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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pay tribute to Princess Diana at start of Pride Month

Princess Diana famously shook the hand of a 32-year-old man with HIV back in 1987, an act that reverberated around the world.
/ Source: TODAY

Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex kicked off Pride Month Saturday with an Instagram post that featured nine different photos, one of which included a familiar face — that of Princess Diana, Harry's mother.

Keeping their practice of highlighting organizations and individuals championing their selected cause of the month, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex wiped their slate clean and followed a fresh set of 11 Instagram accounts.

“Continuing with our tradition to rotate the accounts we follow based on causes and social issues that matter to us: For the month of June we ‘proudly’ shine a light on PRIDE,” the caption for the post reads. “This month we pay tribute to the accounts supporting the LGBTQ+ community - those young and old, their families and friends, accounts that reflect on the past and are hopeful for a deservedly more inclusive future.”

“We stand with you and support you,” the caption continues. “Because it’s very simple: love is love.”

The photo collage features images from and links to the pages of the Human Rights Campaign, SAGE USA, akt, the Trevor Project, PFLAG, the Elton John AIDS Foundation and more. One photo in particular stands out for its historic and personal weight: an image of Prince Harry’s late mother, Princess Diana, perched on the hospital bed of an AIDS patient.

Princess Diana visiting a patient at the London Lighthouse, a center for people affected by HIV and AIDS, in London, October 1996.
Princess Diana visiting a patient at the London Lighthouse, a center for people affected by HIV and AIDS, in London, October 1996.Jayne Fincher / Getty Images/Princess Diana Arch

The photo serves as a subtle but poignant reminder of the groundbreaking support that Princess Diana provided the LGBTQ community at the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the late 19080s, helping to destigmatize the oft-misunderstood disease.

In 1989, Diana helped open the first HIV unit in London at Middlesex Hospital and made headlines when she not only visited the ward, but took the time to speak with both workers and patients alike, at a time when there was widespread fear surrounding HIV.

“When that April, she shook the hand of a 32-year-old man with HIV, in front of the cameras, she knew exactly what she was doing,” Prince Harry said in a 2017 speech as he accepted the Attitude Legacy Award on his mother’s behalf. “She was using her position as Princess of Wales — the most famous woman in the world — to challenge everyone to educate themselves; to find their compassion; and to reach out to those who need help instead of pushing them away.”

In a 2017 documentary titled, “Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy,” Diana’s close friend Elton John revealed why she had been revered as a gay icon. “(AIDS) was considered to be a gay disease,” he said in the film. “For someone who was within the Royal Family and who was a woman, and who was straight, to have someone care from the other side, was an incredible gift.”

Diana expressed her own take on using her royal status for good in a memorable interview with BBC’s “Panorama” in 1995. “I would like a monarchy that has more contact with its people,” she said.

Saturday’s post is hardly the first time that Harry and Meghan have continued his mother’s legacy and work.

Back in 2016, Harry traveled to Rihanna’s home country of Barbados so the two could take public HIV tests together, an act meant to help reduce stigma surrounding HIV and encourage people to seek help and educate themselves.

A year later, in November 2017, the then-newly engaged couple visited the Terrence Higgins Trust World AIDS Day charity fair.

The pair announced last month that they would be using their joint Instagram account, @SussexRoyal, to shine a spotlight on a different social cause each month, meaning that they will unfollow accounts at the beginning of each month to make way for a new batch of groups to follow.

For instance, the couple made headlines in May when they unfollowed @KensingtonRoyal, the social media account belonging to Prince William and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, as well as the account of Harry’s cousin, Princess Eugenie. There was no bad blood, of course. Instead, Harry and Meghan explained that they wished to “shine a light on several Instagram accounts that promote mental well-being, mental fitness, body positivity, self-care, and the importance of human connection” in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month.

Harry and Meghan launched their Instagram account in April and it quickly gained 1 million followers shortly after its launch. Just two months later, over 8 million fans now follow their page.