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 British family with royal ancestry as The Honourable Diana Frances Spencer. She was the fourth child of John Spencer, Viscount Althorp and the Honourable Frances Ruth Roche, the daughter of British aristocrat the 4th Baron Fermoy. After her parents’ divorce, she was raised in Park House, which was situated near to the Sandringham estate, and was educated in England and Switzerland. Diana became Lady Diana Spencer after her father later inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975. She became a public figure with the announcement of her engagement o the heir to the throne, His Royal Highness, Charles, Prince of Wales.
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, Diana 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 for the remainder of her lifetime. After her marriage, she undertook a variety of public engagements. As the Princess of Wales, Diana assisted the Prince of Wales on his official duties. She was also the patron, president and a member of numerous charities and organisations. 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 very extensive after her death in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997.
Diana was born on 1 July 1961, in Park House, Sandringham, Norfolk,and was the fourth of five children of Viscount and Viscountess Althorp. The Spencers have been 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. Diana 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, in which her mother later had an affair with Peter Shand Kydd. In his book, Morton 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. During Christmas holidays, however, Lord Althorp refused to let Lady Althorp to return to London with Diana. Shortly afterwards, Lord Althorp won custody of Diana with support from his former mother-in-law, Ruth Roche, Baroness 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 after her father later inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975. Despite her unpopularity with Diana, Lady Darmouth married Lord Spencer at Caxton Hall, London in 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 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 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.
Their 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 jewellers 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 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. 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.
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.
The Princess of Wales
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 wedding, the Queen extended Diana visible tokens of membership in the Royal Family; she lent the Princess a tiara and granted her the badge of the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II.
After the wedding, 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. 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). 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.
Charity Work and Patronage
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. She carried out 191 official engagements in 1988 and 397 in 1991.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 a 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.
The Princess of Wales was interviewed for the BBC current affairs show Panorama by journalist Martin Bashir; the interview was broadcast on 20 November 1995. Of her relationship with Hewitt, the Princess said to Bashir, “Yes, I adored him. Yes, I was in love with him. But I was very let down [by him].” Referring to her husband’s affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, she said, “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Of herself, she said, “I’d like to be a queen of people’s hearts.” On the Prince of Wales’ suitability for kingship, she stated, “Because I know the character I would think that the top job, as I call it, would bring enormous limitations to him, and I don’t know whether he could adapt to that.”
In December 1995, as a direct result of the Princess’s Panorama interview, the Queen asked the Prince and Princess of Wales for “an early divorce”, sending letters to them. On 20 December 1995, Buckingham Palace publicly announced the Queen had sent letters to the Prince and Princess of Wales advising them to divorce. The Queen’s move was backed by the Prime Minister and by senior Privy Counsellors, and, according to the BBC, was decided after two weeks of talks. Prince Charles formally agreed to divorce in a written statement soon after. In February 1996, the Princess announced her agreement after negotiations with the Prince and representatives of the Queen, irritating Buckingham Palace by issuing her own announcement of a divorce agreement and its terms.
The divorce was finalised on 28 August 1996. Diana received a lump sum settlement of around £17 million along with a clause standard in royal divorces preventing her from discussing the details. Days before the decree absolute of divorce, Letters Patent were issued with general rules to regulate royal titles after divorce. In accordance, as she was no longer married to the Prince of Wales, Diana lost the style Her Royal Highness and instead was styled Diana, Princess of Wales. As the mother of the prince expected to one day ascend the thrones, she was accorded the same precedence she enjoyed during her marriage. Buckingham Palace stated the Princess of Wales was still a member of the Royal Family, as she was the mother of the second and third in line to the throne.
From her engagement to the Prince of Wales in 1981 until her death in 1997, Diana was a major presence on the world stage, often described as the “world’s most photographed woman” (although other sources split this title between her and Grace Kelly). She was noted for her compassion, style, charisma and high-profile charity work, as well as her difficult marriage to the Prince of Wales. Her peak popularity rate in the United Kingdom between 1981 and 2012 was 47%.
- In 1999, TIME named Diana one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century. In 2002, Diana was ranked 3rd on the BBC’s poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, outranking The Queen and other British Monarchs.
- In 2007, Tina Brown wrote a biography about Diana as “restless and demanding … obsessed with her public image” and also a “spiteful, manipulative, media-savvy neurotic”. Brown also claims Diana married Charles for his power and had a romantic relationship with Dodi Fayed to anger the royal family, with no intention of marrying him.
- In 2013, a previously unseen photograph of the then already officially engaged Diana was put up for auction. The picture belonged to the Daily Mirror newspaper, and has “Not to be published” written on it. In it, a young Diana lies comfortably in the lap of an unidentified man.
- In February 2013, OCAD University in Toronto, Canada, announced that its new arts centre would be named after her, Princess of Wales Visual Arts Centre, a 25,000 square foot facility.
- Princess Diana Drive was named in her memory in Trenton, New Jersey, United States.
Diana was of English and remote German, Irish, Scottish and British-American descent. She was born into the British noble Spencer family, different branches of which currently hold the titles of Duke of Marlborough, Earl Spencer and Viscount Churchill. The Spencers claimed to have descended from a cadet branch of the powerful medieval Despenser family, but its validity is still being questioned. Diana’s great-grandmother was Margaret Baring, a member of the German-British Baring family of bankers and the daughter of Edward Baring, 1st Baron Revelstoke. Through Adelaide Seymour, she is a descendant of Britain’s first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford and his daughter Maria, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh. Diana’s distant noble ancestors include John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough and Prince of Mindelheim and his wife Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. Through her grandmother, Lady Cynthia Hamilton, Diana is a distant relative of the Dukes of Abercorn. She is also a distant relative of the dukes of Bedford, Richmond, Devonshire, Gordon and most of the members of the British aristocracy. Diana’s American roots come from her great-grandmother Frances Ellen Work, daughter of wealthy American stockbroker Franklin H. Work from Ohio, who was married to her great-grandfather James Roche, 3rd Baron Fermoy.
Diana’s fourth great-grandmother in her direct maternal line, Eliza Kewark, whose daughter was fathered by Theodore Forbes, is variously described in contemporary documents as “a dark-skinned native woman”, “an Armenian woman from Bombay” and “Mrs. Forbesian”. Genealogist William Addams Reitwiesner assumed she was Armenian. In June 2013, BritainsDNA announced that genealogical DNA tests on two of Diana’s distant cousins in the same direct maternal line confirm that Eliza Kewark was of Indian descent, via her direct maternal line. Diana’s ancestry also connects her with most of Europe’s royal houses. Diana is descended from the House of Stuart through Charles II’s illegitimate sons Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Grafton and Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond, and from James II’s daughter, Henrietta FitzJames, Countess of Newcastle, an ancestry she shares with the current Dukes of Alba. From the House of Stuart, Diana is a descendant of the House of Bourbon from the line Henry IV of France and of the House of Medici from the line of Marie de’ Medici. She is also a descendant of powerful Italian noble families such as that of the House of Sforza who ruled as the Dukes of Milan from the line of Caterina Sforza, Countess of Forlì.
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