Diana, Princess of Wales captivated the world’s attention when she married into the British Royal Family in 1981. The blonde beauty brought a breath of fresh air to the monarchy, and her humility, grace, and charity quickly made “The People’s Princess,” one of the most beloved public figures in the world. Here are 42 Royal Facts about Diana, Princess of Wales.
47. Long Lineage
The Spencer family (Diana’s maiden name) has been well-known to the British Royal Family for several generations: Both of Diana’s grandmothers served as ladies-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.
46. Family Names
The Spencers were hoping for a boy to carry on the family line, so no name was chosen for a week until they settled on Diana Frances, after her mother (Frances) and Diana Russell, Duchess of Bedford, her distant relative.
45. Real Estate Connection
Diana grew up in Park House, situated on the Sandringham estate. The Spencers leased the house from its owner, Queen Elizabeth II.
44. Childhood Friends
The Royal Family frequently holidayed at neighbouring Sandringham House. Diana played with Princes Andrew and Edward as a child.
43. A New Title
Diana became known as Lady Diana after her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975, at which point her father moved the family from Park House to Althorp, the Spencer seat in Northampton.
42. A Dream Outgrown
Diana dreamed of becoming a ballerina. However, she was deemed to tall when her height shot up to 5’10”. She would later become an avid supporter of the English National Ballet.
41. Home School
As was customary for children of the aristocracy, Diana was educated at home by a tutor until she was nine years old. After her parents’ divorce, she attended Riddlesworth Hall in Norfolk until she was sent to boarding school at the West Heath School at age 12.
40. Poor Student, Good Heart
Diana didn’t exactly shine academically, failing her O-levels (British school exams) twice. However, her outstanding community spirit showed at a young age, and she was recognized with an award from West Heath.
39. Girl Friends
The actress Tilda Swinton also attended school at West Heath, and she and Diana were friends.
38. Not Afraid of Hard Work
After finishing school, Diana moved to London as a teenager, where she took a series of low-paying jobs. She worked as a dance instructor, a nanny, a playgroup pre-school assistant, and even did some cleaning work.
37. Big Sis Cupid
Diana was first introduced to Charles, Prince of Wales in November 1977 through her older sister, Lady Sarah. Three years later, Charles began wooing Diana in 1980.The royal pair had Lady Sarah’s blessing, and upon their engagement she remarked, “I introduced them. I’m Cupid.”
36. She Said Yes
Charles and Diana got engaged in February 1981, a year after beginning their courtship. Charles proposed in early February 1981, and Lady Diana accepted, but their engagement was kept secret for the next few weeks until they announced it publicly on February 24th, 1981.
Royal brides are usually given custom-made engagement rings by Garrard jewelers, but Diana selected her less-extravagant ring from a Garrard catalogue. The now-iconic (and still rather extravagant) ring consisted of 14 solitaire diamonds elegantly surrounding a 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire set in 18-carat white gold. In today’s money it would cost around £94,800.
34. Passed Down
In 2010, when Diana’s son Prince William proposed to his longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton, he presented Diana’s sapphire engagement ring to her. It now sits on her finger; she is now known as Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge.
33. Something Blue
Perhaps to match the ring,The Queen Mother gave Lady Diana a sapphire and diamond brooch as an engagement present.
32. The Happiest Day
Diana became Princess of Wales on July 29th, 1981 when she married Prince Charles in St. Paul’s Cathedral. While royals generally use Westminster Abbey to marry, it was deemed too small for the occasion.
Described as a “fairytale wedding,” it was watched by an international television audience of 750 million while 600,000 people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the couple en route to the ceremony.
31. An Older Man
At the time of her marriage, Diana was only 20 years old; Charles was 12 years her senior.
30. Altar Flub
In her wedding vows, Diana accidentally reversed the order of Charles’s first two names, saying “Philip Charles Arthur George” instead of “Charles Phillip Arthur George.”
29. A Deliberate Choice
Despite the nervous mistake, Diana did make a deliberate change to her vows: she did not say that she would “obey” Charles. The traditional vow was left out at the couple’s request, which caused some comment at the time.
