Born 1 July 1961 Sandringham, Norfolk, England
Died 31 August 1997 Paris, France
The Lady Diana Frances Spencer (Diana Frances Mountbatten-Windsor, née
Spencer) (July 1, 1961–August 31, 1997) was the first wife of
Charles, Prince of Wales. From her marriage in 1981 to her divorce in
1996 she was styled Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales. After
her divorce from the Prince of Wales in 1996 Diana ceased to be the
Princess of Wales and also lost the resulting Royal Highness style (although
many still speak of her as HRH Princess Diana) She received the form
of title normally used by ex-wives of peers, Diana, Princess of Wales
under Letters Patent issued by Queen Elizabeth II at the time of the
Diana was often
called Princess Diana by the media and the public, but she did not possess
such a title and was not personally a princess, a point Diana herself
made to people who referred to her as such. Contrary to belief, being
Princess of Wales does not make one a princess in one's own right. It
merely indicates that one was married to a Prince of Wales. Princesses
in their own right only exist by creation of the monarch or by birth.
Diana was in fact the first non-princess to be Princess of Wales for
centuries. Previous Princesses of Wales, such as Alexandra of Denmark
or Mary of Teck were already princesses by birth when they married a
Prince of Wales.
An iconic presence
on the world-stage, Diana, Princess of Wales was noted for her pioneering
charity work. Yet her philanthropic endeavours were overshadowed by
her scandal-plagued marriage to Prince Charles. Her bitter accusations
via friends and biographers of adultery, mental cruelty and emotional
distress visited upon her, and her own admission of adultery and numerous
love affairs riveted the world for much of the 1990s, spawning books,
magazine articles and television movies.
From the time of
her engagement to the Prince of Wales in 1981 until her death in a car
accident in 1997, the Princess was arguably the most famous woman in
the world, the pre-eminent female celebrity of her generation: a fashion
icon, an image of feminine beauty, admired and emulated for her high-profile
involvement in AIDS issues and the international campaign against landmines.
During her lifetime, she was often referred to as the most photographed
person in the world. To her admirers, The Princess of Wales was a role
model — after her death, there were even calls for her to be nominated
for sainthood — while her detractors saw her life as a cautionary
tale of how an obsession with publicity can ultimately destroy an individual.
The Honourable Diana
Frances Spencer was born as the youngest daughter of Edward Spencer,
Viscount Althorp, and his first wife, Frances Spencer, Viscountess Althorp
(formerly the Honourable Frances Burke Roche) at Park House on the Sandringham
estate. She was baptised at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham,
by Rt. Rev. Percy Herbert (rector of the church and former Bishop of
Norwich and Blackburn); her godparents included John Floyd (the chairman
of Christie's) and Mary Colman (a niece of the Queen Mother). Partially
American in ancestry — a great-grandmother was the American heiress
Frances Work — she was also a descendant of King Charles I. During
her parents' acrimonious divorce over Lady Althorp's adultery with wallpaper
heir Peter Shand Kydd, Diana's mother sued for custody of her children,
but Lord Althorp's rank, aided by Lady Althorp's mother's testimony
against her daughter during the trial, meant custody of Diana and her
brother was awarded to their father. On the death of her paternal grandfather,
Albert Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer, in 1975, Diana's father became the
8th Earl Spencer, and she acquired the courtesy title of The Lady Diana
Spencer and moved from her childhood home at Park House to her family's
sixteenth-century ancestral home of Althorp. A year later, Lord Spencer
married Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, the only daughter of the romance
novelist Barbara Cartland, after being named as the "other party"
in the Earl and Countess of Dartmouth's divorce.
Diana was educated
at Riddlesworth Hall in Norfolk and at West Heath Girls' School (later
reorganized as the New School at West Heath, a special school for boys
and girls) in Sevenoaks, Kent, where she was regarded as an academically
below-average student, having failed all of her O-level examinations.
