The Untold Story of the Most Famous Royal, Princess Diana
Diana Frances Spencer grew up as a member of the British royal family. She was married to Prince Charles and mother to Prince William and Prince Harry. She was known as 'The People's Princess" and was loved around the world. The royal marriage was anything but a fairytale and ended in divorce. Princess Diana broke down barriers and was celebrated for her charity work. Diana wanted her children to experience some normalcy and made sure they did. Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in a Paris tunnel in 1997, but her legacy has had a deep impact on the royal family and British society.
1961, Diana Frances Spencer Born
Diana Frances Spencer was born in 1961 in Sandringham, Norfolk, and was the fourth child of John Spencer and Frances Spencer. Her parents' titles were Viscount Althorp and Viscountess Althorp. The family had been closely allied with the British royal family for several generations, so Diana grew up close to the royal family.
Diana's grandmothers had served as ladies-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, and she grew up in Park House, owned by Queen Elizabeth II. Princess Diana had two sisters and one brother.
The royal family frequently vacationed near where Diana grew up, and she often played with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. When Diana was seven years old, her parents divorced, and she lived with her father and stepmother. She described her childhood as very unhappy and very unstable.
She became Lady Diana when her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975, and they moved to Althorp. Diana was initially homeschooled and then went to an all-girls boarding school when she was nine years old.
1973, West Heath Girls' School
In 1973, Lady Diana joined her sisters at West Heath Girls' School in Kent. She did not shine academically, but she did show a talent for music, specifically being a pianist, and she excelled in swimming and diving. She studied ballet and tap dance and was recognized with an award for her outstanding community spirit.
Diana left West Heath when she was sixteen, and her brother recalls her as being very shy there. She then attended Institut Alpin Videmanette for one term and then returned to London and shared her mother's flat with two school friends.
While living in London, Diana took a series of low-paying jobs as a dance instructor for youth and as a pre-school assistant. She also did some cleaning work for her sister Sarah and some friends and acted as a hostess at parties.
Diana worked for the Robertson family as their nanny and as a nursery teacher's assistant at the Young England School. On her eighteenth birthday, her mother bought her a flat in Earl's Court, where she lived with three flatmates until 1981. It was during this time that things got serious with Prince Charles.
1977, Diana And Prince Charles Meet For The First Time
In November 1977, Prince Charles was dating Diana's older sister, Sarah. Sarah introduced the two when Diana was sixteen, and she thought upon meeting him was, "God, what a sad man." Prince Charles was twelve years older than Diana, but he stated he was intrigued by her.
They met at the Spencer family home, where Charles was visiting Althorp for a hunting trip. Diana's sister said she wouldn't marry Charles 'if he were the dustman or the King of England.' The couple didn't start dating for a few years after that initial meeting.
1980, Diana Visits Balmoral
In 1980, Diana visited Balmoral Castle, and before going, her grandmother told her this would be the most important weekend of her life. It is known as the test to see if the royal family will accept you or not. Balmoral is where the royal family goes on vacation to fish, ride horses, hunt, picnic, and barbecue.
Diana fit right in with the Windsors, and according to Charles, she passed the test with flying colors. After that weekend, the royal family encouraged Charles to marry Diana. This was technically Diana and Charles' third date.
1980, Media Begins It's Chase
In 1980, when Diana started dating Prince Charles, the media began swarming her apartment and following her wherever she went. After her trip to Balmoral, the photographers really started following her. This was a big adjustment for Diana, who was really, very shy.
By the time she and Prince Charles were engaged in 1981, she was a celebrity. Diana remained a media magnet for the rest of her life, and it ultimately played a large role in her early death.
1981, Prince Charles Agrees To Propose To Diana
The proposal was brief and not the romantic story people were hoping for. The couple were in the nursery at Windsor Castel when he simply asked her to marry him. She giggled in that shy way that Diana giggled and stated she thought it might have been a joke.
Prince Charles was very serious and emphasized to her that she would one day be Queen. Diana accepted the proposal and told him that she loved him. Diana stated in an interview that she accepted the proposal, but there was a small voice in her head telling her not to.
1981, Announce Engagement
On February 24, 1981, Prince Charles and Lady Diana announced their engagement after only dating for six months. During the interview, Charles stated that he was delighted and amazed that Diana was prepared to take him on, and Diana described her husband-to-be as pretty amazing.
When asked if the couple were in love, Diana said, "Of course," and Charles said, "Whatever in love means." Diana said that moment traumatized her. Diana's engagement ring was the famous 12-karat oval blue sapphire encircled by a halo of diamonds and set in 18-karat white gold.
