Twenty-year-old Diana Frances Spencer became the Princess of Wales when she married Charles, Prince of Wales — the eldest child and heir apparent of Queen Elizabeth II — on July 29, 1981, at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. The service was widely described as a “fairytale wedding” and was watched by a global television audience of 750 million people while 600,000 spectators lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the couple en route to the ceremony. The United Kingdom had a national holiday on that day to mark the wedding. At the altar, Diana accidentally reversed the order of Charles’s first two names, saying “Philip Charles” Arthur George instead. She did not say that she would “obey” him; that traditional vow was left out at the couple’s request, which caused some comment at the time. Diana wore a dress valued at £9,000 with a 25-foot (7.62-meter) train. Music and songs used during the wedding included the “Prince of Denmark’s March”, “I Vow to Thee, My Country”, “Pomp and Circumstance No.4”, and “God Save the Queen”.
After she became Princess of Wales, Diana automatically acquired rank as the third-highest female in the United Kingdom Order of Precedence (after the Queen and the Queen Mother), and was fifth or sixth in the orders of precedence of her other realms, following the Queen, the relevant viceroy, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen Mother, and the Prince of Wales. Within a few years of the wedding, the Queen extended Diana visible tokens of membership in the Royal Family; she lent the Princess the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara, and granted her the badge of the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II. During her marriage, Diana was Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay, and Countess of Chester.
The marriage produced two sons, the princes William and Harry, who were then respectively second and third in the line of succession to the British throne. As Princess of Wales, Diana undertook royal duties on behalf of the Queen and represented her at functions overseas. She was celebrated for her charity work and for her support of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. She was involved with dozens of charities including London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for children, of which she was president from 1989.
Diana remained the object of worldwide media scrutiny during and after her marriage. The couple separated in 1992 and divorced on August 28, 1996. Media attention and public mourning were extensive after her death in a car crash in a Paris tunnel on August 31, 1997, and subsequent televised funeral.
Diana was born on July 1, 1961, in Park House, Sandringham, Norfolk. She was the fourth of five children of John Spencer, Viscount Althorp (1924–1992), and his first wife, Frances (née Roche; 1936–2004). The Spencer family has been closely allied with the British Royal Family for several generations. Both of Diana’s grandmothers had served as ladies-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. The Spencers were hoping for a boy to carry on the family line, and no name was chosen for a week, until they settled on Diana Frances, after her mother and Diana Russell, Duchess of Bedford, her distant relative who was also known as “Lady Diana Spencer” before marriage and was a prospective Princess of Wales.
On August 30, 1961, Diana was baptized at St. Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham, with wealthy commoners as godparents. Diana had three siblings: Sarah, Jane, and Charles. Her infant brother, John, died shortly after his birth one year before Diana was born. The desire for an heir added strain to the Spencers’ marriage, and Lady Althorp was reportedly sent to Harley Street clinics in London to determine the cause of the “problem”. The experience was described as “humiliating” by Diana’s younger brother, Charles: “It was a dreadful time for my parents and probably the root of their divorce because I don’t think they ever got over it.”
Diana grew up in Park House, situated on the Sandringham estate. The Spencers leased the house from its owner, Queen Elizabeth II. The Royal Family frequently holidayed at the neighboring Sandringham House, and Diana played with Princes Andrew and Edward as a child. Diana was seven years old when her parents divorced. Her mother later began a relationship with Peter Shand Kydd and married him in 1969.
Diana lived with her mother in London during her parents’ separation in 1967, but during that year’s Christmas holidays, Lord Althorp refused to let Diana return to London with Lady Althorp. Shortly afterwards he won custody of Diana with support from his former mother-in-law, Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy. In 1972, Lord Althorp began a relationship with Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, the only daughter of Alexander McCorquodale and Dame Barbara Cartland. They married at Caxton Hall, London in 1976.
Diana became known as Lady Diana after her father later inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975, at which point her father moved the entire family from Park House to Althorp, the Spencer seat in Northampton. Diana was first home-schooled under the supervision of her governess, Gertrude Allen. She began her formal education at Silfield Private School in Gayton, Norfolk, and moved to Riddlesworth Hall School, an all-girls boarding school near Diss, when she was nine. She joined her sisters at West Heath Girls’ School in Sevenoaks, Kent, in 1973. She did not shine academically, failing her O-levels twice. Her outstanding community spirit was recognized with an award from West Heath. She left West Heath when she was sixteen. Her brother Charles recalls her as being quite shy up until that time. She showed a talent for music as an accomplished pianist. Diana also excelled in swimming and diving, and studied ballet and tap dance.
