Princess of Wales; Duchess of Rothesay

Diana, Princess of Wales
Spouse Charles, Prince of Wales (m. 1981; div, 1996)
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
Prince Henry of Wales
Full name
Diana Frances
House House of Windsor (by marriage)
Spencer family (by birth)
Father John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer
Mother Frances Shand Kydd
Born 1 July 1961
Died 31 August 1997 (aged 36)
Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris, France
Burial 6 September 1997
Althorp, Northamptonshire
Signature Diana, Princess of Wales signature.png
Religion Anglican
I'd like to be a queen in people's hearts but I don't see myself being queen of this country.

Diana, Princess of Wales

Diana, Princess of Wales (Diana Frances; née Spencer; 1 July 1961 – 31 August 1997), was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, who is the eldest child and heir apparent of Queen Elizabeth II.

Diana was born into an aristocratic English family with royal ancestry as The Honorable Diana Spencer. She was the fourth child of John Spencer, Viscount Althorp and his first wife, the Honorable Frances Roche, daughter of the 4th Baron Fermoy. Diana became Lady Diana Spencer when her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975. She became a public figure with the announcement of her engagement.

Her wedding to the Prince of Wales on 29 July 1981 was held at St Paul's Cathedral and was witnessed by a global television audience of over 750 million. While married, she bore the titles Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay, Countess of Chester and Baroness of Renfrew. The marriage produced two sons, the princes Prince William and Harry, who were respectively second and third in the line of succession to the British throne throughout her lifetime.

After her marriage, she undertook a variety of public engagements. She was well known for her fund-raising work for international charities and as an eminent celebrity of the late 20th century. She also received recognition for her charity work and for her support of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. From 1989, she was the president of Great Ormond Street Hospital for children, in addition to dozens of other charities.

Diana remained the object of worldwide media scrutiny during and after her marriage, which ended in divorce on 28 August 1996. If the Prince of Wales had ascended the throne during their marriage, Diana would have become queen consort. Media attention and public mourning were extensive following her death in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997.

Early lifeEdit

Lady Diana as a child

Diana as a child.

Diana was born on 1 July 1961, in Park House, Sandringham, Norfolk. She was the fourth of five children of Viscount and Viscountess Althorp. The Spencers had been closely allied with the Royal Family for several generations. Upon Diana's birth, there was much debate over what she should be named, as the family had been hoping for a son to carry on the family line. No name was chosen for a week, until they settled on Diana Frances, after Diana Russell, Duchess of Bedford, her distant relative who was also known as "Lady Diana Spencer" before marriage and who was also a prospective Princess of Wales, and her mother. Diana was baptised at St. Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham. She had three siblings: Sarah, Jane and Charles. She also had an infant brother, John, who died only a year before she was born. The desire for an heir added strain to the Spencers' marriage, and Lady Althorp was reportedly sent to Harley Street clinics in London to determine the cause of the "problem". The experience was described as "humiliating" by Diana's younger brother, Charles: "It was a dreadful time for my parents and probably the root of their divorce because I don't think they ever got over it." Diana grew up in Park House, which was situated near to the Sandringham estate.

Diana was eight years old when her parents divorced after her mother had an affair with Peter Shand Kydd. In Morton's book, he describes Diana's remembrance of Lord Althorp loading suitcases in the car and Lady Althorp crunching across the gravel forecourt and driving away through the gates of Park House. Diana lived with her mother in London during her parents' separation, but during the Christmas holidays, Lord Althorp did not allow his former wife to return to London along with Diana. Shortly afterwards, Lord Althorp won custody of Diana with support from his former mother-in-law, Lady Fermoy. Diana was first educated at Riddlesworth Hall near Diss, Norfolk, and later attended boarding school at The New School at West Heath, in Sevenoaks, Kent. In 1973, Lord Althorp began a relationship with Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, the only daughter of Alexander McCorquodale and Barbara Cartland. Diana became known as Lady Diana when her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer on 9 June 1975. Lady Dartmouth, unpopular with Diana, married Lord Spencer at Caxton Hall, London on 14 July 1976. Diana was often noted for her shyness while growing up, but she did take an interest in both music and dancing. She also had a great interest in children. After attending finishing school at the Institut Alpin Videmanette in Switzerland, she moved to London. She began working with children, eventually becoming a nursery assistant at the Young England School. Diana had apparently played with Princes Andrew and Edward as a child while her family rented Park House, a property owned by Queen Elizabeth II and situated on the Sandringham Estate.

