Diana: Legacy of a Princess. New exhibit aboard the historic RMS Queen Mary

I certainly haven’t minimized my interest in the British monarchy.  I have had plenty to say about my admiration of Queen Elizabeth! And with the Diamond Jubilee I had the opportunity to share about my collection of royal memorabilia, but I have said next to nothing about Princess Diana, even though I have many lovely collectibles that commemorate her life as well. I have very little to say about someone who flared so brightly and then died so young and under such tragic public circumstances. It’s simply very sad.

One thing that is indeed worthy of remembering about Diana, however, is her dedication to supporting charities and lending her name to raising money on behalf of hundreds of worthy causes. She most certainly left  behind a legacy of philanthropy that continues through the Memorial Fund established in her name.

Aimee and I spent Sunday aboard the historic RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, enjoying the premiere of a new world-class exhibit entitled Diana:  Legacy of a Princess. The exhibit is a 9,000 square foot gallery showcasing a priceless collection of her gowns and other memorabilia. The dresses, many of which are iconic and completely memorable–I’m not into fashion but I remembered them well–come from the personal collection of Pink Ribbons Crusade co-founder Suzanne King.

Ms. King has collected Diana’s dresses at auction for more than 20 years. After Diana’s death she chose to use the dresses as centerpiece to fundraising events, primarily calling attention to the Pink Ribbons Crusade, a nonprofit organization that supports breast cancer awareness. Proceeds from this particular exhibit will benefit City of Hope, a Southern California Cancer research hospital.

The exhibit will be open for at least a year and is well worth noting. We were told that the exhibit space, large as it is, couldn’t contain all the artifacts that are part of this generous collection. Over the year other major items will be featured, including the Princess’s wedding dress.

There is more to see than items of clothing. The exhibit, featuring more than 2,000 items, also includes historical artifacts, personal items as well as letters and archival documents across multiple generations of Royals. These include King George V and Queen Mary; the Duke and Duchess of Windsor; The Queen Mother; and of course, Queen Elizabeth and her long reign. For history buffs this is quite an exhibit.  Many historical documents have been made available by the Royal Family, including Diana’s children.

I think one of the thoughts that has stayed with me is how Diana devoted a high percentage of her young life compassionately supporting others and raising the fundraising profile of hundreds of charitable institutions. Her family has chosen to keep that  legacy alive through the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, an independent grant-giving charity, “dedicated to securing sustainable improvements in the lives of the most disadvantaged people in the UK and around the world.” Then Suzanne King, an American from Texas, is also honoring the philanthropic legacy of the Princess she admired, using her personal collection to further raise donations for a cause Princess Diana also cared about. What an exceptional collaboration!

I’m sure you’re not surprised that I was unable to take any photos inside the exhibit, but I did snap a few of the wonderful Queen Mary. The RMS Queen Mary began her launch in Scotland’s River Clyde destination New York City in 1936, and made final port-of-call in 1967, becoming a permanent sight in Long Beach harbor. I didn’t even have my best camera lens with me, but I snapped a few to share, and have every intention of visiting the exhibit again before it moves on. I’ll be better prepared next time.

The exhibit just opened and will be here for a year. Long Beach is a lovely Southern California destination. Feel like traveling? Maybe the slideshow will give you just a glimpse! Enjoy!

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31 thoughts on “Diana: Legacy of a Princess. New exhibit aboard the historic RMS Queen Mary

  1. What a great opportunity Debra. I would love to wander around that exhibition. It would be fascinating but tragic I’m sure. Thirty-seven is too young for anyone to die, especially a mother with two young boys. I always wonder what she would be like and what she would be doing if she was still here with us. I understand a movie is currently being filmed about her life with Naomi Watts in the role of Diana. It will be an incredible movie I’m sure xx

    • Before we attended I checked to see who was sponsoring the exhibit and whether or not it was approved by the Windsor family…and of course, her sons. From what I learned it was, particularly because of the emphasis on charitable fundraising. Her legacy as a compassionate and caring woman was the focal point. There was nothing really noted about her more tragic circumstances, other than to give credit for how much she accomplished in a short life. Of course at the time of her death I knew she was young, but looking back at the past fifteen years and being so much older now myself, I REALLY see how young she was. I have children older! I enjoyed the exhibit, Charlie, and I was so glad to see it was very respectful throughout. I hope the movie will be a positive story…I don’t think I want to see one that goes through all the tabloid headlines!

  2. Yes I love to travel!
    The slideshow of the Queen Mary was super – it looks so huge but I know in comparison to todays liners it is teeny! It’s a positive thought that the foundation is doing some good work and that her legacy is being used for positive reasons.

