Princess Diana’s iconic landmine trip to Angola was seen as an immediate success in her campaign for a ban on the devices, official papers reveal today.
The princess provoked international debate when she walked alongside minefields in January 1997, meeting casualties of the country’s 20-year civil war, in a British Red Cross drive which ultimately led to the United Nations banning their use less than 12 months later, following Diana’s death in a Paris car crash in August 1997.
Images from the visit were beamed around the world, but caused a stir because the princess was seen to support Labour’s position on a global ban.
The Conservative Government at the time wanted to wait for all countries to signal their intent before signing an accord.
Roger Hart, the British Ambassador to the southern African nation, wrote in a dispatch home to the Foreign Office that the Angolan authorities were “delighted that the princess made the visit, possibly the first ever to their country by a member of our royal family”.
He added: “At a critical time in the peace process, it put their country back on the international map and drew worldwide attention to the evils of mines and the tremendous human suffering that they cause.
“The British Red Cross were pleased and so too was the Princess of Wales herself.
“It was the first overseas trip that she has undertaken since agreeing to support the mine ban and was talking about following it up with visits to other heavily mined countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Kuwait.”
Speaking at the time, Diana signalled her intentions of a possible global tour promoting her campaign.
Asked if that would Cambodia, Bosnia and Afghanistan, the princess replied: “Yes, these are the ones most affected.
“Yes, I hope very much to be able to go in there as a British Red Cross volunteer – if they’ll have me.”
The National Archives documents also reveal Mr Hart informed the Foreign Office that one well-known journalist in particular made her presence felt during the visit.
Diana’s younger son, Harry, the Duke of Sussex, made an emotional pilgrimage to Africa last year to retrace the steps of his mother, acknowledging her work to ban landmines.