After attending Institut Alpin Videmanette (a finishing school in Rougemont, Switzerland) for one term in 1978, Diana returned to London, where she shared her mother’s flat with two school friends. In London, she took an advanced cooking course, but seldom cooked for her roommates. She took a series of low-paying jobs; she worked as a dance instructor for youth until a skiing accident caused her to miss three months of work. She then found employment as a playgroup pre-school assistant, did some cleaning work for her sister Sarah and several of her friends, and acted as a hostess at parties. Diana spent time working as a nanny for the Robertsons, an American family living in London, and worked as a nursery teacher’s assistant at the Young England School in Pimlico. In July 1979, her mother bought her a flat at Coleherne Court in Earl’s Court as an 18th birthday present. She lived there with three flatmates until February 25, 1981.
Diana first met Charles, Prince of Wales, when she was 16 in November 1977; he was dating her older sister, Lady Sarah. They were guests at a country weekend during the summer of 1980 when she watched him play polo and he took a serious interest in Diana as a potential bride. The relationship progressed when he invited her for a sailing weekend to Cowes aboard the royal yacht Britannia. This was followed by an invitation to Balmoral (the Royal Family’s Scottish residence) to meet his family a weekend in November 1980. Lady Diana was well received by the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Prince Charles subsequently courted Diana in London.
The Prince proposed on February 6, 1981, and Lady Diana accepted, but their engagement was kept secret for the next few weeks. Their engagement became official on February 24, 1981. Diana selected a large engagement ring that consisted of 14 solitaire diamonds surrounding a 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire set in 18-carat white gold, which was similar to her mother’s engagement ring. The ring was made by the Crown jewelers Garrard, but it was not unique, which was unusual for a ring for a member of the Royal Family. The ring was featured in Garrard’s jewelry collection. In 2010, the ring became the engagement ring of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. It was copied by jewelers all over the world. The Queen Mother gave Diana a sapphire and diamond brooch as an engagement present.
Following the engagement, Diana left her occupation as a kindergarten teacher and lived for a short period at Clarence House, which was the home of the Queen Mother. She then lived at Buckingham Palace until the wedding. Diana was the first Englishwoman to become the spouse of an heir apparent in 300 years, and she was also the first royal bride to have a paying job before her engagement. She made her first public appearance with Prince Charles in a charity ball in March 1981 at Goldsmiths’ Hall, where she met the Princess of Monaco.
Diana’s wedding dress was valued at £9000 (equivalent to £31,110 in 2015), The dress was made of ivory silk taffeta, decorated with lace, hand embroidery, sequins, and 10,000 pearls. It was designed by Elizabeth and David Emanuel and had a 25-foot train of ivory taffeta and antique lace. Charles wore his full dress naval commander uniform. The bride wore her Spencer family’s heirloom tiara. According to her brother, Charles Spencer, Diana was unused to wearing a tiara and it gave her a headache. Diana was reported to have spilled perfume all over her wedding dress. The official parfumeur of the royal wedding was the House of Houbigant, the oldest French fragrance company.
Charles and Diana selected St Paul’s over Westminster Abbey, the traditional site of royal weddings, because St Paul’s offered more seating and permitted a longer procession through the streets of London. The congregation was made up of 3,500 guests.
The ceremony was a traditional Church of England wedding service, presided over by the Most Reverend Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Very Reverend Alan Webster, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. An estimated 750 million people watched the ceremony worldwide, and this figure allegedly rose to a billion when the radio audience is added in, although there are no means of verifying these figures. Two million spectators lined the route of Diana’s procession from Clarence House, with 4,000 police and 2,201 military officers to manage the crowds.
All of the Queen’s governors-general, as well as Europe’s crowned heads, attended, with the exception of King Juan Carlos I of Spain. The Spanish king was advised not to attend by his government because the newlyweds’ honeymoon included a stopover in the disputed territory of Gibraltar. Most of Europe’s elected heads of state were among the guests, with the exceptions of the President of Greece, Constantine Karamanlis (who declined because Greece’s exiled monarch, Constantine II, a kinsman and friend of the bridegroom, had been invited as “King of the Hellenes”), and the President of Ireland, Patrick Hillery who was advised by Taoiseach Charles Haughey not to attend because of the dispute over the status of Northern Ireland.