    • It was lovely and extremely positive, Claire. A lot of attention was directed to remembering her for her compassion and charitable work. The Queen Mary is a fine ship! We stayed on it once (as a hotel) and I think it might be time to do it again. All the old wood and interesting door panels really make it exceptional. I like to imagine what it would have been like to travel on it with the luxury of its time period. It’s nice when something so iconic is preserved! You never know these days what will be scrapped, do you! :-)

    • Isn’t it true, Edie! Her sons are her most precious legacy, and they appear to be such fine, compassionate young men. I thought of that a lot while at this exhibit. There were many “evidences” of her love for them throughout the entire exhibit, and they have been the ones to provide some of her more personal items. It’s a lovely tribute!

  3. Early in the post I thought, “We saw a Diane exhibit in 2006.” …. Later I thought, “OMG – I wonder if Debra just saw the same exhibit we did!” Sure sound like it because I recall the focus of her story through her dresses. Well said about her humanitarian efforts!

    • I don’t know it it’s exactly the same exhibit, Frank, but I’m sure it’s similar, with many of the same items. What we were told is that they continue to add to the collection all the time. It was almost more than I could take in at once…so since it’s going to be here for a year, I’d love to go again in six months and see what has been added! :-)

  4. As you might imagine, I would love to see this exhibit on the Queen Mary. How fortunate to be able to do so right now through your eyes, Debra. I’d love to see her dresses, though her wedding gown wasn’t a favorite of mine. What I’d really enjoy is the ephemera and artifacts. This is a wonderful way to share Princess Diana’s legacy with the world and benefit others as well.

    As Dee has been sharing her volunteering with HIV patients, this brought to mind those early images of Diana embracing those afflicted with HIV and bringing a compassionate face to it.

    Several years ago, the Field Museum in Chicago hosted the Jackie Kennedy dress exhibit. My sister and I went. I treated her to the ticket and then she treated me with such interesting insights into the construction of the outfits. Dottie is a remarkable seamstress (I use staplers). Walking around, chatting as sisters do, it also brought us back in time to the Kennedy era and there we were, young girls again. Now, I’m rambled and apologize. See what a well crafted post does, dear Debra? Thank you.

    • I would have loved the Jackie Kennedy exhibit, too! Aimee and I were listening to two women talking about the dresses who seemed to know something of their construction and fabric choices…I was listening. I don’t know a thing about fashion except that I recognized them from Diana’s massive publicity! There were hundreds of interesting artifacts. Even her hairdressing schedule was on display, showing how much time she had to sit and be made “presentable” for public appearances. Sometimes many times a day to sit just have her tiara properly placed! How wearying! And then many documents from World War II and other major moments in history. Just fscinating! I wish I could have used my camera, but I’ve noticed today there are some slideshows on the web if you’re interested. The exhibit is so new they didn’t even have a small exhibit book to purchase. I hope they do at some point! My memory needs refreshing from time to time! :-)

  5. Oh, Debra, I WISH I could come out there and see this exhibition. If you remember, please tell me. Was the dress she danced in at the White House with John Travolta in the exhibit? It plays a role in my first novel, and I’d rearrange almost my whole life to see it.

    Diana did so much good for so many. It has always saddened me that, in the end, she never got the chance to bask in the good herself. One of my English friends met her. He went to Kensington Palace to give her an honor on behalf of his Rotary Club. He described her just as I imagined her to be: taller than he was, warm and personable, and somewhat irreverent. As soon as the introductions were made, she asked him if he’d like a gin and tonic, as she was sure her assistant only offered him water. :)

    • What a great story about how your friend experienced a special moment with Diana. I think it’s impossible to fit into her shoes and know what life was like for her, but I never could bring myself to be critical. I’m glad your friend found her personable. I’m not surprised! The exhibit is great, Andra, and I am sure the dress you’re referring to was there…there were just so many! What I rememeber was reading all about the dress, with archival photos of the “iconic” moment and a retelling of the stir she caused in that dress. But then did I actually see that one dress? I think so??? It wasn’t the one that grabbed my focus as much as others, but the story was what captivated me. To be more confident, I checked and there are several published articles referring to it. Here’s a link you might want to see. I’m sure if you were really going to come out for it, you could call the Queen Mary and get hold of someone who would absolutely verify it is on display in the timeframe that you would be visiting! They have said the exhibit will be changing over time…of course, it just opened! http://www.princess-diana-remembered.com/1/category/diana%20events/1.html I’m so interested in how the dress figures into your novel!! Let’s talk! D

