Diana, Princess of Wales

From New World Encyclopedia
(Redirected from Princess Diana)

Diana, Princess of Wales
Spouse HRH Charles, Prince of Wales
Prince William of Wales
Prince Henry of Wales
Full name
Diana Frances Mountbatten-Windsor
Diana, Princess of Wales
HRH The Princess of Wales
Lady Diana Spencer
The Honorable Diana Spencer
Royal House House of Windsor
Father Edward Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer
Mother Frances Shand Kydd, Frances, Viscountess Althorp
Born July 1, 1961
Park House, Sandringham
St. Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham
Died August 31, 1997
Paris, France
Buried September 5, 1997
Althorp Park, Northampton, Northamptonshire
Occupation Charity

Diana, Princess of Wales (Diana Frances Mountbatten-Windsor, née Diana Spencer) (July 1, 1961—August 3, 1997) was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, and heir to the British throne. Her two sons, Prince William of Wales and Prince Henry of Wales are, respectively, second and third in line to the British throne.

An iconic presence on the world stage, Diana was beloved by her British subjects and admired the world round for her far-reaching charity work. She was pre-eminently the most admired and sought after celebrity of her time: a fashion icon, an image of feminine beauty, admired and emulated for involvement in AIDS issues, and the international campaign against land mines.

She was often referred to as the accessible princess and was the first known celebrity to be photographed touching a patient with AIDS. She appeared on the cover of People magazine more than any other person of her era. Ironically the hounding of Princess Diana by the press was a contributing factor in her tragic death in a car accident, when her driver sped away from a paparazzi car.

Early Life

I think I'm going to cut a very different path from everyone else.... I knew I was going somewhere different.—young Diana

Diana Frances Spencer was born as the youngest daughter of Edward Spencer, Viscount Althorp, and his first wife, Frances Spencer, Viscountess Althorp at Park House on the Sandringham estate. Partially American in ancestry—a great-grandmother was the American heiress Frances Work—she was also a descendant of King Charles I.

Diana’s parents divorced when she was around 13 years of age, a traumatic event for Diana and her siblings. A precipitating factor in the divorce was Diana’s mother, Lady Althorp's, affair with wallpaper heir and businessman Peter Shand Kydd which resulted in her losing custody of her children, Jane, Sarah, Diana and Charles. When Diana’s grandfather died, Albert Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer, in 1975, Diana's father became the 8th Earl Spencer, and she acquired the title of The Lady Diana Spencer. The family, minus its mother's presence, 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 The Spencer children’s adjustment to their new home and a new stepmother in a short period would prove to be a tumultuous time for them.

Diana attended school at West Heath Girls' School in Sevenoaks, Kent. Academics were not her strong suit and she reportedly failed all of her O-level examinations. Her extracurricular talents included singing, swimming and diving, and other sports. She loved ballet and was known to be an excellent dancer. In 1977, aged 16, she left West Heath and attended a finishing school in Rougemont, Switzerland. Although not trained towards a career or in the practicalities of a secular life, she followed the path of other young aristocracy who worked with children and learned domestic skills that prepared them for marriage. The young Diana could not have foreseen the challenges that awaited her in marriage given her nearly overnight entrance into royal life.

The Man who would be King

Prince Charles' numerous romances provided unending fodder for the press throughout his young adulthood. There was growing public consternation among royal watchers as to whether Charles would ever settle down and get on with the business of producing heirs. Nearing his mid-thirties, he was under increasing pressure to marry. Legally, the only requirement was that he could not marry a Roman Catholic; a member of the Church of England was preferred. His great-uncle, who he shared a close relationship with, Lord Mountbatten of Burma (assassinated in 1979) had advised him to marry a younger woman who would look up to him. In order to gain the approval of his family and their advisers, any potential bride was expected to have a royal or aristocratic background, as well as be Protestant and, preferably, a virgin. Diana seemed to meet all of these qualifications. That the future King was not held accountable for a different standard of pre-marital purity did not seem relevant at the time.