Education and careerEdit

In 1968, Diana was sent to Riddlesworth Hall School, an all-girls boarding school. While she was young, she attended a local public school. She did not shine academically, and was moved to West Heath Girls' School (later reorganised as The New School at West Heath) in Sevenoaks, Kent, where she was regarded as a poor student, having attempted and failed all of her O-levels twice. However, she showed a particular talent for music as an accomplished pianist. Her outstanding community spirit was recognised with an award from West Heath. In 1977, she left West Heath and briefly attended Institut Alpin Videmanette, a finishing school in Rougemont, Switzerland. At about that time, she first met her future husband, who was then in a relationship with her older sister, Sarah. Diana also excelled in swimming and diving, and longed to be a professional ballerina with the Royal Ballet. She studied ballet for a time, but then grew too tall for the profession.

Her first job, at the age of 17, was as a nanny for Alexandra, the daughter of Major Jeremy Whitaker and his wife Philippa (van Straubenzee) at their Land of Nod estate at Headley Down, Hampshire. Philippa's brother William was a close friend of Diana's.

Diana moved to London in 1978 and lived in her mother's flat, as her mother then spent most of the year in Scotland. Soon afterwards, an apartment was purchased for £100,000 as an 18th birthday present, at Coleherne Court in Earls Court. She lived there until 1981 with three flatmates. In London, she took an advanced cooking course at her mother's suggestion, although she never became an adroit cook, and worked as a dance instructor for youth, until a skiing accident caused her to miss three months of work. She then found employment as a playgroup (pre-school) assistant, did some cleaning work for her sister Sarah and several of her friends, and acted as a hostess at parties. Diana also spent time working as a nanny for the Robertsons, an American family living in London.

Marriage to the Prince of WalesEdit

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, had previously been linked to Lady Diana's elder sister Lady Sarah, and in his early thirties he was under increasing pressure to marry.

The Prince of Wales had known Lady Diana since November 1977 when he and Lady Sarah were dating, but he first took a serious interest in her as a potential bride during the summer of 1980, when they were guests at a country weekend, where she watched him play polo. The relationship developed as he invited her for a sailing weekend to Cowes aboard the royal yacht Britannia. It was followed by an invitation to Balmoral (the Royal Family's Scottish residence) to meet his family a weekend in November 1980. She said "I've had a lovely weekend." referring to it. Lady Diana was well received by the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. The couple subsequently courted in London. The prince proposed on 6 February 1981, and Lady Diana accepted, but their engagement was kept secret for the next few weeks.

Engagement and weddingEdit

Further information: Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer and Wedding dress of Lady Diana Spencer
Engagement of Charles and Diana

Charles and Diana on the day of their engagement announcement.

Charles and Diana's engagement became official on 24 February 1981, after Lady Diana selected a large engagement ring consisting of 14 solitaire diamonds surrounding a 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire set in 18-carat white gold, similar to her mother's engagement ring. The ring was made by the then Crown jewelers Garrard but, unusually for a ring used by a member of the Royal Family, the ring was not unique and was, at the time, featured in Garrard's jewellery collection. The ring later became, in 2010, the engagement ring of Catherine Middleton. It was copied by jewelers all over the world.

Following the engagement Lady Diana left her job at the kindergarten and lived at Clarence House, then home of Queen Mother, for a short period. She then lived at Buckingham Palace until the wedding. Her first public appearance with Prince Charles was in a charity ball in March 1981 at Goldsmiths' Hall where she also met with Princess Grace of Monaco.

Charles and Diana Wedding

Charles and Diana's kiss for the crowd.

