It was 20 years ago that Princess Diana created one of the truly iconic images of royal activism, when she walked in a transparent mask through a field recently cleared of landmines for the HALO trust.
Prince Harry has long been seen as the most natural inheritor of his mother’s traditions, and last night the young prince took to the podium at Kensington Palace and made an emotional speech on the issue to mark International Mine Awareness Day.
He also revealed that his mother was criticized by many who felt she had “stepped over the line” by campaigning on such a political issue.
The remarks suggest that Meghan Markle need not fear being told to rein in her political opinons by her boyfriend if they do indeed get married.
Of course, by 1997, when Diana visited the minefields, just weeks before her death, she was no longer the holder of an HRH title and more free to act unilaterally.
Diana was roundly criticized in some establishment quarters for “interfering” in Britain’s lucrative weapons industry, and Harry recalled that, saying, “At the time, the attention my mother brought to this issue wasn’t universally popular; some believed she had stepped over the line into the arena of political campaigning—but for her this wasn’t about politics; it was about people.”
The prince recalled the stories of two boys, Malic and Žarko, who had both lost legs to mines in Bosnia, and became the human faces of the damage landmines could do after they met Diana.
“She shared their stories with the world, and helped campaigners—many of whom are in this room—to change history,” he said, adding that the two are now grown men, but they both still struggle with their physical and emotional injuries and with the high costs of replacing their prosthetics.
“When my mother said goodbye to Žarko that August, just weeks before her untimely death, she told him he would not be forgotten.
“Please help me keep her word to Žarko and Malic, and other people like them throughout the world, who still need us to finish the job and rid the planet of landmines.
“Collectively we have the knowledge, skill, and resources to achieve it, so let’s make future generations proud.”
In 2015, almost 5,000 people were injured and mor than 1,600 were killed by landmines. More than a third were children.
The British government has pledged to triple its landmine-clearance budget to £100 million.