Diana was to meet her future husband while still a school girl and when he was dating her sister, Lady Sarah. Their romance began in earnest and furtively while she was an assistant at the "Young England Kindergarten" in Pimlico. 'Lady Diana's' picture was snapped there by photographer, John Minihan. In her simple teacher's ensemble she looked at once beguiling and unassuming. From that moment on, the young princess-to-be completely captured the attention of the British people who were anxiously awaiting Charles to marry. 'Lady Diana', who was remarkably photogenic and natural in front of the camera, would have her life forever altered.

During Diana and Charles' whirlwind courtship, one incident managed to cast a shadow: Charles' gift to friend Camilla Parker-Bowles, then married to Andrew Parker-Bowles, of an engraved bracelet. The bracelet, discovered by Diana four days before their nuptials, signaled the intimate feelings Charles had for another woman, one who would eventually become his second wife. The knowledge of this relationship put Diana and Charles marriage on uneven footing from the beginning. In retrospect, reflecting on this sad portent, Diana would ruefully comment, "From the beginning there were three of us...." (in the marriage.)

The Storybook Wedding

I had tremendous hopes in my heart.—Lady Diana Diana was the first Englishwoman to marry the heir to the throne since 1659, when Lady Anne Hyde married the Duke of York and Albany, the future King James II (although, unlike Charles, James was heir presumptive and not heir apparent). Upon her marriage, Diana became Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales and was ranked as the third most senior royal woman in the United Kingdom after the Queen and the Queen Mother. Although she would not be Queen by birth, but instead through marriage, she would be referred to as Queen Consort.

Diana's family, the Spencers, had been close to the British Royal Family for decades. Her maternal grandmother, Ruth, Lady Fermoy, was a longtime friend and a lady-in-waiting to the Queen Mother.

Buckingham Palace announced the engagement on February 24, 1981, to much fanfare and public expectation. The wedding took place in St Paul's Cathedral in London on Wednesday, July 29, 1981, before 3,500 invited guests and an estimated 1 billion television viewers around the world. Among other performers, the acclaimed New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa sang Handel's "Let the Bright Seraphim" during the wedding ceremony, at the request of Prince Charles. Diana and Charles' wedding ceremony, from the much talked about romantic wedding dress to the retinue of bridesmaids and flower girls, down to each decorous detail, captured the imagination of the public as no other modern royal event.

Marriage and Family Life

They mean everything to me. Princess Diana, mother of Will and Harry. The Prince and Princess of Wales had two children within three years of their marriage, Prince William of Wales on June 21, 1982, and Prince Henry of Wales September 15, 1984 (known more affectionately as Will and Harry).

If the birth of the heirs were a cause for national rejoicing and a boon to the marriage, their aftermath was a time of difficulty for Diana as she struggled through postpartum depression. Her problems with bulimia resurfaced as well. Her much ballyhooed "suicide attempts" were later acknowledged by her as half-hearted attempts to get the help she needed. Diana continued to adjust to her new role as wife, mother and royal icon. In the patriarchal tradition of the House of Windsor royal men were often known to be off hunting, riding, or attending to royal duties and Prince Charles was no exception. During this time many doctors were called upon to help Diana cope with some of the physical and emotional ailments that plagued her. Her best defense, however, proved to be her friends such as Sarah Ferguson, daughter of Prince Charles' polo manager, Major Ronald Ferguson. Sarah, later, in another highly publicized royal wedding, would marry Charles' brother Prince Andrew.

Diana, known to be a believer in the spiritual world, went so far as to consult with, on numerous occasions, astrologer Penny Thornton. A treasured book of Diana's, from which she received solace during this time, was The Prophet by Khalil Gibran.