Twenty-year-old Diana became Princess of Wales when she married the Prince of Wales on 29 July 1981 at St Paul's Cathedral, which offered more seating than Westminster Abbey, generally used for royal nuptials. It was widely billed as a "fairytale wedding", watched by a global television audience of 750 million while 600,000 people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of Diana en route to the ceremony. At the altar, Diana accidentally reversed the order of Charles's first two names, saying "Philip Charles" Arthur George instead. She did not say that she would "obey" him; that traditional vow was left out at the couple's request, which caused some comment at the time. Diana wore a dress valued at £9000 with a 25-foot (8-metre) train.

The Prince and Princess of Wales spent part of their honeymoon at the Mountbatten family home at Broadlands, Hampshire, before flying to Gibraltar to join the Royal Yacht HMY Britannia for a 12-day cruise through the Mediterranean to Egypt. They also visited Tunisia, Sardinia and Greece. They finished their honeymoon with a stay at Balmoral.

Princess of WalesEdit

After becoming Princess of Wales, Diana automatically acquired rank as the third highest female in the United Kingdom Order of Precedence (after the Queen and the Queen Mother), and as typically fifth or sixth in the orders of precedence of her other realms, following the Queen, the relevant viceroy, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales. Within a few years of the marriage, the Queen extended Diana visible tokens of membership in the Royal Family; the gift of a tiara and the badge of the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II.

Diana with baby Prince William

Diana with her infant son, William.

After the marriage, the couple made their homes at Kensington Palace and at Highgrove House, near Tetbury. On 5 November 1981, the Princess' first pregnancy was officially announced, and she frankly discussed her pregnancy with members of the press corps. After Diana fell down a staircase at Sandringham in January 1982, 12 weeks into her first pregnancy, the royal gynaecologist Sir George Pinker was summoned from London. He found that although she had suffered severe bruising, the foetus was uninjured. In the private Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London, on 21 June 1982, under the care of Pinker, the Princess gave natural birth to her and the Prince's first son and heir, William Arthur Philip Louis.
Charles, Diana and baby William in Australia

Diana, Charles and baby Prince William during their Australian tour.

Amidst some media criticism, she decided to take William, still a baby, on her first major tours of Australia and New Zealand, but the decision was popularly applauded. By her own admission, the Princess of Wales had not initially intended to take William until it was suggested by Malcolm Fraser, the Australian prime minister. A second son, Henry Charles Albert David, was born two years after William, on 15 September 1984. The Princess asserted she and the Prince were closest during her pregnancy with Harry (as the younger prince has always been known.)
Diana with baby Prince Henry

Diana with her infant son, Henry.

She was aware their second child was a boy, but did not share the knowledge with anyone else, including the Prince of Wales. Persistent suggestions that Harry's father is not Charles but James Hewitt, with whom Diana had an affair, have been based on alleged physical similarity between Hewitt and Harry. However, Harry had already been born by the time the affair between Hewitt and Diana began.

Even her harshest critics agree that the Princess of Wales was a devoted, imaginative and demonstrative mother. She rarely deferred to the Prince or to the Royal Family, and was often intransigent when it came to the children. She chose their first given names, dismissed a royal family nanny and engaged one of her own choosing, selected their schools and clothing, planned their outings and took them to school herself as often as her schedule permitted. She also negotiated her public duties around their timetables.

Royal dutiesEdit

Public appearancesEdit

After her wedding to the Prince of Wales, Diana quickly became involved in the official duties of the Royal Family. Her first tour with the Prince of Wales was a three-day visit to Wales in October 1981. In 1982, Diana accompanied the Prince of Wales to Netherlands and was created a Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
Princess Diana at Grace of Monaco's funeral

Diana on her first solo visit overseas at the funeral of Princess Grace of Monaco.

The Princess's first official solo visit overseas was in September 1982, when she represented her mother-in-law at the State funeral of Princess Grace of Monaco. In 1983, she accompanied the Prince on a tour of Australia and New Zealand with Prince William where they met with the country's native people, who honored the couple with a traditional boat tour and gifts representing their culture. From June to July 1983, the Prince and Princess undertook official visits to Canada for the official opening of World Universities Games and to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Sir Humphrey Gilbert's taking possession of Newfoundland. In February 1984, she traveled to Norway on her own to attend a performance of Carmen by the London City Ballet, of which she was patron. In Fornebu airport, Diana was received in by Crown Prince Harald and Crown Princess Sonja of Norway.
The Prince and Princess of Wales with the Pope

Diana and Charles meeting Pope John Paul II.