In 1977, aged 16, she left West Heath and briefly attended Institut
Alpin Videmanette, a finishing school in Rougemont, Switzerland (Diana's
future husband was also dating her sister, Lady Sarah at that time).
Diana was a talented amateur pianist, excelled in sports and reportedly
longed to be a ballerina.
the Spencers, had been close to the British Royal Family for decades.
Her maternal grandmother, Ruth, Lady Fermoy, was a longtime friend of,
and a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
The Prince's love
life had always been the subject of press speculation, and he was linked
to numerous women. Nearing his mid-thirties, he was under increasing
pressure to marry. In order to gain the approval of his family and their
advisors, including his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten of Burma, any potential
bride had to have an aristocratic background, could not have been previously
married, should be Protestant and, preferably, a virgin. Diana fulfilled
all of these qualifications.
Prince's former girlfriend (and, eventually, his second wife) Camilla
Parker Bowles helped him select the 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer as
a potential bride, who was working as an assistant at the Young England
kindergarten in Pimlico. Buckingham Palace announced the engagement
on 24 February 1981. Mrs. Parker Bowles had been dismissed by Lord Mountbatten
of Burma as a potential spouse for the heir to throne some years before,
reportedly due to her age (16 months the Prince's senior), her sexual
experience, and her lack of suitably aristocratic lineage.
The wedding took
place at St Paul's Cathedral in London on Wednesday 29 July 1981 before
3,500 invited guests (including Mrs. Parker Bowles and her husband,
a godson of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) and an estimated 1 billion
television viewers around the world. (Comment: Note the same "estimated"
number of 1 billion has frequently been reported for TV audiences of
the Academy Awards and the NFL Super Bowl, but such numbers are in fact
public relations inventions conjured out of thin air.) The acclaimed
New Zealand opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa sang Handel's "Let the
Bright Seraphim" at the wedding ceremony.
Diana was the first
Englishwoman to marry an heir apparent to the throne since 1659, when
Lady Anne Hyde married the Duke of York and Albany, the future King
James II. Upon her marriage, Diana became Her Royal Highness The Princess
of Wales and was ranked as the most senior royal woman in the United
Kingdom after the Queen and the Queen Mother.
The Prince and Princess
of Wales had two children, Prince William of Wales on 21 June 1982 and
Prince Henry of Wales (commonly called Prince Harry) on 15 September
After the birth
of Prince William, the Princess of Wales suffered from post-natal depression.
She had previously suffered from bulimia nervosa, which recurred, and
she made a number of suicide attempts. In one interview, released after
her death, she claimed that, while pregnant with Prince William, she
threw herself down a set of stairs and was discovered by her mother-in-law
(that is, Queen Elizabeth II). It has been suggested she did not, in
fact, intend to end her life (or that the suicide attempts never even
took place) and that she was merely making a 'cry for help'. In the
same interview in which she told of the suicide attempt while pregnant
with Prince William, she said her husband had accused her of crying
wolf when she threatened to kill herself. It has also been suggested
that she suffered from borderline personality disorder.
Diana and Charles with US President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy
ReaganIn the mid 1980s her marriage fell apart, an event at first suppressed,
but then sensationalised, by the world media. Both the Prince and Princess
of Wales spoke to the press through friends, accusing each other of
blame for the marriage's demise. Charles resumed his relationship with
Camilla Parker Bowles, whilst Diana became involved with James Hewitt
and possibly later with James Gilbey, with whom she was involved in
the so-called Squidgygate affair. She later confirmed (in a television
interview with Martin Bashir) the affair with her riding instructor,
James Hewitt. (Theoretically, such an affair constituted high treason
by both parties.) Another alleged lover was a bodyguard assigned to
the Princess's security detail, although the Princess adamantly denied
a sexual relationship with him. After her separation from Prince Charles,
Diana was allegedly involved with married art dealer Oliver Hoare, rugby
player Will Carling as well as heart surgeon Hasnat Khan before finally
becoming involved with Dodi Fayed.