Divorce: Under a Spotlight

In the mid-1980s, the mounting pressures from the press on Charles' and Diana's personal life left them with little privacy with which to work out their differences. Their disparate lives gave rise to friendships, alliances, and aired grievances on both sides. Diana's phone calls to long time friend James Gilbey were made embarrassingly public after they were recorded, purportedly by a private citizen, and published by British tabloids. This unwarranted violation of privacy burgeoned into a national scandal nicknamed Squidgygate and hastened the divorce of Charles—nearly unheard of for the heir to the throne—and Diana. It was this betrayal of trust that would increase the paranoia of those in Diana's camp that claimed her every movement was being monitored by the British government and royal family. These seeds of suspicion were also successfully sown through the various conspiracy theories that spawned after Diana's fatal car accident, leading to insinuations that the accident was actually a set up by British Intelligence.

The Prince and Princess of Wales were separated on December 9, 1992; their divorce was finalized on August 28, 1996. The Princess was required to relinquish the designation Her Royal Highness and instead was simply titled Diana, Princess of Wales. After the divorce, Buckingham Palace continued to maintain that Diana was officially a member of the Royal Family, since she was the mother of the second and third in line to the throne.

Charity Work

Someone's got to go out there and love people and show it. Diana, Princess of Wales

Despite the public scrutiny, Diana's growing disenfranchisement from the Royal family, and her personal struggles she continued forward with her charity work after her divorce. Diana was often pictured in the international media on her tours to AIDS camps and at the site of land mines. Her ability to relate to people of various backgrounds and circumstances brought attention to these issues.


Her contribution to changing the public opinion of AIDS sufferers was summarized 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.

Diana also supposedly 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.

Land mines

Perhaps her most publicized 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 and toured de-mining projects run by the HALO Trust She also attended mine awareness education classes given on the dangers of mines immediately surrounding homes and villages.

The pictures of Diana touring a minefield, in a ballistic helmet and flak jacket, ignited worldwide reaction. In August of that year, she visited Bosnia with the Landmine Survivors Network. Her interest in land mines was focused on the hazards they present to children playing unwittingly in areas where undetonated land mines are buried. Hidden land mines continue to create injury and danger long after a conflict in a war torn area has ceased.

She is believed[1] to have influenced (though only after and perhaps as a result of her death) the signing, in December 1997, of the Ottawa Treaty, which created an international ban on the use of anti-personnel land mines. Introducing the Second Reading of the Land Mines Bill in 1998, to the British House of Commons, the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, paid tribute to Diana's work on land mines:

All Honorable 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 land mines. The best way in which to record our appreciation of her work, and the work of NGOs that have campaigned against land mines, is to pass the Bill, and to pave the way towards a global ban on land mines. [2]

The use of land mines continues to draw controversy and is spoken out against by UNICEF, among others, concerned about their inadvertent affect on children. Although many nations have signed the Ottawa Treaty there are quite a few that refuse to sign because of their political belief that land mines are needed in the course of defense. Notably among those who have not signed are the United States, China, and Russia.


After Diana's death donations that came pouring in were used to start the Princess Diana Memorial Fund administered by her eldest sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale. The fund has given grants to global organizations that are in alignment with Diana's most cherished causes.

Diana's interest in supporting and helping young people led to the establishment of the Diana Memorial Award, awarded to young people who have demonstrated the unselfish devotion and commitment to causes advocated by the Princess.

Car Accident and Controversy

Diana was attempting to build a new life outside the royal limelight, with her charity work, and friend, Dodi Al-Fayed when they were involved in a fatal car accident on August 30, 1997. Their driver, Henri Paul was believed to be fleeing a paparazzi car in the Pont de l'Alma road tunnel when their Mercedes crashed at the thirteenth pillar of the tunnel.

Fayed's bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones was closest to the point of impact and yet the only survivor of the crash, since he was the only occupant of the car who was wearing a seatbelt. Henri Paul and Dodi Fayed were killed instantly. Diana, unbelted in the back seat, died later at the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital from internal bleeding. It was reported that cameramen from the Italian magazine Chi, undeterred at the horrific scene of the accident, still clambered for pictures of her. The British media publicly refused to publish the images, with the exception of The Sun.

