In August of 1993, my mom and I had planned a little vacation to Walt Disney World. We were living in Massachusetts at the time and I had probably just come to the conclusion that I wanted to work at Disney World. This wasn’t our ‘recon’ mission when we went looking for houses, rather more of a getaway from the grind of school and work, of which we were both a part. What we didn’t plan for was a royal companion during our visit to Disney World – Princess Diana had also decided to take her boys on vacation there during the same time.
We heard the news reports once we got there, and the rumors from cast members about her reserving an entire floor of the Grand Floridian and the special security needed to escort her throughout the parks. We also managed to serendipitously follow her around almost her entire visit.
We first saw her in the Magic Kingdom, in Mickey’s Starland as Mickey’s Toon Town Fair was called back then. At that time the “Judges Tent” then held a live-show with Mickey and friends. We were all ushered into the hall and completely shocked when we realized the Princess of Wales was sitting two rows in front of us! Prince William and Prince Henry were with her and each had a friend or two as well. She was so elegant and gracious, smiling and laughing at all the appropriate times. I can’t remember one single thing about the show that was on the stage, but I remember her smile in front of me as if it were yesterday.
After that we thought that was the end of our amazing luck with Princess-viewing. Nope, the next day we both happened to be at the then Disney-MGM Studios at the same time. We had just finished up the Backstage Tour and were walking over to the Inside the Magic Special Effects Tour and saw her group being escorted back behind the main buildings at the end of foot of New York Street (where Lights, Motors, Action! now stands). I tried to take a picture then, but it didn’t show the Princess.
Later we stopped for lunch at the Backlot Express over by Star Tours – a favorite counter service spot for us. Wouldn’t you know, Princess Diana stopped in to use the restroom here! You would’ve thought she was royalty the way everything stopped…oh, wait. Yes, it was quite amazing seeing both the special treatment given to such an elegant Princess, and how down to earth and relaxed Princess Diana seemed. She was just in Bermuda shorts and a t-shirt, nothing ridiculously over-the-top. She was clearly enjoying her time with her sons and making sure they didn’t miss out on anything.
I had always held a fondness for the Princess of Wales, having watched her wedding on T.V. and her appearances in the media throughout the years. After this trip though, I had a new respect for her as a mom too. I wasn’t anywhere near being a mom yet in 1993. However, I knew from living with my own mother just how important those special times can be, especially in one of the most magical places on earth. It was truly an honor to witness a real Princess amid the fairy tale ones all around us.
We were living in Orlando, Florida when we first heard news that late night of her car crash. We stayed up the entire night watching the news reports and my mom and I definitely shed some tears. Such a beautiful life, cut so short, so senselessly. Watching her funeral services was heartbreaking.
On this anniversary of her passing, I thought I’d share some of the magic she unwittingly shared with a mother and daughter, as we all enjoyed a little bit of pixie dust. May you rest in peace, Princess…and thank you for all the good you did here on earth.