The Prince and Princess
of Wales were separated on 9 December 1992; their divorce was finalised
on 28 August 1996. The Princess lost the style Her Royal Highness and
instead was styled as Diana, Princess of Wales, However, at that time,
and to this day, Buckingham Palace maintains, since the Princess was
the mother of the second and third in line to the throne, she was officially
a member of the Royal Family.
In 2004, the American
TV network NBC broadcast tapes of Diana discussing her marriage to the
Prince of Wales, including her description of her suicide attempts.
The tapes were in the possession of the Princess during her lifetime;
however, after her death, her butler took possession, and after numerous
legal wranglings, they were given to the Princess's voice coach, who
had originally filmed them. These tapes have not been broadcast in the
Starting in the mid-to-late 1980s, the Princess of Wales became well
known for her support of charity projects, and is credited with considerable
influence for her campaigns against the use of landmines and helping
the victims of AIDS.
In April 1987, the
Princess of Wales was the first high-profile celebrity to be photographed
knowingly touching a person infected with the HIV virus. Her contribution
to changing the public opinion of AIDS sufferers was summarised in December
2001 by Bill Clinton at the 'Diana, Princess of Wales Lecture on AIDS',
when he said:
In 1987, when so
many still believed that AIDS could be contracted through casual contact,
Princess Diana sat on the sickbed of a man with AIDS and held his hand.
She showed the world that people with AIDS deserve no isolation, but
compassion and kindness. It helped change world opinion, and gave hope
to people with AIDS with an outcome of saved lives of people at risk.
Princess Diana also made clandestine visits to show kindness to terminally
ill aids patients. According to nurses, she would turn up unannounced,
for example, at the Mildmay Hospice in London, with specific instructions
that these visits were to be concealed from the media.
Perhaps her most
widely publicised charity appearance was her visit to Angola in January
1997, when, serving as an International Red Cross VIP volunteer ,
she visited landmine survivors in hospitals, toured de-mining projects
run by the HALO Trust, and attended mine awareness education classes
about the dangers of mines immediately surrounding homes and villages.
The pictures of
Diana touring a minefield, in a ballistic helmet and flak jacket, were
seen worldwide. (In fact, mine-clearance experts had already cleared
the pre-planned walk that Diana took wearing the protective equipment.)
In August that year, she visited Bosnia with the Landmine Survivors
Network. Her interest in landmines was focused on the injuries they
create, often to children, long after the conflict has finished.
She is widely acclaimed
for her influence on the signing by the governments of the UK and other
nations of the Ottawa Treaty in December 1997, after her death, which
created an international ban on the use of anti-personnel landmines.
Introducing the Second Reading of the Landmines Bill 1998 to the British
House of Commons, the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, paid tribute to
Diana's work on landmines:
All Honourable Members
will be aware from their postbags of the immense contribution made by
Diana, Princess of Wales to bringing home to many of our constituents
the human costs of landmines. The best way in which to record our appreciation
of her work, and the work of NGOs that have campaigned against landmines,
is to pass the Bill, and to pave the way towards a global ban on landmines.
As of January 2005, Diana's legacy on landmines remained unfulfilled.
The United Nations appealed to the nations which produced and stockpiled
the largest numbers of landmines (China, India, North Korea, Pakistan,
Russia and the United States) to sign the Ottawa Treaty forbidding their
production and use, for which Diana had campaigned. Carol Bellamy, Executive
Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that landmines
remained "a deadly attraction for children, whose innate curiosity
and need for play often lure them directly into harm's way". 
The Flame of Liberty, which sits above the entrance to the Paris tunnel
in which Diana died. The public fly-posted the base with commemorative
material for several years. This material has since been removed by
the French authorities.On 31 August 1997 Diana was involved in a car
accident in the Pont de l'Alma road tunnel in Paris, along with her
friend and lover Dodi Fayed, and their driver Henri Paul. Fayed's bodyguard
Trevor Rees-Jones is the only person who survived the wreckage.