    • It is a really lovely exhibit and tribute, Meg! I know you would have enjoyed it, but I’m sure you had much to do right there in Anaheim! We gave you a nice warm weekend, didn’t we? :-) D

  6. Princess Diana was such a role-model for all of us.. you’re right, her grace and philanthropy will be remembered for always. I, too, visited that exhibit and was powerfully impacted by it. It was so hard to believe that such a bright light in the world is no longer with us.. because of such a senseless tragedy. I don’t think I saw the Queen Mary when I was there, if my memory serves me, although how I could forget something so massive.. ah well… xo Smidge

    • I’m so glad you had the chance to see the exhibit yourself, Smidge. I walked away with a desire to know a bit more about her memorial foundation, too. She was mesmerizing, that’s for sure, and I don’t think even her critics could deny that she did a lot of good in her all-too-short life. I will enjoy watching her sons grow up to fulfill their roles, too. They lost her entirely too young, but seem to have many of her finest qualities! If you’re ever in Southern California, I hope you will indeed find time to visit the Queen Mary! She is a fine ship, and a great piece of history! :-) D

  7. For someone whose time in the public eye was relatively short, she sure left a lasting impression. May of us will never forget her kindness, compassion, and courage. Yes, Debra, I would love to see the exhibit just as a means of saying thanks.

    • I agree with you on all points, John. I was so very pleased with the way the exhibit really was a tribute. I enjoyed the photos, videos and personal artifacts that gave me a chance to really think about her with admiration for her strength and courage, as well as recognizing her softer maternal, compassionate ways. It’s always so nice when something of this nature is really well done! You never quite know going in if you’ll be disappointed. I actually hope to go again in a few months. It was a lot to take in all at once! :-)

  8. What a great opportunity! I have always thought that Diana would have been a wonderful older woman, she never really had a chance to settle into independent womanhood hounded as she was, but she certainly used her position in the aid of many charities. My mother always said she wore her children like brooches keeping them close to her.. c

  9. Sounds great- I’d love to see her gowns. I can still remember waking up the day she died: I was woken early by my mother in law. There were rumours she had got out of the car and talked to people…the next few days unfolded with such unreality. I’d like to see a retrospective now. The image of her in a bullet proof jacket, on a mine field, has never quite left me.

    • I think you said it correctly, Diana’s story is a tragic tale! This many years later if I think about her I do feel sad. I think she may have eventually matured into someone who really did a lot of good for her country, as well as the world. I think her sons may carry her inspiration quite far! Thanks for commenting, Ben. Debra

  10. I would have enjoyed an opportunity to see more of Diana’s legacy. To this day I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news that she had passed away. Her sons are great, have seen interviews with them. Thanks for the peek! :)

    • It was a wonderful exhibit, Marie. I think it may travel, so perhaps another time you can see some of the artifacts. I, too, think her sons are delightful young men. They do carry a lot of responsibility being Royals! Debra

  11. Even though Diana’s life was far too short she still managed to lend her name to so many worthy causes, and she traveled to parts of Africa where she had to rough it in the bush to promote the cause which she did with grace and dignity.
    I’m glad to hear of the exhibition (especially nice for us procrastinators- we have a year to get there).

  12. Dear Debra, I can remember where I was when I heard that Princess “Di” had died in that tragic car accident. I was on vacation in Northern Minnesota at a cabin alongside Lake Superior. I’d gone into a small town to shop for groceries and saw the headline on the Duluth newspaper. Like you, I admired her greatly for her compassionate response to those who were less fortunate than she. I especially admired how she’d drawn attention to land mines in countries that had known modern warfare.

    Thank you for the photographs of the Queen Mary. A proud ship. Peace.

    • I think we were all quite shocked when the Princess was killed, and as the stories began to filter in about the paparazzi hounding her and the driver so intoxicated, the story was even more shocking in its senselessness. She is a rare person for being so young at her death, and yet so many years later so many people feel the world lost someone special. And her reputation for kindness and compassion is still a strong presence. I don’t think there are many people I automatically feel that way about it! You’d have enjoyed the exhibit, Dee, and I am hearing from others that it has traveled about…so maybe there will be a chance someday to visit something in her honor! Debra

    • You would enjoy the exhibit a great deal, Kristy, I’m sure! I hope it perhaps travels after a while. Because of its ability to continue in actual charitable fundraising I think it will! If you do hear of an exhibit near you, I’d highly recommend it! :-) Debra

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