Then-First Lady Nancy Reagan represented the United States at the wedding.
Regiments from the Commonwealth realms participated in the procession, including the Royal Regiment of Canada.
Lady Diana arrived at the cathedral in the Glass Coach with her father, John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, and escorted by six mounted Metropolitan Police officers. She arrived almost on time for the 11:20 BST ceremony. The carriage was too small to hold the two of them comfortably due to her voluminous dress and train. She made the three-and-a-half minute walk up the red-carpeted aisle with the sumptuous 25-foot (8-meter) train of gown behind her.
Diana accidentally changed the order of Charles’s names during her vows, saying “Philip Charles Arthur George” instead of the correct “Charles Philip Arthur George”. Charles also made an error. He said he would offer her “thy goods” instead of “my worldly goods”. She did not promise to “obey” him as part of the traditional vows. That word was eliminated at the couple’s request, which caused a sensation at the time.
Other church representatives present who gave prayers following the service were a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Donald Coggan, Cardinal Basil Hume, the Right Reverend Andrew Doig and the Reverend Harry Williams CR.
Three choirs, three orchestras and a fanfare ensemble played the music for the service. These were the Bach Choir, the Choir of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Choir of the Chapel Royal, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra and a fanfare ensemble from the Royal Military School. The choirs were conducted by Barry Rose, the choirmaster at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The cathedral’s organist, Christopher Dearnley; and its sub-organist, John Scott; played the organ. The Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, the Philharmonia Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra were conducted by Sir David Willcocks, who was the director of the Royal College of Music; Richard Popplewell, the organist at Chapel Royal; and Sir Colin Davis, who was the musical director of Covent Garden. Music and songs used during the wedding included the “Prince of Denmark’s March”, “I Vow to Thee, My Country”, “Pomp and Circumstance No.4” and the British National Anthem.
The couple and 120 guests went to Buckingham Palace for a wedding breakfast following the ceremony. Diana and Charles made a traditional appearance on a balcony of Buckingham Palace at 13:10 BST, and delighted the crowd when they kissed.
The couple had 27 wedding cakes. The official wedding cake was supplied by the Naval Armed Forces. David Avery, head baker at the Royal Naval cooking school in Chatham Kent, made the cake over 14 weeks. They made two identical cakes in case one was damaged. The couple’s other wedding cake was created by Belgian pastry chef S. G. Sender, who was known as the “cakemaker to the kings”. Another wedding cake was created by Chef Nicholas Lodge; Chef Nicholas had previously made the Queen Mother’s 80th Birthday Cake and would be commissioned to create a Christening Cake for Prince Harry.
A “just married” sign was attached to the landau by Princes Andrew and Edward, which raised smiles as the married couple was driven over Westminster Bridge to catch the train from Waterloo station to Romsey in Hampshire to begin their honeymoon.
The couple left from Waterloo station in the British Royal Train + 975025 Caroline. They traveled to Broadlands, where Prince Charles’s parents had spent their wedding night in 1947. They stayed there for three days, then flew to Gibraltar, where they boarded the Royal Yacht Britannia for an eleven-day cruise of the Mediterranean, visiting Tunisia, Sardinia, Greece and Egypt. Then they flew to Scotland, where the rest of the royal family had gathered at Balmoral Castle, and spent time in a hunting lodge on the estate. During that time, the press was given an arranged opportunity to take pictures.
In October 1981, the Prince and Princess visited Wales. Diana attended the State Opening of Parliament for the first time on November 4, 1981.
The couple made their homes at Kensington Palace and at Highgrove House, near Tetbury. On November 5, 1981, the Princess’s pregnancy was officially announced. In January 1982 — twelve weeks into the pregnancy — Diana fell down a staircase at Sandringham, and the royal gynaecologist Sir George Pinker was summoned from London. He found that although she had suffered severe bruising, the fetus was uninjured. In the private Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, on June 21, 1982, under the care of Pinker, the Princess gave birth to the couple’s first son and heir, William Arthur Philip Louis. Amidst some media criticism, she decided to take William, still a baby, on her first major tours of Australia and New Zealand, but the decision was popularly applauded. By her own admission, the Princess of Wales had not initially intended to take William until it was suggested by Malcolm Fraser, the Australian prime minister.
