Aug. 30—"She meant so much to so many people."
That's what Aiken resident Lita Pendlebury had to say about Princess Diana on the 25th anniversary of her death (Aug. 31, 1997). Pendlebury's fascination with the royal family began 70 years ago when she was 8.
"I was able to watch the Queen being crowned Queen, and that resonated; it just stayed with me for 70 years," Pendlebury said.
Pendlebury started her collection of the royal family, which includes items of the Tudors and Queen Elizabeth II, 55 years ago.
She started adding items of Princess Diana after she married Prince Charles in 1981. At the time of the wedding, Pendlebury was living in Hawaii but was awake at 2 a.m. to watch the event.
"I'm like, I'm not going to miss this; and yes, I stayed up. The same for Meghan and Harry," she said.
As for what it was about Princess Diana that she loved, Pendlebury said, it was that she was the "people's princess."
"She tried to do (her best) for the people, and she helped so many charities," Pendlebury said. "The marriage, of course, was a mismatch. Prince Charles was in his 30s. They needed an heir and a spare to the throne; and Diana had no history, meaning there was no past somebody could write a story about."
In 1985, Pendlebury was able to meet Princess Diana in-person when she and Prince Charles stopped in Honolulu, Hawaii, while heading from Australia to the United States. During this moment Pendlebury was able to briefly speak with Princess Diana and described herself as being "awestruck" at the experience.
"I thought this is never going to happen," Pendlebury said. "I got to shake her hand and say, 'Welcome to Hawaii,' and she smiles and you feel, because eye-to-eye contact, for those few seconds it's just as if she only has eyes for the person she is addressing and speaking to. A true professional."
Pendlebury still remembers when Princess Diana died 25 years ago.
"Had my husband not been ill with cancer I would have flown over to England and stayed for that week because I just felt such a kindred spirit with Diana," she said. "I still do, and it's like chemistry; there's no middle ground. It's either there or it isn't."
In her collection, Pendlebury has a variety of items, including books, photos of Princess Diana, a 1,000-piece puzzle, a figurine of her in her wedding dress, a plate with a portrait of her in her wedding dress, and an ostrich egg with a picture of Princess Diana on it.
"I would have to say my favorite (is) ... the ostrich egg," Pendlebury said of the item she got in Botswana. "I think that resonates because I had to really dig for that. There was probably 200 eggs all from various ostrich and that is done where it's not an oil painting. They took a picture from a magazine and they have a special way they can bond that to the egg ... back then it was amazing because I almost didn't find it."
The newest piece in her royal family collection is a 1,000-piece puzzle of Queen Elizabeth II that she's taking with her on her next trip to England to see her partner Allan D. McNeill. The oldest item is a plate of Queen Elizabeth II.
As for the future of her collection, Pendlebury said she's going to have to find a home for it one day.
"Hopefully, there will be the next generation that thinks as much of Princess Diana as I have," she said.