1981, First Post-Engagement Event
Diana described her first royal event after becoming engaged as horrendous. They attended a gala at the Royal Opera House, and the black strapless gown she wore caught the public's attention. She stated she didn't know all of the rules and was terrified at that first event.
Princess Grace took Diana aside and listened as she poured her heart out and was a shoulder to lean on. She joked and said, "Don't worry, it will get a lot worse." It turns out that comment was exactly the truth for Diana.
1981, Royal Wedding
On July 29, 1981, the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana took place at St Paul's Cathedral in London. It was a traditional Church of England wedding service with 3,500 guests, while two million spectators lined the route of Diana's procession and millions more watched on television.
The cost of the wedding was $48 million, and Diana's wedding dress was made of ivory silk taffeta, decorated with hand embroidery, sequins, lace, and 10,000 pearls. The dress had a twenty-five-foot train, and she wore her family's heirloom tiara. Charles wore his full-dress naval commander uniform. The couple rode in the state carriage and made the traditional appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
The newlyweds traveled to Broadlands on their wedding night and spent three days there. They flew to Gibraltar and boarded the Royal Yacht Britannia for an eleven-day cruise. Then they flew to Scotland to meet up with the rest of the royal family at Balmoral Castle.
Diana was already questioning Charles' relationship with Camilla because she noticed he was wearing cufflinks from Camilla and some photos of Camilla had fallen out of Charles' diary. However, she put on a happy face for the cameras.
1982, Princess Diana Throws Herself Down The Stairs
Princess Diana was one of the most adored princesses of all time, but yet, she felt so unbelievably alone. She stated Charles always ignored her, and she had recently learned that he was having an affair with Camilla. She said in an interview that she became so desperate that when she was four months pregnant with William, she threw herself down the stairs.
She was trying to get her husband's attention and for him to listen to her. The Queen came out frightened when she saw Diana. Despite the bruises, Charles brushed them off and just dismissed it all.
1982, Prince William Born
Princess Diana gave birth to Prince William in 1982 at St. Mary's Hospital. He was born at seven pounds and was born very healthy. Charles had kept vigil at Diana's bedside in the hospital until his son was born.
Thousands of well-wishers and media stood outside the hospital waiting for the birth and to catch a glimpse. The royal baby, Prince William is second in line for King. His full name is William Arthur Philip Louis.
1983, First Royal Tour To Australia and New Zealand
Princess Diana took her first royal tour abroad in 1983, and nine-month-old William accompanied Charles and Diana. They spent more than forty days in Australia and New Zealand. Until that point, the royal custom for overseas trips was to leave the children at home, but Diana refused to leave her young son behind.
For most of the trip, Prince William stayed with his nanny at Woomargama Station. The couple was at odds most of the trip, and Prince Charles did not like Diana's popularity.
1984, Prince Harry Born
Henry Charles Albert David was born in 1984 in the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in London. Prince Charles had been hoping for a girl, so when Prince Harry was born, Charles said, "Oh God, it's a boy. And he's even got red hair."
Charles stated it was a joke, but it broke Diana's heart, and for her, that was the beginning of the end of their marriage. Diana came from a family of redheads, so that comment was a double slap to her. Charles again said later, "We were so disappointed, we thought it would be a girl."
1984, Diana Visits A Psychic
Diana met Penny Thornton in 1984, and Penny was her go-to-astrologer. They became very close over the years, and Penny told Diana that she would never be Queen, which was the truth. Diana consulted with astrologers about her future as well as healers and psychics.
She was also told she would get out of the marriage. Diana herself predicted how she would die long before she died. Princess Diana had hoped she would hear better things about her future.
1995, A Grand Tour of Italy
Prince Charles and Princess Diana went on an Italian tour in 1995. The couple took a gondola ride while visiting Venice. Some of the tour highlights were attending a performance of Puccini's opera and a stay in La Pietra.
More highlights were the fifteenth-century Florentine villa of the British historian, meetings with President Sandro Pertini, and an audience with Pope John Paul II. Their visit was the first major royal visit in Italy since Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip's visit in 1980.
1985, Princess Diana Dances With John Travolta
One of Diana's most iconic moments was when she danced with John Travolta at the White House. Diana and Charles were on their official trip to the United States in 1985 and were invited by President Reagan to a gala dinner at the White House.
"I put my hand in the middle of her back, brought her hand down so that it wouldn't be high, and gave her the confidence that we would do just fine." ----- John Travolta. Princess Diana later stated that it was one of the highlights of her North American tour.