In April 1985, the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Italy with their children, Princes William and Harry and met with President Alessandro Pertini. Their visit to the Holy See included a private audience with Pope John Paul II. The Princess made her inaugural overseas tour, to the United States, in November 1985. During their tour in the United States, they met with President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan at the White House. 1986 was a busy year for Diana. With the Prince of Wales she embarked on a tour of Japan, Indonesia, Spain and Canada. In Japan, the Princess was presented with a $40,000 silk kimono and as part of her humanitarian work, the Princess of Wales visited the Red Cross Infants Home for Disabled Children in Tokyo. One of the main official visits the royal couple made was to the Tokyo Imperial Palace, where Emperor Hirohito held a state banquet on their honor. In Spain, the couple were greeted by the students of arts and music in the University of Salamanca. Charles and Diana were close friends to King Juan Carlos and his family. The couple used to spend their summer vacation in Majorca, a favorite royal destination. In Canada they visited Expo 86.

Diana and Charles visiting Juan Carlos and family

Diana and Charles visiting Juan Carlos I of Spain and his family.

In February 1987, the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Portugal. The visit had been arranged to coincide with the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Windsor in 1387 which had bound Britain and Portugal in "perpetual friendship". The Prince and Princess of Wales attended a banquet held in their honor by President Mário Soares at the Ajuda National Palace. In 1987, Charles and Diana were also invited to visit Germany and France to attend the Cannes Film Festival. In 1988, the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Thailand and also toured Australia for the bicentenary celebrations. In 1989, the couple were invited to visit the Arab States of the Persian Gulf, where they met with the British citizens, visited Schools of British Scots in the region and joined members of the royal families in state dinners and desert picnics. The tour began in Kuwait and they stayed in the As-Salam Palace at Shuwaikh Port as guests of the Kuwait Government. During their visit, they had an audience with the Emir of Kuwait, followed by lunch. They also had an audience with the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Kuwait, who hosted a dinner in their honor. Diana was also given a chest full of gold jewelry, a silver tea set and a gold embroidered Bedouin gown. During their tour in Kuwait, the Princess visited The Kuwait Handicapped Society, reflecting her ongoing interest in children and their needs.
Diana and Charles meeting with King Fahd

Diana and Charles with King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.

In Saudi Arabia, the Princess was invited to King Fahd's palace, a rare honor for a woman. In Oman, Sultan Qaboos presented Diana with a Queen's ransom in jewels. The tour finished in United Arab Emirates.

In March 1990, she joined the Prince of Wales to tour Nigeria and Cameroon. During their tour, the Princess visited children's hospitals, traditional hand-loom weavers and women's development projects. The President of Cameroon later hosted an official dinner to welcome them in Yaoundé. In May 1990, they undertook an official visit to Hungary. The royal couple were met at the airport by their host, newly elected interim President Árpád Göncz. President Göncz later hosted an official dinner to welcome the royal couple. During their four-day trip, the couple met with government officials, business officials and artists and the Princess viewed a display of British fashion at the Museum of Applied Arts. In November 1990, the royal couple went to Japan to attend the enthronement of Emperor Akihito. In 1991, the Princess went with the Prince of Wales and her children to undertake an official visit to Canada to present replica of Queen Victoria's Royal Charter to Queen's University, on the 150th anniversary of the university's 1841 founding. In September 1991, the Princess visited Pakistan. During her visit, Diana helped the needy families in Lahore, met with Islamic scholars and students. In that year, they also visited Brazil. During their tour in Brazil, Diana visited the orphanage and an Aids Treatment Center for children. She also met the Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello and First Lady Rosane Collor in Brasília. Their last joint overseas visits were to India and South Korea in 1992.