A second son, Henry Charles Albert David, was born on September 15, 1984. The Princess asserted she and the Prince were closest during her pregnancy with Harry (as the younger prince has always been known). She was aware their second child was a boy, but did not share the knowledge with anyone else, including the Prince of Wales. Persistent suggestions that Harry’s father is not Charles but James Hewitt, with whom Diana had an affair, have been based on alleged physical similarity between Hewitt and Harry. However, Harry had already been born by the time the affair between Hewitt and Diana began.
Diana gave her sons wider experiences than was usual for royal children. She rarely deferred to the Prince or to the Royal Family, and was often intransigent when it came to the children. She chose their first given names, dismissed a royal family nanny and engaged one of her own choosing, selected their schools and clothing, planned their outings, and took them to school herself as often as her schedule permitted. She also organized her public duties around their timetables.
Diana’s first solo engagement was a visit to Regent Street on November 18, 1981, to switch on the Christmas lights. She attended the Trooping the Colour for the first time in June 1982, making her appearance on the balcony of Buckingham Palace afterwards. The Princess made her inaugural overseas tour in September 1982, to attend the state funeral of Grace, Princess of Monaco. Also in 1982, Diana accompanied the Prince of Wales to the Netherlands and was created a Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. In 1983, she accompanied the Prince on a tour of Australia and New Zealand with Prince William, where they met with representatives of the Māori people. Their visit to Canada in June and July 1983 included a trip to Edmonton to open the 1983 Summer Universiade and a stop in Newfoundland to commemorate the 400th anniversary of that island’s acquisition by the Crown.
In 1983, she confided in the then-Premier of Newfoundland, Brian Peckford, “I am finding it very difficult to cope with the pressures of being Princess of Wales, but I am learning to cope with it.” As Princess of Wales, she was expected to make regular public appearances at hospitals, schools, and other facilities, in the 20th-century model of royal patronage. From the mid-1980s, she became increasingly associated with numerous charities. She carried out 191 official engagements in 1988 and 397 in 1991. The Princess developed an intense interest in serious illnesses and health-related matters outside the purview of traditional royal involvement, including AIDS and leprosy. In recognition of her effect as a philanthropist, Stephen Lee, director of the UK Institute of Charity Fundraising Managers, said “Her overall effect on charity is probably more significant than any other person’s in the 20th century.”
In addition to health-related matters, Diana’s extensive charity work included campaigning for animal protection and her fight against the use of landmines. She was the patroness of charities and organisations working with the homeless, youth, drug addicts, and the elderly.
In February 1984, Diana was the patron of London City Ballet when she traveled to Norway on her own to attend a performance organised by the company. In April 1985, the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Italy, and were later joined by Princes William and Harry. They met with President Alessandro Pertini. Their visit to the Holy See included a private audience with Pope John Paul II. In November 1985, the couple visited the United States, meeting President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan at the White House. Diana had a busy year in 1986. She embarked with the Prince of Wales on a tour of Japan, Indonesia, Spain, and Canada. In Canada, they visited Expo 86. In 1988, the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Thailand and toured Australia for the bicentenary celebrations. In February 1989, she spent a few days in New York as a solo visit. During a tour of Harlem Hospital Center, she made a profound impact on the public by spontaneously hugging a seven-year-old child with AIDS.
Five years into the marriage, the couple’s incompatibility and age difference (almost 13 years) became visible and damaging. Diana’s concern about Charles’ relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles also had a negative impact on the marriage. During the early 1990s, the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales fell apart; the event was at first suppressed, then sensationalized by the world media. The Princess and Prince both spoke to the press through friends; each blamed the other for the marriage’s demise.
The couple’s marital difficulties were publicly reported as early as 1985. Prince Charles resumed his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. Diana later began an extra-marital relationship with Major James Hewitt. These affairs were exposed in May 1992 with the publication of Andrew Morton’s book, Diana: Her True Story. The book was serialized before publication in The Sunday Times. The book, which also revealed the Princess’s allegedly suicidal unhappiness, caused a media storm. During 1992 and 1993, leaked tapes of telephone conversations negatively reflected on both the royal antagonists. Tape recordings of the Princess and James Gilbey were made available by The Sun newspaper’s hotline in August 1992 and transcripts of the intimate conversations were published by the newspaper the same month. The article’s title, “Squidgygate”, referenced Gilbey’s affectionate nickname for Diana. The next to surface, in November 1992, were the leaked “Camillagate” tapes, intimate exchanges between the Prince of Wales and Camilla, published in the tabloids. In December 1992, Prime Minister John Major announced the couple’s “amicable separation” to the House of Commons, and the full Camillagate transcript was published a month later in the newspapers, in January 1993.
