeks ago to Bosnia was to be the last public visit abroad by Diana, Princess of Wales. The journey was to bring comfort to landmine victims, she said, but for the hundred journalists in attendance the only real interest was in her relationship with Dodi Fayed.

In retrospect one can perhaps say the trip was a vignette of the last chapter in the life of Diana, how her public duties became subsumed by tales from her private life, and her relationship with the media, sometimes acrimonious, but also in many ways mutually supportive.

It would be disingenuous for the Princess's advisers to say they did not want the press in Bosnia. There was certainly no discouragement from her office, and the Foreign Office had to send a young diplomat from Belgrade to be the ringmaster of the media circus.

After her highly successful visit to Angola with the Red Cross earlier this year Diana had expressed the wish to go to another area affected by mines. Bosnia was an obvious choice, but there were potential pitfalls. The wife of the wanted war criminal, Radovan Karadzic, was the head of the Bosnian-Serb branch of the Red Cross, and British troops had taken part in the shooting of another Serb war crime suspect. Tension was high.

But the Princess did go to Bosnia, not with the Red Cross, but with an American-based charity, Survivors Network. And with the approval of Robin Cook. the Foreign Secretary.

Revelations of her friendship with Dodi and the trip showed, as royal watchers would say, the two sides of Diana. One day she was outside the Park Lane home of Dodi she was the glamorous member of the glitterati. The next day in Sarajevo, witnessing row after row of blasted streets, she was a sombre and thoughtful ambassador.

In many parts of Bosnia the Princess visited she simply was not known. When she went to the suburb of Bujakov Potek to meet 15-year-old Mirzeta Gabelic, who had lost a leg, the locals looked bewildered. One young man said "Some Diana is moving in", another said "They have come to fix the water - and about time too".

There was similar misunderstanding when Diana arrived at the home of Mohamed Soljankic, who had lost both legs to a mine. It was his birthday and he had been told he would get two presents, a pair of prosthetic feet and a visit from a general in the peace-keeping force.

When the Princess arrived the Soljankic family did not know who she was. The neighbours too were bemused.

But the images were moving, and the Princess was clearly emotional at meeting those who had suffered horrific injuries due to landmines.Above all to the victims it must have been a welcome signal they they had not been forgotten.

Diana did not say anything to the media, either about Dodi or even about landmines. But there plenty of shots of her embracing the injured and their families were flashed across the world, making some photographers a lot of money.

Critics said she was manipulating the media. The Princess let it be known that some were determined to misinterpret her most well-intentioned actions. Nothing she did would ever been seen to be right to those jaundiced eyes.

But the first thing she did on the plane home was to go through newspapers with stories about herself and Dodi. That scene seemed to sum up the ultimate difficulty in separating the private and public life of Diana, Princess of Wales.