1985, Princess Diana Performs a Ballet Dance At The Royal Opera House
In December of 1985, at London's Royal Opera House for the annual show for Friends of Covent Garden, there is usually a surprise guest, and that year it was Princess Diana. It was a surprise for her husband, Prince Charles; she appeared on stage with Wayne Sleep and danced a short contemporary piece to "Uptown Girl."
At the end of the performance, Charles did not stand and didn't look pleased. Ballet was one of Diana's great loves, and as a child, she took ballet and tap lessons.
1986, Prince Charles and Camilla Start Affair
Prince Charles and Camilla met in 1971 at a polo match and dated for about one year. They went on to marry others; Camilla married Andrew Bowles, and Charles married Diana. Charles and Camilla rekindled their relationship and started having an affair in 1986 while both were still married.
Diana was heartbroken and told Morton, "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded." She also stated she tried to confront Camilla on the affair, but it lead nowhere.
1987, Princess Diana Shakes An HIV Patient's Hand
In the 1980s, the world was terrified of HIV/AIDS. In 1987, Princess Diana opened the UK's first HIV/AIDS unit at London Middlesex Hospital. She made headlines for shaking the hand of a man suffering from AIDS without gloves on.
She showed the world that this was a condition that needed compassion and understanding, not fear and ignorance. She showed everyone that the illness isn't passed from person to person by touch.
1989, Princess Diana Confronts Prince Charles And Camilla On Affair
Princess Diana knew about the affair between Prince Charles and Camilla and wanted them to know it. While Charles and Camilla were chatting with another friend, Diana asked to have a moment alone with Camilla.
She told Camilla that she knew what was going on, and Camilla replied, "I don't know what you are talking about." Diana said to her that she knew what was going on and just wanted her to know that and told Camilla not to treat her like an idiot.
1991, Prince William Head Injury
In 1991, Prince William was struck on the head with a golf club while playing at his boarding school and was rushed to the hospital. He was cut but not knocked out and was taken for observation and treatment.
Diana remained at his bedside the entire time; however, Charles visited but then left the hospital to attend a private engagement. The incident was just an accident, and there would be no long-term injury. Diana was not happy with Charles for leaving and going to an event when his son was in the hospital.
1991, Diana Cut Summer Holiday Short For Dying Friend Adrian Ward-Jackson
In 1991, Princess Diana cut short her annual royal family summer holiday at Balmoral. She needed to be at the bedside of longtime friend Adrain Ward-Jackson, who was dying of AIDS. Diana had been quietly spending time with him for over a year and even brought Prince William to meet him.
Adrian passed away two days after Diana got there, but she spent those two days sitting vigil with him. His funeral was days later, and Princess Diana was in attendance and defied royal custom in doing so.
1992, Princess Diana's Explosive Biography
Andrew Morton wrote the blockbuster biography, Diana: Her True Story---In Her Own Words. Princess Diana wanted to make sure the British public heard her side of the story, so she recorded her thoughts and secrets onto tapes and then had her friend, Dr. James Colthurst, deliver them by bicycle. She also gave permission for her closest confidantes to talk to Morton for the book.
Initially, it was a secret that Diana was involved in the book, but Morton revealed it after her death. "Obviously, we are preparing for the volcano to erupt, and I do feel better equipped to cope with whatever comes our way. Thank you for your belief in me and for taking the trouble to understand this mind. It's such a relief not to be on my own anymore and that it's okay to be me." ----- Princess Diana
1992, Diana's Father Died
Earl Spencer, Princess Diana's father, died in 1992 at the age of 68 from a heart attack. He had been in the hospital for pneumonia, and Diana, along with Prince William, went and saw him before they left for Austria. The boys stayed in Austria while Diana and Charles went back to the UK.
Diana was heartbroken as she was told to go on her trip because her father was doing good and was expected to make a full recovery. Princess Diana, Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince Harry all attended the funeral.
1992, Squidgygate Tapes
In 1992, the squidgygate tapes surfaced and were one of Princess Diana's greatest scandals. It all began on New Year's Eve in 1989 when Diana had a phone call with James Gilbey while she was at Sandringham. The call ended up being recorded, which Diana was unaware of.
At first, their conversations were mostly two friends catching up, but things got more intimate between the couple as the conversation progressed. Gilbey was calling Diana 'darling' and 'squidgey.' At one point, Diana makes a comment, "Bloody hell, the things I have done for the f--king family." Then the pair began blowing each other kisses. The Enquirer broke the story in 1992, and the entire transcript was published all over the world.
1992, Charles and Diana Separate
At the end of 1992, it was announced that Prince Charles and Princess Diana were separating "amicably." The report came after several years of speculation. It was evident to everyone that the fairytale couple had grown apart; however, they continued to carry out their royal duties.