In 1993, the Mirror Group Newspapers (MGN) published photographs of the Princess that were taken by gym owner Bryce Taylor. The photos showed her exercising in the gym LA Fitness wearing “a leotard and cycling shorts”. The Princess’s lawyers immediately filed a criminal complaint that sought “a permanent ban on the sale and publication of the photographs” around the world. However, some newspapers outside the UK published the pictures. The courts granted an injunction against Taylor and MGN that prohibited “further publication of the pictures”. MGN later issued an apology after facing much criticism from the public. It is said that MGN gave the Princess £1 million as a payment for her legal costs and donated £200,000 to her charities. Taylor apologized as well and paid Diana £300,000, although it was alleged that a member of the Royal Family had helped him financially.
Diana’s aunt-in-law, Princess Margaret, burned “highly personal” letters that Diana wrote to the Queen Mother in 1993 because she considered them “so private”. Biographer William Shawcross wrote: “No doubt Princess Margaret felt that she was protecting her mother and other members of the family.” He considered Princess Margaret’s action to be “understandable, although regrettable from a historical viewpoint”.
Diana blamed Camilla Parker Bowles for her marital troubles because of Camilla’s previous relationship with the Prince, and at some point she began to believe that he had other affairs. In October 1993, the Princess wrote to a friend that she believed her husband was now in love with his personal assistant (and his sons’ former nanny) Tiggy Legge-Bourke and wanted to marry her. Legge-Bourke had been hired by the Prince as a young companion for his sons while they were in his care, and the Princess was resentful of Legge-Bourke and her relationship with the young princes. On December 3, 1993, the Princess of Wales announced her withdrawal from public life.
In the meantime, rumors had begun to surface about the Princess of Wales’s relationship with Hewitt, who was the family’s former riding instructor. These rumors would be brought into the open by the publication in 1994 of a book by Anna Pasternak titled Princess in Love, which was filmed under the same title in a movie directed by David Greene in 1996. The Princess of Wales was portrayed by Julie Cox and James Hewitt was portrayed by Christopher Villiers.
Prince Charles sought public understanding via a televised interview with Jonathan Dimbleby on June 29, 1994. In the interview, he confirmed his own extramarital affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, saying that he had rekindled their association in 1986 only after his marriage to the Princess had “irretrievably broken down”. Authors Tina Brown, Sally Bedell Smith and Sarah Bradford are some of the many writers who fully supported Diana’s own admission in her 1995 BBC Panorama interview that she had suffered from depression, “rampant bulimia” and had engaged numerous times in the act of self mutilation; the show’s transcript records Diana confirming many of her problems to interviewer Martin Bashir, including that she had “hurt (her) arms and legs”. The combination of illnesses from which Diana herself said that she suffered resulted in some of her biographers opining that she had borderline personality disorder.
Journalist Martin Bashir interviewed Diana for the BBC current affairs show Panorama. The interview was broadcast on November 20, 1995. In reference to her relationship with Hewitt, the Princess said to Bashir, “Yes, I adored him. Yes, I was in love with him. But I was very let down [by him].” Referring to her husband’s affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, she said, “Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” Of herself, she said, “I’d like to be a queen of people’s hearts.” On the Prince’s suitability for kingship, she stated, “Because I know the character I would think that the top job, as I call it, would bring enormous limitations to him, and I don’t know whether he could adapt to that.”
On December 20, 1995, Buckingham Palace publicly announced that the Queen had sent letters to the Prince and Princess of Wales, advising them to divorce. The Queen’s move was backed by the Prime Minister and by senior Privy Counsellors, and, according to the BBC, was decided after two weeks of talks. Prince Charles formally agreed to the divorce in a written statement soon after. In February 1996, the Princess announced her agreement after negotiations with the Prince and representatives of the Queen, irritating Buckingham Palace by issuing her own announcement of the divorce agreement and its terms. In July 1996, the couple agreed on the terms of their divorce.