Kate Middleton would adopt the same change in her vows when she wed Prince William almost 30 years later.
28. Say Yes To The Dress
At her wedding, Diana wore a gown designed by David & Elizabeth Emanuel. The ivory, silk taffeta, and antique lace dress was embellished with 10,000 hand-sewn pearls and came with a glorious 25-foot train—it was the longest train in royal history!
27. Practice Makes Perfect
Before her celebrated nuptials to Charles, Diana spent five months getting comfortable in the puffy gown, which required plenty of practice walking with the train before she made her way down the aisle. The dress remains one of the most famous wedding dresses in history.
26. Line Of Succession
After saying “I Do,” Diana became Princess of Wales, which made her the third-highest female in the United Kingdom Order of Precedence (after Queen Elizabeth III and the Queen Mother). Her husband, Charles, Prince of Wales, is first in order of succession to the British throne should Queen Elizabeth pass away.
25. Broken Traditions
Marriage amongst European royalty was so common that Diana became the first British citizen to marry an heir to the British throne since 1659! (Queen Elizabeth II’s mother was a British citizen, but when she married the future King George VI he was not heir to the British throne).
24. Royal Humanitarian
Diana was notable for her work with AIDS victims early in the epidemic. Though public misconception generated fear of touching AIDS patients, for fear of contracting the disease, Diana knew better and publicly touched and hugged those with HIV/AIDS. She said, “HIV does not make people dangerous to know. You can shake their hands and give them a hug. Heaven knows they need it.”
23. Prolific Good
In addition to her activism for HIV/AIDS, Diana supported over 100 charities! These included Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which won the Nobel Peace Prize after her death.
22. Dangerous Fall
While 12-weeks pregnant with her first child, Diana fell down a staircase at Sandringham in January 1982. Out of concern for the future heir to the throne, the royal gynaecologist Sir George Pinker was summoned, and although he found she had suffered severe bruising, the foetus was protected and healthy.
21. A Regular Mom
Diana didn’t want her sons, William and Harry, to grow up in a bubble of royal privilege, and she worked hard to give them a broader range of experiences than was usual for royal children. She chose their first given names, hired a nanny of her own choosing, selected their schools and clothing, and even dropped them off at school herself!
20. Family Tradition
In 2015, Prince George, Diana’s grandson, began attending the Westacre Montessori School in Norfolk, England, continuing a new tradition in the Royal Family. Princess Diana had insisted both William and Harry attend Montessori schools, and she herself had worked as a nursery assistant at the Young England Kindergarten school, which embraces Montessori teaching.
19. Time Warp
Apparently, Diana was a huge fan of the Rocky Horror Picture Show! Upon meeting actor Tim Curry, she thanked him and told him that the movie had “quite completed” her education.
18. Super Mom
When Prince William, Diana’s eldest son, was younger, he had a bit of a secret crush on Cindy Crawford. So what did Diana do? She invited Crawford, along with fellow models Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington, to Kensington Palace!
William recounted, ”I was probably a 12 or 13-year-old boy who had posters of them all on his wall, and I went bright red and didn’t know quite what to say, and sort of fumbled and I think pretty much fell down the stairs on the way out.”
17. Common Courtesy
Diana took her duties as a royal very seriously, and tried to set a good example. She was known for sending thank you notes for the smallest of kindnesses, and taught her children to do the same! When a lot of her correspondence was put up for auction in 2010, it included a handwritten thank you note from the young Prince William, reportedly to their chauffeur, Davies: “Thank you for the James Bond video it is brilliant. Thank you. See you soon. With love from William.”
16. Charitable Legacy
Diana, who was known as “the People’s Princess” due to her charitable works, also made sure to teach her children the value of philanthropy. Shortly before her death in 1997, Diana put her most iconic dresses up for auction. This was reportedly the idea of her son, 15-year-old William! The sale of 79 dresses raised $5.76 million for AIDS and breast cancer charities.