Princess Diana wanted to stay and try to make their marriage work, but she wasn't given a choice. They both had affairs and couldn't get along, but Diana didn't want her children to go through what she went through as a child when her parents split up.
1993, Camillagate Tapes
In 1993, the Camillagate tapes were published by media outlets. The conversation on the tapes was between Prince Charles and Camilla and was from 1989 when Prince Charles was still married to Princess Diana. A radio enthusiast recorded the conversation, and it started with them talking about someone else but quickly turned intimate.
The conversation went on for about six minutes, and you can hear them saying I love you to each other towards the end. Later, Charles admitted to the affair after he said the marriage had become irretrievably broken down.
1993, Diana Plans To Retire From Public Life
On Friday, December 3, 1993, Diana gave a speech stating she was planning to retire from public life. The speech was made at a charity lunch, and she appealed for time and space after more than a decade in the spotlight.
She gave a five-minute speech where she spoke of the unrelenting media exposure and how she would continue to support a small number of charities but that her priority was her children. She was pleased that she did this on her own and could start rebuilding her private life.
1994, Prince Charles Admits to Affair in Documentary
In 1994, Prince Charles gave an interview and was questioned by journalist Jonathan Dimbleby. When asked if he tried to be faithful and honorable, he replied yes, absolutely. He stated he was faithful until his marriage to Diana became irretrievably broken down.
Prince Charles' reply caused many issues within the royal family, and they were horrified by the reaction to Charles' interview. They asked why he would admit to infidelity, and he said his private secretary made him do it.
1994, The Revenge Dress
In 1994, Diana wore a form-fitting, off-the-shoulder chiffon cocktail dress to Vanity Fair's annual fundraising gala. The dress became known as the revenge dress because that same night was Prince Charles' interview where he admitted to being unfaithful to Diana.
1995, Dr. Hasnat Khan
Princess Diana met Dr. Hasnat Khan while visiting the hospital with a friend in 1995, and the first thing that attracted Diana was that he paid almost no attention to her. The couple dated but avoided being photographed and kept their relationship private.
Diana had stated that she had found her peace and that he gave her all the things she needed. They dated for eighteen months but split up the summer before her death. They broke up because he didn't want the publicity he knew being associated with Diana would inevitably bring. Diana called Dr. Khan the love of her life.
1995, Diana Appears on BBC1 Panorama For Interview
In 1995, Princess Diana gave her famous interview with Martin Bashir. The interview was watched by nearly 23 million viewers and was held in Diana's sitting room in Kensington Palace.
She spoke openly of her marriage, the media's constant presence, self-harming, and bulimic issues. She stated it was not her wish to divorce but did not think she would ever be Queen. She also felt like the royal family saw her as a threat.
1996, Divorce Announced
In 1996, after four years of separation, Prince Charles and Princess Diana were officially divorced. Diana had to relinquish the title of "Her Royal Highness" and any future claims to the British throne but was allowed to keep her title of "Princess of Wales."
Diana After Divorce
After the divorce, William and Harry spent equal time with Diana and Charles. Despite no longer being a royal, Diana continued to carry out a lot of humanitarian work and was allowed to use the royal family's private jet if she needed to travel.
Diana dated other men and tried to live her life but was still followed by the media everywhere she went. Diana just craved some normalcy for her and her boys. Unfortunately, we never got to see what Diana would have done with her life because she was tragically killed in a car crash in 1997.
1997, Diana Walks Through A Live Minefield
In January 1997, Diana called for an international ban on landmines when she was visiting Angola, where she received global attention by walking through a live minefield. Diana was photographed wearing protective clothing and equipment, and she met with landmine survivors.
Diana's trip to the minefields is credited with boosting the campaign for a global landmine treaty signed later that year. "If my visit has contributed in any way at all in highlighting this terrible issue, then my deepest wish will have been fulfilled." ---- Princess Diana
1997, Cover of Vanity Fair
In 1997, Princess Diana was featured in Vanity Fair, and during the photoshoot, she really got into it. She was laughing and tossing her head back and throwing off the most incredibly languid looks. She even wanted to learn the catwalk.
In the article, it talks about how she is reborn, free to be herself. She also discusses auctioning off her dresses for charity. For the magazine photos, she wanted new hair and new makeup for the new her. She stated that sitting for Mario was enormous fun, and she hoped her photographs would show that.
1997, Diana's Dresses Auctioned For Charity
In 1997, Diana auctioned off seventy-nine cocktail and evening dresses at Christie's Auction in Manhattan. All of the dresses belonged to Diana, and most were worn during her time as a member of the royal family. She raised $3.25 million from her dresses for cancer and AIDS charities.