In 1992, the Princess of Wales made a short visit to Egypt, where she visited local schools and treatment centers for handicapped children in Cairo. She was invited to stay at the British Ambassador's villa. During her stay, she met with President Hosni Mubarak. She also visited historical sights such as the Pyramids, Luxor and Karnak temples. She was accompanied by Zahi Hawass, a famous Egyptian archaeologist. In December 1993, the Princess of Wales announced that she would be reducing the extent of her public life in order to combine 'a meaningful public role with a more private life'.

In February 1995, the Princess visited Japan. She visited the National Children's Hospital and gave the opening line of her speech in Japanese. She had taken a four week crash course in the language and her phonetically - learned opening phrase: "Honorable people of Japan, it's lovely to be here again", delighted the nation. She also made visits to Hodogaya Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Yokohama and the Umeda daycare centre for children with learning difficulties. Diana also made a formal visit to see the Emperor and Empress of Japan and during her last day in Japan, Diana also met Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako. In June 1995, Diana went to Venice to visit the Venice Biennale art festival. In November 1995, the Princess undertook a four-day trip to Argentina and met with President Carlos Menem and his daughter, Zulemita, for lunch. The Princess visited many other countries including Switzerland, Belgium, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Nepal.

The Princess of Wales attended the Trooping the Color for the first time in June 1982, making her appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace afterwards. She attended the State Opening of Parliament for the first time on 4 November 1981. After her separation from Prince Charles, the Princess continued to appear with the other members of the Royal Family on major national occasions, such as the commemorations of the 50th anniversary of VE (Victory in Europe Day) and VJ (Victory over Japan Day) in 1995. The Princess spent her 36th and last birthday on 1 July 1997 attending the Tate Gallery's 100th anniversary celebrations. Her last official engagement in Britain was on 21 July, when she visited the children's accident and emergency unit at Park Hospital, London.

Charity work and patronageEdit

Although in 1983 she confided in the then-Premier of Newfoundland, Brian Peckford, "I am finding it very difficult to cope with the pressures of being Princess of Wales, but I am learning to cope," from the mid-1980s, the Princess of Wales became increasingly associated with numerous charities. As Princess of Wales, she was expected to make regular public appearances at hospitals, schools and other facilities, in the 20th century model of royal patronage. The Princess developed an intense interest in serious illnesses and health-related matters outside the purview of traditional royal involvement, including AIDS and leprosy. She did a lot of charity works, visiting terminally ill people over the world, leading campaigns for animal protection, AIDS awareness and against the use of inhumane weapons. In addition, she was the patroness of charities and organisations working with the homeless, youth, drug addicts and the elderly. From 1989, she was president of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. In the same year, Diana became president of the British marital advice organisations, which she ended in 1996. From 1991, she was patron of Headway, the brain injury association, which she also ended in 1996. She was also patron of Natural History Museum and president of Royal Academy of Music which are patronages currently held by the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Gloucester. From 1984 to 1996, she was president of Barnardo's, a charity founded by Dr Thomas John Barnado in 1866 to care for vulnerable children and young people, and attended over 110 events for it, including 16 in one year and three in one week. Her patronages also included British Red Cross Youth, Relate marriage counselors and the British Deaf Association, for which she learned sign language.

In June 1995, the Princess made a brief visit to Moscow, where she visited a children’s hospital that she had previously supported through her charity work. Diana presented the hospital with medical equipment. During her time in the Russian capital, she was awarded the international Leonardo prize, which is given to the most distinguished patrons and people in the arts, medicine and sports.

The day after her divorce, she announced her resignation from over 100 charities to spend more time with the remaining six. Following her divorce, she remained patron of Centrepoint (homeless charity), English National Ballet, Leprosy Mission and National AIDS Trust, and President of Great Ormond Street Hospital and of the Royal Marsden Hospital. In June 1997, the Princess attended receptions in London and New York as previews of the sale of a number of dresses and suits worn by her on official engagements, with the proceeds going to charity.

During her final year, Diana lent highly visible support to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a campaign which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, only a few months after her death.

Problems and separationEdit