15. Royal Relations
Even if she hadn’t married into the British royal family, Diana would have still had some pretty interesting family members. Her stepmother, Raine, was the daughter of famous romance writer Barbara Cartland. She was also second cousin once-removed to American actor Oliver Platt (though they never met), and was seventh cousins with hard-boiled Hollywood actor Humphrey Bogart!
14. Impending Doom
Only five years into the marriage of Charles and Diana, cracks began to show. The almost 13 year differences in ages between the two, plus Charles’ possibly-too-close friendship with Camilla Parker-Bowles became visibly damaging to their marriage.
13. “I Don’t”
Diana’s marriage to Charles was extremely strained, and the media began reporting about both of their infidelities. Queen Elizabeth wrote each of them a letter demanding they divorce; in August of 1996, the pair were indeed divorced. The divorce stripped Diana of her “royal highness” status, which meant she had to curtsy to those who had it, including her own children!
12. Hefty Alimony
Diana’s divorce settlement from Charles included a lump sum of $22.5 million, plus an annual income of $600,000. The couple signed a confidentiality agreement that prohibited them from discussing the details of the divorce or of their married life, though plenty had already been reported in the media.
11. A Fatal Crash
On August 31st, 1997, Diana was fatally injured in a car crash in Paris, in which her companion, Dodi Fayed, and the driver, Henri Paul, also died.
Twenty years after the fatal car crash, a firefighter named Xavier Gourmelon revealed Princess Diana’s last words, spoken before she as she was pulled from the wreckage: “My God, what’s happened?” She suffered cardiac arrest shortly after being loaded onto a stretcher. She was resuscitated, but died later in hospital of her injuries.
The same firefighter also spoke about how how Diana’s bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, tried to reach the princess from the front seat of the car, but his substantial injuries prevented him from doing so. “He kept asking for the princess, saying, ‘Where is she? Where is she?’” Xavier said. “But my team told him to keep calm and not speak. I told him that none of my men spoke English so it was better for him to keep still and not move. I told him not to worry we were looking after everyone.”
10. Goodbye, English Rose
Diana’s funeral took place in Westminster Abbey on September 6th, 1997. In addition to being attended by her family, it was attended by 2,000 members of the public who were mourning the loss of a beloved public figure. The Union Flag at the palace was also lowered to half-mast.
9. Final Resting Place
After the funeral, Diana was buried privately on an island in the middle of Oval Lake on the grounds the Spencer family home of Althorp Park. While she was originally meant to be interned in the Spencer family vault, her fame meant that her family wished to find a more private place.
8. Candle In The Wind
Sir Elton John rewrote his song “Candle in the Wind” in tribute to Diana when she died, and performed it at her funeral–this was the only time he had sung it live. The song was originally written for another beauty gone before her time, Marilyn Monroe.
7. Public Mourning
Diana’s funeral was broadcast on television so that the nation and the world could join in mourning her. The audience peaked at 32.10 million.
6. Parting Gift
Diana was buried with a set of rosary beads, which were a gift to her from Mother Teresa; Mother Teresa died of natural causes in the same week as Diana.
5. Conspiracy Theories
Mohamed Al-Fayed, father of Diana’s companion Dodi Fayed, maintained that the deaths were the result of a murder plot by MI6. An inquest running between 2004-2008 blamed the crash on Henri Paul, and others still continue to blame the pursuing paparazzi for their part in the accident.
4. Picture Perfect
From the time of her engagement to Charles until her death, Princess Diana was one of the world’s most photographed women. Upon her death, the rights to her image were granted to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.
3. Seeing A Ghost
On July 4th, Newsweek released a cover featuring a photo of Diana digitally aged, shown walking next to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, who would have been her daughter-in-law. The photo commemorated what would have been Diana’s 50th birthday.
2. Classy Move
After her marriage to Prince Charles, Camilla Parker-Bowles could have used the title “Princess of Wales.” Instead, she chose to use “Duchess of Cornwall” so that the public could continue to associate the title with Diana.
1. Cover Girl
During her lifetime, Diana was featured on the cover of People magazine more than 50 times, the cover of Time magazine eight times, and on the cover of Newsweek seven times.
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