There were more than 1,100 people in attendance, and many were first-time bidders. Diana wanted the auction in New York, where there is more money and an enduring fascination with royalty.
1997, Diana's Relationship Dodi Fayed
Diana and Dodi Fayed only dated for a few months before their deaths and even spent the holiday on his yacht in the South of France with Diana's sons. Diana's close friends stated she was just having fun and had no intention of marriage any time soon.
There were reports that Dodi wanted to ask her to marry him but no proof. The couple were out together for dinner and spending the evening with each other when it all came to an abrupt end when their car crashed in a Paris tunnel.
1997, Princess Diana Died
On August 30, 1997, Diana was with Dodi Fayed, and they left for the apartment with Trevor-Rees-Jones in the front passenger seat, and Henri Paul was driving. None of the passengers were wearing seat belts, and the driver lost control of the vehicle at the tunnel entrance, and they crashed head-on with the thirteenth pillar.
The car was traveling at 65 mph, and when help arrived, Diana was conscious and stated, "Oh my God." Diana did not have any visible injuries but was in shock and went into cardiac arrest, and although they got her heart beating again, her injuries were too extensive. She was pronounced dead in the early morning hours of August 31. Dodi and the driver, who was 2.2 times the legal limit, both died on the scene. The only survivor was Trevor-Rees-Jones.
1997, Princess Diana's Funeral
Princess Diana's funeral was held at Westminster Abbey. The funeral drew an estimated three million mourners in London, and crowds watched and listened to proceedings on large outdoor screens and speakers. The ceremony was broadcast to 200 countries and forty-four languages. After the ceremony, Diana's coffin was driven to Althorp in a Daimler hearse as mourners threw flowers at the funeral procession almost the entire way.
Behind Diana's hearse were Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Charles, Charles Spencer, and Prince Philip. They walked behind the hearse the entire length to the burial site. The boys did not want to but were told they needed to and were also told not to cry. In a private ceremony, Diana was buried on an island in the middle of a lake called The Oval at the Pleasure Garden at Althorp.
1997, Princess Diana's Burial
Princess Diana is buried on her childhood grounds at Althorp in North Hampshire, England, on an island in the center of a lake called Round Oval. Once a year, visitors can visit a shrine near the island but are never allowed on the island itself.
The island is near an arboretum containing trees planted by Prince William, Prince Harry, and Princess Diana. Diana's burial was private, and only immediate family and a close friend were present. The Spencer family and staff take care of Diana's burial site.
Princess Diana's Charity Work
Princess Diana was so much more than a style icon or a princess. She was a prominent philanthropic force and worked tirelessly on behalf of charities around the world. She changed the face of the British monarchy by showing how they could be in touch with the public, and she led a campaign for a worldwide ban on landmines.
She changed the world's perception of HIV and AIDS and raised leprosy awareness; she showed that these illnesses couldn't be passed by simply touching someone with the disease. She made regular visits to homeless centers, reached out to children, and was an avid supporter of the arts. Princess Diana used her fame for good.
Diana: The People's Princess
Diana: A Tribute to the People's Princess is a television film paying tribute to Princess Diana. The film was released in 1998 and is a story of her final year, including her love for charity work, relationships, and William and Harry until her tragic death.
There have been many films released about Princess Diana, but all she wanted to be was the people's princess and to live her life. She was tragically killed at only thirty-six years old, and her children were still so young.
Why Diana Made A Great Princess
Princess Diana made a great princess because she was relatable. She made people feel like they knew her and that she was a friend. She cared and really took the time to listen to people. She said what was on her mind and took on causes that the royal family would not normally take on.
She would talk to people living under bridges and was never afraid to shake hands with anyone. She also turned the spotlight on the paparazzi and put substance over style. Diana inspired her sons to keep her legacy and her laughter alive.
William & Harry
Princess Diana was known for her love for her boys. She showered the boys with affection and always made them her top priority. She was mischievous and playful and often encouraged her kids' sense of adventure. Diana tried her hardest to give both William and Harry happy childhoods and wasn't afraid to make her own decisions on how to raise her children.
She was a hands-on mom, participated in school functions, loved one-on-one bonding, brought her kids on royal trips, and wanted her children to have as normal of a childhood as possible.
Princess Diana became a fashion icon whose style is so emulated and so loved. Diana's confident demeanor in unique gowns made her one of the most-photographed women in the world. She developed a very glamorous regal style, and she had an uncanny sense of how her clothing might enhance her physical presence.
She didn't care to wear gloves because she enjoyed being able to hold people's hands. Diana was a fast learner when it came to coming up with an outfit for her new royal role in the public eye.