This followed shortly after the Princess’s accusation that the Prince’s personal assistant Tiggy Legge-Bourke had aborted the Prince’s child, after which Legge-Bourke instructed Peter Carter-Ruck to demand an apology. Diana’s secretary Patrick Jephson resigned shortly before the story broke, later writing that the Princess had “exulted in accusing Legge-Bourke of having had an abortion”.
The divorce was finalised on August 28, 1996. Diana received a lump sum settlement of £17 million as well as £400,000 per year. The couple signed a confidentiality agreement that prohibited them from discussing the details of the divorce or of their married life.
Days before the decree absolute of divorce, Letters Patent were issued with general rules to regulate royal titles after divorce. Diana lost the style Her Royal Highness because she was no longer married to the Prince of Wales and instead was styled Diana, Princess of Wales. The Queen reportedly wanted to let Diana continue to use the style after her divorce, but Charles had insisted on removing it. As the mother of the prince expected to one day ascend to the throne, she was accorded the same precedence she enjoyed during her marriage. Prince William was reported to have reassured his mother: “Don’t worry, Mummy, I will give it back to you one day when I am King.” Almost a year before, according to Tina Brown, the Duke of Edinburgh had warned the Princess of Wales: “If you don’t behave, my girl, we’ll take your title away.” She is said to have replied: “My title is a lot older than yours, Philip.” Diana and her mother quarreled in May 1997 after she told Hello! magazine that Diana was happy to lose her title of Her Royal Highness following her controversial divorce from Prince Charles. They were reportedly not on speaking terms with each other by the time of Diana’s death.
Buckingham Palace stated that the Princess of Wales was still a member of the Royal Family, because she was the mother of the second and third in line to the throne. This was confirmed by the Deputy Coroner of the Queen’s Household, Baroness Butler-Sloss, after a pre-hearing on January 8, 2007: “I am satisfied that at her death, Diana, Princess of Wales continued to be considered as a member of the Royal Household.” This appears to have been confirmed in the High Court judicial review matter of Al Fayed & Ors v Butler-Sloss. In that case, three High Court judges accepted submissions that “the very name ‘Coroner to the Queen’s Household’ gave the appearance of partiality in the context of inquests into the deaths of two people, one of whom was a member of the Royal Family and the other was not.”
After her 1996 divorce, Diana retained the double apartment on the north side of Kensington Palace that she had shared with the Prince of Wales since the first year of their marriage, and the apartment remained her home until her death the following year. She also moved her offices to Kensington Palace but was permitted “to use the state apartments at St James’s Palace”. Furthermore, she continued to have access to the jewelry that she had received during her marriage, and Diana was allowed to use the air transport of the British royal family and government. In a book published in 2003, Paul Burrell claimed that the Princess’s private letters revealed that her brother, Charles Spencer, had refused to allow her to live at Althorp, despite her request.
Diana dated the British-Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan, who was called “the love of her life” by many of her closest friends after her death, and she is said to have described him as “Mr Wonderful”. In May 1996, Diana visited Lahore upon invitation of Imran Khan, a relative of Hasnat Khan, and visited the latter’s family in secret. Khan was intensely private and the relationship was conducted in secrecy, with Diana lying to members of the press who questioned her about it. Their relationship lasted almost two years with differing accounts of who ended it. She is said to have spoken of her distress when “he” ended their relationship. However, according to Khan’s testimonial at the inquest for her death, it was Diana who ended their relationship in the summer of 1997. Diana’s butler, Paul Burrell, also said that the relationship was ended by the Princess in July 1997.
Within a month, Diana began seeing Dodi Fayed, the son of her summer host, Mohamed Al-Fayed. Diana had considered taking her sons that summer on a holiday to the Hamptons on Long Island, New York, but security officials had prevented it. After deciding against a trip to Thailand, she accepted Fayed’s invitation to join his family in the south of France, where his compound and large security detail would not cause concern to the Royal Protection squad. Mohamed Al-Fayed bought the Jonikal, a 60-metre multimillion-pound yacht on which to entertain Diana and her sons.
On August 31, 1997, Diana was fatally injured in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris. The accident also resulted in the deaths of her companion Dodi Fayed and the driver, Henri Paul, who was the acting security manager of the Hôtel Ritz Paris; Trevor Rees-Jones (Diana’s bodyguard) survived the crash.
