Princess Diana Death Photo Biography
Princess Di, as she later became known to her adoring public, was born The Honourable Diana Frances Spencer, the youngest daughter of Edward John Spencer, the eighth Earl of Spencer, Viscount Althorp and Frances Spencer, Viscountess Althorp.
The couple had five children; Diana’s siblings are Elizabeth Sarah Lavinia (born 1955, now lady Sarah McCorquodale), Cynthia Jane (born 1957, now Lady Fellowes), John (died ten hours after birth, 1960) and Charles Edward Maurice (born 1964, currently the ninth Earl of Spencer). The family lived in Park House on the Sandringham estate.
By the mid 1960s, strain was beginning to show in the Althorp’s marriage and in 1967, when Diana was only six-years-old, her mother ran off with Peter Shand-Kydd, the heir to a wallpaper fortune. Two years later, the Althorps divorced in April 1969.
Lord Althorp fought for and won custody of the children. A short time after the divorce, Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, novelist Barbara Cartland’s daughter, moved in with the family. The children never liked her and nicknamed her ‘Acid Raine’. In 1969, Diana’s mother married Peter Shand-Kydd, becoming The Honourable Mrs Frances Shand-Kydd, and the couple went to live on the island of Seil, Scotland.
In 1975, when Diana’s father became eighth Earl of Spencer, the family moved from Park House to the 16th century ancestral home of Althorp and the following year, Diana’s father married Raine. Diana first attended school at Riddlesworth Hall Preparatory School in Norfolk and later, at West Heath Girls’ School (which subsequently has become the New School at West Heath, a co-educational special school) in Kent.
By self-admission, she was not much of an academic and left school in 1977, at age 16, after failing all her O-level exams. It was that same year that she met Prince Charles, a friend of her sister, at a hunting party. Following that, Diana’s father sent her off to a finishing school, the Institute Alpin Videmanette, in Rougemont, Switzerland. She showed some talent as an amateur singer and was a good sportswoman. In her heart, she always longed to be a ballerina but her height prevented this.
In 1979, Diana returned to London and moved into an apartment in South Kensington with three friends. She got her first job working as a part-time assistant at the Young England Kindergarten, a nursery school and day-care centre in Pimlico. The memorable photograph of the extremely shy Diana in a flimsy skirt, holding a young child, backlit by the sun, and showing the outline of her shapely legs, was taken by John Minihan during this time. Prince Charles had reached the age of 31 without finding a suitable partner and, as heir to the throne, was under pressure to do so. A list of candidates was drawn up and Diana was chosen from the shortlist. Diana met Prince Charles for the second time in 1980, when she and her family visited the Windsors during their summer holiday at Balmoral Castle, Scotland, and the royal romance began.
On 24 February 1981, Buckingham Palace announced the engagement of the 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer to Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, 32-year-old heir apparent to the British throne. It was a fairytale in the making, and the blonde, blue-eyed beauty posed with her husband to be for official photographs showing off her enormous diamond and sapphire engagement ring that matched her eyes and her royal blue dress. Immediately, jewellers around the world scrambled to make copies of the ring, which were snapped up by adoring Diana fans. Following the engagement, Diana moved out of the flat she shared with friends and into Clarence House, the home of the Queen Mother, in order to be taught her royal duties.
The Royal Wedding, which took place on 29 July 1981 in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, was attended by 3,500 guests, photographed by Lord Lichfield, watched avidly by approximately one billion people on televisions around the world and marked as a national holiday in the UK. The fairytale Princess looked every bit the part, arriving at the church in a glass coach, wearing the family tiara and a massive silk wedding dress incorporating 10,000 pearls and sequins, with a 25-foot train, designed by David and Elizabeth Emmanuel. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runice, married the couple in a traditional Church of England service. On Charles’ request, New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa sang a beautiful rendition of Handel’s ‘Let the Bright Seraphim’ during the ceremony. The married couple rode in the open-top state landau to Buckingham Palace for the kiss on the balcony the crowds had been waiting to see. The couple then joined their family and guests for a private wedding breakfast feast at the Palace. Diana’s new surname was Mountbatten-Windsor and her new title Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales. She was ranked as third most senior woman in the United Kingdom, after the Queen and the Queen Mother. The newlyweds enjoyed their honeymoon on board the royal yacht Britannia.
