Even twenty years after her death the Princess of Wales still has many adoring fans. One of her biggest admirers hails from Germany: Evelyn Marie Seidel, the founder of the Lady Di Club Germany.
She kept the radio. It's in a cabinet in what she calls the Diana corner (and what others might call a Diana shrine). This space in her apartment is dedicated entirely to the Princess of Wales. A life-size cardboard cutout of the princess greets visitors, the walls are covered in countless pictures and paintings of Diana. The radio first brought Evelyn Marie Seidel the gut-wrenching news that her idol had died in a car crash. It was Sunday morning, September 31, 1997. Evelyn got up to make breakfast, turned the radio on. Just like every morning, her mother was visiting. "I said, Mommy, Mommy, this can't be true, maybe it's a radio play, or a false report." But it was not a radio play. Diana, former Princess of Wales, fashion icon, tabloid cannon fodder, the most photographed woman of her time, had died aged 36. Her funeral was broadcast worldwide, and 2.5 billion people watched Elton John sing farewell to "England's Rose."
Diana's biggest fan in Germany
Today, Evelyn Marie Seidel (68) is perhaps Germany's most ardent Lady Di fan.
Evelyn Marie Seidel's trademark are her hats, inspired by the headpieces British women wear to weddings
She is the matriarch of the Lady Di Club Germany, the country's only fan club for Diana Frances Spencer. Seidel founded the club in 1998, seeking to bond with other Diana fans after her tragic death. Whenever there is a Diana anniversary around the corner, Seidel is the person German TV and radio stations contact to get to the bottom of the Germans' ongoing fascination with the British princess.
Diana was and is a "princess for the centuries," Seidel believes, because of her charisma and her modern, down-to-earth approach to Windsor duties. Her obsession with Diana began in 1980, when Prince Charles announced his engagement to Diana. "What I noticed immediately was that, unlike the other women in the royal family, she did not wear gloves. The queen, princess Anne, Margaret, they seemed like they were afraid of getting their hands dirty by touching the people. But Diana, she didn't wear any gloves, she was really shaking people's hands."
Flowers for England's Rose
When Seidel visited Kensington Palace this July, she brought along a birthday card for Diana, crafted club members
Twice a year since Diana's death - for her birthday and for the anniversary of her death - Seidel travels from her hometown in northwestern Germany to England. She either visits Kensington Palace in London or the Spencer family estate in Althorp, not far from Birmingham, where Diana was buried. Like many Diana afficionados from across the world, she brings along flowers and lovingly crafted posters. Not just Brits are among the Princess' most dedicated fans, says Seidel: "Because we no longer have a monarchy in Germany, we are probably more obsessed with royalty then people from other countries. And in the US, where they've never had a king or emperor, they are even crazier when it comes to collecting Diana pictures and magazines."
Seidel speaks of the princess and her club in almost spiritual terms: "Diana was gifted to us and the world, and then that gift was taken from us. Diana is connecting people from beyond the grave - in our fan club, many friendships bloomed over the years." The 14 members of the club - all of them women, most between 50 and 70 - meet up to four times a year, to talk about Diana, but also their lives. They occasionally do charity work, inspired by Diana's work for children.
Cannon fodder for the tabloids
Interest in Diana - not just among hardcore fans like Seidel - has remained high in Germany and worldwide over the past 20 years. Many people felt and still feel a kinship to the princess, says Brigitte Hennig, who has worked as a tabloid journalist since 1989 and who wrote a dissertation on how the yellow press covers the royals. "Royalty felt incredibly dusty, old-fashioned in the 1980s. And then this young, likable, pretty woman - the ideal princess for many - came along and gave the House of Windsor a more modern touch," Hennig told DW. "Diana didn't have it easy: so many people loved her, yet her husband was more interested in another woman.
Evelyn Marie Seidel's collection of Lady Di memorabilia includes a life-size cardboard cut-out of the princess
That drama - how much Diana had to fight to assert herself, that really moved people."
'All in gold'
For Evelyn Marie Seidel, "there will never be a princess like Diana again."
"I would have never founded a club for any other princess," she says. "She did things no royal before her had done: She shook hands with people suffering from AIDS. She ignored the royal dressmakers and gave new designers a platform. And she did such great charity work for children." She and her club members put extra effort into their poster for Kensington Palace this year - "all in gold," with 20 little cards, one for every year since her death. After all, she wants to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of their idol's tragic death properly.