The initial French judicial investigation concluded that the accident was caused by Paul’s drunken loss of control of the vehicle. In February 1998, Mohamed Al-Fayed, owner of the Paris Ritz where Paul had worked, publicly maintained that the crash had been planned, accusing MI6 and the Duke of Edinburgh. An inquest in London starting in 2004 and continued in 2007–2008 attributed the accident to grossly negligent driving by Paul and to the pursuing paparazzi. On April 7, 2008, the jury returned a verdict of “unlawful killing”. The day following the final verdict of the inquest, Al-Fayed announced he would end his 10-year campaign to establish that it was murder rather than an accident, stating that he did so for the sake of the Princess’s children.
The sudden and unexpected death of an extraordinarily popular royal figure brought statements from senior figures worldwide and many tributes by members of the public. People left public offerings of flowers, candles, cards, and personal messages outside Kensington Palace for many months. Her coffin, draped with the royal flag, was brought to London from Paris by Prince Charles and Diana’s two sisters on August 31, 1997. After being taken to a private mortuary it was placed in the Chapel Royal, St James’s Palace.
Diana’s funeral took place in Westminster Abbey on September 6. The previous day Queen Elizabeth II had paid tribute to her in a live television broadcast. The televised funeral was watched by a British television audience that peaked at 32.10 million, which was one of the United Kingdom’s highest viewing figures ever. Millions more watched the event around the world. Her sons walked in the funeral procession behind her coffin, along with her ex-husband the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, Diana’s brother Lord Spencer, and representatives of some of her charities. Lord Spencer said of his sister, “She proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic.” Re-written in tribute to Diana, “Candle in the Wind” was performed by Elton John at the funeral service (the only occasion the song has been performed live). Released as a single in 1997, the global proceeds from the song have gone to Diana’s charities.
The burial took place privately later the same day. Diana’s former husband, sons, mother, siblings, a close friend, and a clergyman were present. Diana’s body was clothed in a black long-sleeved dress designed by Catherine Walker, which she had chosen some weeks before. A set of rosary beads that she had received from Mother Teresa was placed in her hands. Mother Teresa had died the same week as Diana. Diana’s grave is on an island within the grounds of Althorp Park, the Spencer family home for centuries.
The burial party was provided by the 2nd Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, who were given the honor of carrying the Princess across to the island and laying her to rest. Diana was the Regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief from 1992 to 1996. The original plan was for Diana to be buried in the Spencer family vault at the local church in nearby Great Brington, but Lord Spencer said that he was concerned about public safety and security and the onslaught of visitors that might overwhelm Great Brington. He decided that Diana would be buried where her grave could be easily cared for and visited in privacy by William, Harry, and other Spencer relatives.
Following Diana’s death, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund was granted intellectual property rights over her image. In 1998, the fund sued the Franklin Mint, accusing it of illegally selling Diana dolls, plates, and jewellery after having been refused a license to do so. In California, where the initial case was tried, a suit to preserve the right of publicity may be filed on behalf of a dead person, but only if that person is a Californian. The Memorial Fund therefore filed the lawsuit on behalf of the estate and, upon losing the case, was required to pay the Franklin Mint’s legal costs of £3 million which, combined with other fees, caused the Memorial Fund to freeze its grants to charities. In 2003, the Franklin Mint counter-sued. In November 2004, the case was settled out of court with the Memorial Fund agreeing to pay £13.5 million (US$21.5 million) to charitable causes on which both sides agreed. In addition to this, the Memorial Fund had spent a total of close to £4 million (US$6.5 million) in costs and fees relating to this litigation, and as a result froze grants allocated to a number of charities.
On July 13, 2006, Italian magazine Chi published photographs showing Diana amid the wreckage of the car crash, despite an unofficial blackout on such photographs being published. The editor of Chi defended his decision by saying he published the photographs simply because they had not been previously seen, and he felt the images were not disrespectful to the memory of Diana.
The Concert for Diana at Wembley Stadium was held on July 1, 2007. The event, organized by the Princes William and Harry, celebrated the 46th anniversary of their mother’s birth and occurred a few weeks before the 10th anniversary of her death on 31 August. The proceeds that were earned from this event were donated to Diana’s charities. On August 31, 2007, a memorial service for Diana took place in the Guards Chapel. Guests included members of the royal family and their relatives, members of the Spencer family, members of Diana’s wedding party, Diana’s close friends and aides, representatives from many of her charities, British politicians Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, and John Major, and friends from the entertainment world such as David Frost, Elton John, and Cliff Richard.
