1. Biography of Diana, Princess of Wales
Lady Diana Frances Spencer, (Diana Frances Mountbatten-Windsor, née Spencer) born July 1, 1961, in Norfolk, England. Her father, Lord Althorp, became the eighth Earl Spencer in 1975; he had served as a personal equerry to both King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II. Lady Diana Spencer grew up on her family mansion near the British royal familys estate in Sandringham, England. When she was only six years old, her mother, Frances, left her father for Peter Shand Kydd, a wealthy businessman. Though her two sisters, Sarah and Jane, were by then in boarding school, Diana and her younger brother Charles unhappily divided their time during the next several years between their parents homes. Diana attended the exclusive West Heath boarding school in Kent for four years, but dropped out when she was 16. After a term at a Swiss finishing school, she ended her formal education and got a job in London working as a nursery school teachers aide. Though she had known the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne of the United Kingdom, for most of her life (his younger brother Andrew had been her childhood playmate and Charles had dated her older sister, Sarah), their relationship began to intensify during a visit with her sister Jane, who was married to the queens assistant secretary, as a guest of the royal family at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. When the press noticed the princes growing interest in the young Lady Spencer, they began to follow Dianas movements and photograph her at every opportunity. At the age of 19, Lady Diana Spencer had become an object of fixation for the national media, and she soon cultivated a bashful but charming smile for the cameras that earned her the nickname Shy Di.
Lady Diana Frances Spencer was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales. From her marriage in 1981 to her divorce in 1996 she was styled "Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales". After her divorce from the Prince of Wales in 1996 Diana ceased to be the Princess of Wales and also lost the resulting Royal Highness style, She received the title normally used by the ex-wives of peers, Diana, Princess of Wales under Letters Patent issued by Queen Elizabeth II at the time of the divorce.
In February 1981, Charles proposed to Diana, and the couple appeared together in public for the first time at the official engagement announcement. They were married on July 29, 1981, at St. Pauls Cathedral, before a congregation of 2,500. In addition, an estimated 750 million people worldwide watched the televised ceremony.
William (nicknamed Wills), the first of the royal couples two sons and second in line to the throne, was born in 1982; Harry followed in 1984. From the beginning, Diana devoted herself to her sons and resolved to give them as normal a life as possible and to shield them from the unrelenting glare of the media spotlight. Her emotional parenting style was in sharp contrast to the hands-off approach of her husband, who was often portrayed in the press as cold and relatively uninvolved in the lives of his sons and wife, preferring to spend his personal time on such favorite pursuits as hunting and polo.
Diana was often called Princess Diana by the media and the public, but she did not possess such a title and was not personally a princess, a point Diana herself made to people who referred to her as such. Contrary to belief, being Princess of Wales does not make one a princess in one's own right. It merely indicates that one was married to a Prince of Wales. Princesses in their own right only exist by creation of the monarch or by birth. Diana was in fact the first non-princess to be Princess of Wales for centuries. Previous Princesses of Wales, such as Alexandra of Denmark or Mary of Teck were already princesses by birth when they married a Prince of Wales.
An iconic presence on the world stage, Diana, Princess of Wales was noted for her pioneering charity work. Yet her philanthropic endeavours were overshadowed by her scandal-plagued marriage to Prince Charles. Her bitter accusations via friends and biographers of adultery, mental cruelty and emotional distress visited upon her, and her own admission of adultery and numerous love affairs riveted the world for much of the 1990s, spawning books, magazine articles and television movies.
In 1992, three biographies of Diana were published, each making the disturbing claim that the princess suffered from an eating disorder. The most sympathetic among them (at least to Diana), was Diana: Her True Story, by Andrew Morton. Morton painted a brutal picture of Charles as a cold, remote husband and father and alleged that Diana had suffered from extreme depression, even attempting suicide several times during the early 1980s. His book was given a good deal of credence because of the specificity of its details, especially when rumors surfaced that Diana herself had collaborated with Morton or at least given her close friends and relatives permission to be interviewed.
From the time of her engagement to the Prince of Wales in 1981 until her death in a car accident in 1997, the Princess was arguably the most famous woman in the world, the pre-eminent female celebrity of her generation: a fashion icon, an image of feminine beauty, admired and emulated for her high-profile involvement in AIDS issues, and the international campaign against landmines. During her lifetime, she was often referred to as the most photographed person in the world. To her admirers, the Princess of Wales was a role model - after her death, there were even calls for her to be nominated for sainthood - while her detractors saw her life as a cautionary tale of how an obsession with publicity can ultimately destroy an individual.
2. Early years of Princess Diana
See: Childhood photos
Diana Frances Spencer was born as the youngest daughter of Edward Spencer, Viscount Althorp, and his first wife, Frances Spencer, Viscountess Althorp (formerly the Honourable Frances Burke Roche) at Park House on the Sandringham estate. She was baptised at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, by Rt. Rev. Percy Herbert (rector of the church and former Bishop of Norwich and Blackburn); her godparents included John Floyd (the chairman of Christie's) and Mary Colman (a niece of the Queen Mother). Partially American in ancestry a great-grandmother was the American heiress Frances Work - she was also a descendant of King Charles I. During her parents' acrimonious divorce over Lady Althorp's adultery with wallpaper heir Peter Shand Kydd, Diana's mother sued for custody of her children, but Lord Althorp's rank, aided by Lady Althorp's mother's testimony against her daughter during the trial, meant custody of Diana and her brother was awarded to their father. On the death of her paternal grandfather, Albert Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer, in 1975, Diana's father became the 8th Earl Spencer, and she acquired the courtesy title of The Lady Diana Spencer and 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, after being named as the "other party" in the Earl and Countess of Dartmouth's divorce.
Diana was educated at Riddlesworth Hall in Norfolk and at West Heath Girls' School (later reorganized as the New School at West Heath, a special school for boys and girls) in Sevenoaks, Kent, where she was regarded as an academically below-average student, having failed all of her O-level examinations. In 1977, aged 16, she left West Heath and briefly attended Institut Alpin Videmanette, a finishing school in Rougemont, Switzerland (Diana's future husband was also dating her sister, Lady Sarah at that time). Diana was a talented amateur singer, excelled in sports and reportedly longed to be a ballerina.
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 of, and a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.