The death of Princess Diana has been the subject of widespread conspiracy theories, supported by Mohamed Al-Fayed, whose son died in the accident. These were rejected by French investigators and British officials, who stated that the driver, Henri Paul, was legally drunk and on anti-depressants, a lethal combination. In 2004, the authorities ordered an independent inquiry by John Stevens, Baron Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, a former chief of the Metropolitan Police, and he suggested that the case was "far more complex than any of us thought" and reported "new forensic evidence" and witnesses. [3] His comments have left the door open to further speculation and inquiry.


Princess Diana's funeral on September 6, 1997, at Westminster Abbey was attended by over one million people. It was broadcast and watched by over 2 billion people worldwide. Her sons placed a card by her coffin addressed simply, "Mummy." Their stature and forbearance, impressing all those watching, was a testament to their love for their mother and to the loving support they received from both families. Aggrieved admirers everywhere expressed remorse that Princess Diana was not allowed more privacy in her personal life.

Her brother, Charles, the 9th Earl Spencer caused controversy in his eulogy of Diana. Speaking of the way that Diana had tried to raise William and Harry and of their future paths, he remarked:

Beyond that, on behalf of your mother and sisters, I pledge that we, your blood family, will do all we can to continue the imaginative and loving way in which you were steering these two exceptional young men, so that their souls are not simply immersed by duty and tradition but can sing openly as you planned. We fully respect the heritage into which they have both been born, and will always respect and encourage them in their royal role. But we, like you, recognize the need for them to experience as many different aspects of life as possible, to arm them spiritually and emotionally for the years ahead. I know you would have expected nothing less from us.

Elton John played his new rendition of Candle in the Wind at the funeral. Rewritten for the Princess, his new rendition broke the record for best-selling single that Bing Crosby's single of White Christmas had held for 50 years.

Final resting place

Princess Diana's final resting place is located on the grounds of Althorp Park, her family home. [4] The original plan was for her to be buried in the Spencer family vault at the local church in nearby Great Brington, but Diana's brother said that he was concerned about public safety and security and the onslaught of visitors that might overwhelm Great Brington. He decided that he wanted his sister to be buried where her grave could be easily cared for and visited in privacy by her sons and other relatives.

Lord Spencer selected a burial site on an island in an ornamental lake known as The Oval within Althorp Park's Pleasure Garden. A path with 36 oak trees, marking each year of her life, leads to the Oval. Four black swans swim in the lake, symbolizing sentinels guarding the island. In the water there are several water lilies. White roses and lilies were Diana's favorite flowers.[5] On the southern verge of the Round Oval sits the Summerhouse, previously in the gardens of Admiralty House, London, and now serving as a memorial to Princess Diana. [6] An ancient arboretum stands nearby, which contains trees planted by Prince William and Prince Harry, other members of her family and the princess herself.

Titles (British: Styles)

  • The Honorable Diana Frances Spencer (July 1, 1961 – June 9, 1975)
  • The Lady Diana Frances Spencer (June 9, 1975 – July 29, 1981)
  • Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales (July 29, 1981 – August 28, 1996)
  • Diana, Princess of Wales (August 28, 1996 – August 31, 1997)

The style "Princess Diana" was always incorrect, though often used by the public and the media. With rare exceptions, as in the case of Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, only women born to the title (such as Princess Anne) may use it before their given names. After her divorce in 1996, Diana was officially styled "Diana, Princess of Wales," based on Letters Patent issued by The Queen on the same date of the signature of the divorce settlement, although she could not be called "Her Royal Highness." Even the style "Princess of Wales" would have lapsed had Diana remarried.

During her marriage, her full title was Her Royal Highness The Princess Diana, Princess of Wales and Countess of Chester, Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay, Countess of Carrick, Baroness of Renfrew, Lady of the Isles, Princess of Scotland.


Diana Spencer is a thirteenth cousin once removed from George W. Bush. John Dryden of Canons Ashby is the 14th grandfather of George W. Bush through his daughter Bridget Dryden. John Dryden of Canons Ashby is the 13th grandfather of Diana Spencer by his son Erasmus Dryden.

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 [7]. 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 Fermoy.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

External links

All links retrieved January 29, 2024.


New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:

The history of this article since it was imported to New World Encyclopedia:

Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.