Diana was born into an aristocratic English family with royal ancestry as The Honourable Diana Spencer. She was the fourth child of John Spencer, Viscount Althorp and his first wife, the Honourable 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 seen 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 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 considerable following her death in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 199
Diana was born at 7:45 PM on 1 July 1961, in Park House, Sandringham, Norfolk. She was the fourth of five children of Viscount and Viscountess Althorp. The Spencers are one of Britain’s oldest and most important families, closely allied with the Royal Family for several generations. The Spencers were hoping for a boy to carry on the family line, and 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 career
In 1968, Diana was sent to Riddlesworth Hall, 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.
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 worked as a hostess at parties. Diana also spent time working as a nanny for an American family living in London.
Marriage to the Prince of Wales
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 wedding
Their engagement became official on 24 February 1981, after Lady Diana selected a large £30,000 ring (£94,800 in today’s terms) consisting of 14 solitaire diamonds elegantly 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 jewellers Garrard but, unusual for 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 jewellers 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. Then she lived at Buckingham Palace until wedding. Her first public appearance with Prince Charles was in a charity gala in March 1981.
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.
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.7.