20th anniversary of the death of Diana, the People’s Princess

In August, The Leprosy Mission of England and Wales will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the charity's Patron from 1990 to her untimely death on 31 August 1997.

Diana visiting Anandaban Leprosy Hospital, Kathmandu, Nepal in March 1993

Diana’s greatest contribution as Patron was her work to reduce leprosy stigma. Even today, people affected by leprosy are subject to terrible discrimination especially in countries where leprosy is shrouded in myths, evokes fear or is considered the result of a sinful life. 

The devastating diagnosis of leprosy is compounded when the person is ostracized from their community, perhaps forbidden from seeing their children and in some countries, leprosy is still grounds for divorce. Diana, by holding hands with people affected by leprosy demonstrated to the world that leprosy was not a disease to be feared. 

Diana herself said in December 1996, “it has always been my concern to touch people with leprosy, trying to show in a simple action, that they are not reviled, nor are we repulsed.”

National Director of The Leprosy Mission England and Wales, Peter Waddup said, “Diana’s ministry, holding hands and touching people affected by leprosy, did more to dispel leprosy stigma than anyone before her and likely ever after. She is still missed.”

In November 1989 Diana visited a leprosy hospital in Sitanala, Indonesia, against the advice of officials and the press. Television broadcasts showed her sitting on the beds of leprosy patients, shaking their hands and touching their bandaged wounds while dignitaries looked on from behind the safety of a window. The Leprosy Mission wrote to thank Diana for highlighting the problem of leprosy and asked her to become the charity’s Patron, which she accepted. In her work for The Leprosy Mission, Diana also visited hospitals in India, Nepal and Zimbabwe.

In 1996 Diana reduced her patronage from over 100 charities to just six; The Leprosy Mission was the only international aid organisation she retained. 


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