Prior to her marriage,
much research was done into Diana's lineage by genealogists. It was
much publicized that her ancestry included links to individuals such
as Hollywood screen legend Humphrey Bogart (who was her 7th cousin),
and poet Edmund Spenser, the author of The Faerie Queen . Actor Oliver
Platt is more closely related; both he and Diana, Princess of Wales
are descendants of Frances Work, a late 19th-century American heiress
who was briefly the wife of the Hon. James Burke Roche, later 3rd Baron
On July 1, 1961
in Norfolk, the Honorable Diana Frances Spencer was born. When her father,
the former Viscount Althorp, became the 8th Earl Spencer upon his own
father's death in 1975, and Diana's title became Lady Diana Spencer.
Her mother was the Honorable Mrs. Shand-Kydd, daughter of the 4th Baron
Diana had two elder sisters Sarah (born 1955), Jane (born 1957) and
a younger brother Charles (born 1964). Her parents, who had married
in 1954, separated in 1967 and the marriage was dissolved in 1969. Earl
Spencer later married Raine, Countess of Dartmouth in 1976. It is thought
that the failure of her parent's marriage made Diana determined that
when she married, it would be forever.
After the break-up
of their parents, Diana and her siblings continued to live with their
father at Park House, Sandringham, until 1975 when the family moved
to the Spencer family seat at Althorp (a stately house dating from 1508)
in Northamptonshire, in the English Midlands.
Lady Diana's education began at a preparatory school, Riddlesworth Hall
in Norfolk, and then in 1974 went as a boarder to West Heath, near Sevenoaks,
Although she never
excelled academically, Diana showed a particular talent for domestic
science and music, and she received an award for her service to her
school and classmates. Upon leaving West Heath in 1977, Diana went to
the finishing school Institut Alpin Videmanette in Rougemont, Switzerland.
The following year she moved to a flat in Coleherne Court, London where
she worked for a short time as a nanny, governess, and kindergarten
The romance with Charles began in 1980, although the couple had been
neighbors at Sandringham for many years and their families knew each
On February 6, 1981,
Prince Charles proposed to Diana Spencer and the engagement was officially
announced on February 24.
The entire country
waited in anticipation for the big day. Diana and Charles exchanged
vows at St Paul's Cathedral in London on July 29, 1981. The ceremony
drew a global television and radio audience estimated at around 1,000
million people, and hundreds of thousands of people packed London streets
to catch a glimpse of the happy couple.
Diana wore a silk
taffeta dress with a 25-foot train designed by the Emanuels, her veil
was held in place by the Spencer family diamond tiara, and she carried
a bouquet of gardenias, lilies-of-the-valley, white freesia, golden
roses, white orchids, and stephanotis.
During their honeymoon, the Prince and Princess of Wales first went
to the Mountbatten family home at Broadlands, Hampshire, before flying
to Gibraltar to join the Royal Yacht HMS BRITANNIA for a cruise through
the Mediterranean to Egypt. The newly weds made their principal home
at Highgrove House in Gloucestershire, and shared an apartment in Kensington
The royal couple soon wanted to have children and on 21st June 1982,
Prince William Arthur Philip Louis was born and Prince Henry (Harry)
Charles Albert David on 15th September 1984, both at St Mary's Hospital,
Paddington, in London.
Ten years after
the birth of their first son, it was announced that the Prince and Princess
of Wales had agreed to separate and take joint responsibility for the
upbringing of their children. The Princess continued to live in Kensington
Palace, while the Prince was based at St James's Palace and continued
to live at Highgrove. In 1995, Princess Diana gave an extraordinary
BBC television interview in which she admitted her bulimia, adultery,
and suggested that the Royal Family were uncaring. The couple divorced
the following year and it was agreed that the Princess was to be known
as Diana, Princess of Wales, without the style of 'Her Royal Highness'.