Wasting no time in starting a family, Diana gave birth, on 21 June 1982, to the second in line to the British throne, Prince William Arthur Philip Louis Mountbatten-Windsor of Wales (Prince William or ‘Wills’ as he is sometimes known). Three months later, Diana made her first official appearance outside the UK, when she represented the Queen at the burial of Princess Grace of Monaco. It wasn’t long before the Princess began breaking royal protocol, when she insisted Prince William accompany her on her tour of Australia, much to the delight of the Australian public. Two years later, on 15 September 1984, Harry was born. He is third in line to the British throne and his full name is Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales. The Princess had her Prince and two healthy and beautiful young sons.
The fairytale continued, with Diana gaining huge popularity, not only in the UK, but also worldwide, and she became known as the ‘People’s Princess’, a celebrity in her own right. With her natural beauty, her height and her grace, her ease with people, her candid honesty and warmth, it was an easy task for personal stylists to help her become a fashion icon, a role model, and possibly the most photographed and famous woman in the world. In the winter of 1985, Charles and Diana made their first official visit to America. President Reagan held a gala party at the White House in their honour and it was the society event of the year.
Unfortunately, all was not as bright on the home front and Charles and Diana’s marriage was starting to break down. Diana’s popularity with the public and the media was beginning to overshadow that of her husband and, in photographs, he would often be seen standing glumly in the background whilst his wife was in the spotlight. Behind the scenes, more trouble was brewing. Having long known about Charles’ affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, Diana was finding it increasingly difficult to hold up a strong façade for the public. In 1990, Charles and Diana moved into separate apartments and, during their state visit to India that year, it became obvious to the world that the marriage was in dire straits.
In March 1992, Diana’s father died at the age of 68, which greatly affected her. In a move to have her side of the story heard, when the papers were filled with conjecture about the ‘War of the Waleses’ and the failing royal union, Diana approached British author Andrew Morton to write her biography. ‘Diana: Her True Story’ was published in June 1992. The sequel, ‘Diana: Her New Life’, was published in 1994, with both books becoming best sellers in the UK and the US.
On 25 August 1992, British tabloid newspaper The Sun printed intimate taped telephone conversations between Diana and car dealer James Gilby that had taken place in 1989, an indiscretion that was coined ‘Squidgygate’ and possibly speeded up the end of the Wales’ marriage. Until that point, Diana had been seen as the wronged party, but now she had to shoulder some of the blame. However, she seemed to attract more sympathy than Charles did and, in fact, many believed her to be victim of establishment persecution, as the bugging of her phone had been undertaken by British intelligence agencies.
It was on 9 December 1992 that British Prime Minister, John Major, officially announced that Prince Charles and Princess Diana had separated. Her sons were everything to her and at this turbulent time of her life, Diana said she would have been lost without them. In 1993, Diana announced her withdrawal from public life, much to the dismay of her supporters. It transpired that Charles had also had a turn to have his telephone bugged and the taped conversations, between himself and Camilla on 18 December 1989, were splashed all over the tabloids in 1993. Things that he had said in ‘Camillagate’ left Charles blushing, open to ridicule, and with somewhat of a black mark against the public’s view of his character. He maintained in an interview to David Dimbleby that he felt justified that his affair with Camilla was not adulterous, as he saw his marriage as already being over at that point.
The next scandal Diana had to face publicly was her previous involvement with military man, James Lifford Hewitt, also known as the ‘Love Rat’. Having met at a party in 1986, they reportedly had an affair from 1987 to 1992, once Hewitt had become a personal riding instructor for William and Harry and was spending a lot of time with the Princess. In 1994, Hewitt sold his ‘kiss and tell’ story to the tabloids, forcing Diana to admit to the affair. She did this in an extremely candid 1995 ‘Panorama’ television interview about her ongoing fight against bulimia nervosa, her crippling post-natal depression, her doomed marriage to Charles, the mental cruelty she endured over his affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, her attempted suicide attempts and her own promiscuity. Through all of this, her complete loyalty to her children was obvious and their upbringing was constantly her priority.
The Queen could not stand the scandal to the royal family any longer and, in December 1995, she asked Charles and Diana to end their marriage. Charles agreed immediately, whilst Diana delayed her decision for another three months, only agreeing on 28 February 1996. After fifteen years of marriage, the couple divorced on 15 July 1996 and it was legally finalised on 28 August 1996, following six weeks of discussion. Diana ceased to be the Princess of Wales and could no longer use the title Her Royal Highness (HRH). She was, however, as former wife of heir to the throne and mother of his sons, granted permission by the Queen to be known as Diana, Princess of Wales, and the given the right to live in Kensington Palace, remaining a member of the royal family. Custody of Princes William and Harry was granted to both parents and Prince Charles remained living at Highgrove House, his private residence in Gloucestershire.