Among the members of the Royal Family throughout history, Diana remains one of the most popular and still continues to influence the principles of the Royal Family and its young generation. From her engagement to the Prince of Wales in 1981 until her death in 1997, Diana was a major presence on the world stage, often described as the “world’s most photographed woman”. She was noted for her compassion, style, charisma, and high-profile charity work, as well as her difficult marriage to the Prince of Wales. Her former private secretary mentioned her as an organized and hardworking person, and pointed out that the Princess’s husband wasn’t able to “reconcile with his wife’s extraordinary popularity”, a viewpoint supported by author Tina Brown. He also stated that she was a tough boss who was “equally quick to appreciate hard work”, but could also be defiant “if she felt she had been the victim of injustice”.
Paul Burrell, who worked as a butler for the Princess, remembered her as a “deep thinker” capable of “introspective analysis”. She was often described as a devoted mother to her children, who are influenced by her personality and manner of life. In the early years, Diana was often noted for her shy nature, as well as her shrewdness, funny character, and smartness. Those who had communicated with her closely describe her as a person who was led by her heart. The Princess was also said to have a strong character, due to the fact that she entered the Royal Family as an inexperienced young girl with little education but could handle their expectations and also overcome the difficulties and sufferings of her marital life.
Diana was widely known for her encounters with sick and dying patients, the poor and unwanted whom she used to comfort, an action that earned her more popularity. She was mindful of people’s thoughts and feelings, and later revealed her wish of becoming a beloved figure among the people by saying in her 1995 interview that “[She’d] like to be a queen of people’s hearts, in people’s hearts”. According to the biographer Tina Brown, she could charm the people with a single glance. She also points out that Diana’s fame had spread around the world, even affecting Tony Blair who reportedly had said that Diana had shown the nation “a new way to be British”.
During her life the Princess could build a relationship with ordinary people, which was shown in the messages sent by different individuals around the world as a tribute after her death. Diana is often credited for bringing the types of charity works carried by the Royal Family to a wider range and a more modern style, as well as affecting some of the household’s traditional manners. Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post wrote in his article that “Diana imbued her role as royal princess with vitality, activism and, above all, glamour”. Alicia Carroll of The New York Times described Diana as “a breath of fresh air” who was the main factor that made the Royal Family known in the United States. Despite all the marital issues and scandals, Diana continued to enjoy a high level of popularity in the polls while her husband was suffering from low levels of public approval. Her peak popularity rate in the United Kingdom between 1981 and 2012 was 47%.
Diana had become what Prime Minister Tony Blair called the “People’s Princess,” an iconic national figure. Her accidental death brought an unprecedented spasm of grief and mourning, and subsequently a crisis arose in the Royal Household. Andrew Marr said that by her death she “revived the culture of public sentiment”. Her brother, the Earl Spencer, captured her role:
“Diana was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of beauty. All over the world she was a symbol of selfless humanity. All over the world, a standard bearer for the rights of the truly downtrodden, a very British girl who transcended nationality. Someone with a natural nobility who was classless and who proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic“.
I was 15 years old in the summer of 1981 but I vividly remember watching the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in the middle of the night from our home in suburban Kansas. Having childhood friends who were living at the time in the U.K. (Lincolnshire) helped to turn me into somewhat of an Anglophile. During that period I was also corresponding with an author (he wrote histories of transatlantic ocean liners) who lived on Jersey in the Channel Islands. It was he who started my Royal Wedding stamp collection by sending me a Jersey presentation pack. My friends in Lincolnshire contributed with other types of souvenirs. For my birthday that year, I received an album containing first day covers of all of the participants in the British Commonwealth omnibus issue marking the wedding. Alas, those are all gone now and the sole stamp that I have bearing either Charles or Diana’s image arrived a couple of years ago on an envelope from a stamp dealer in the U.K.
Great Britain #1793 was released on February 3, 1998, as part of a se-tenant strip of five 26-pence stamps commemorating the life of Diana, Princess of Wales. The stamps were printed using the photogravure process, perforated 14×15, with two phosphor bands. The image of Diana wearing a tiara is based on a 1991 photograph by Lord Snowdon.