Childhood

Married Life And Motherhood

Diana Frances Spencer was born on July 1, 1961. She spent her childhood at Park House, which was located on the grounds of the Royal Family's estate of Sandringham. During her childhood, Diana and her three siblings occasionally went to Sandringham for lunch, or to watch movies with members of the Royal Family. Despite of the beautiful surroundings, Diana's childhood was full of unhappiness and turmoil. Much of Diana's unhappiness came from the deteriorating relationship between her parents. In 1969, her parents divorced. Her father was given full custody of the four children. Soon after the divorce was finalized, Diana's mother married Peter Shand-Kydd, a Scottish businessman. 

 

Upon the death of her grandfather in 1975, Diana's father became the eighth Earl Spencer and inherited the ancestral estate of Althorp and all the financial resources and liabilities associated with it. Diana and her siblings also received titles. Diana and her sisters became Ladies, and her brother, Charles, became Viscount Althorp. Around the same time the family moved to Althorp, Diana also changed schools. She moved to a boarding school called West Heath, which was also attended by her older sisters. In 1977, Diana's father remarried. His new wife was Raine, Countess of Dartmouth. The Spencer children were united against their new stepmother, whom they disliked. The children were always fighting with their new stepmother, and even named her 'Acid Rain'.

 

 

 

When Diana was 16 years old, she met Prince Charles for the first time at a hunting party at Althorp. There was nothing glamorous or romantic about the meeting. Soon afterward, Diana was enrolled in a finishing school near Gstaad, Switzerland. At the Institute Alpin Vidamanette, she studied foreign languages, music and sports. In the summer of 1979, Diana's family bought her a spacious apartment located at 60 Coleherne Court in a fashionable and exclusive area of London, known as South Kensington. Diana shared the apartment with three friends, Carolyn Bartholomew, Anne Bolton, and Virginia Pitman. Although Diana did not need money, as her expenses were paid by her parents, she did want to find a job. She frequently worked for her sister Sarah and her friends doing housekeeping, earning a pound. She also babysat the children of her sisters and their friends. Diana also worked as an assistant teacher at the Young England Kindergarten, a private preschool located in the nearby London neighborhood of Pimlico that catered to wealthy, upper-class families. Because her job at the Young England Kindergarten was only three days a week, Diana signed on with several agencies that provided nannies to families in the area. Her favorite client was Mary Robertson. Diana loved caring for Mary's son Patrick.

 

In July 1980, Diana met Prince Charles again at a barbecue party at her friend Philip de Pass's house. A few weeks after their meeting, Charles invited Diana to go to a performance of Verdi's 'Requiem' at London's Royal Albert Hall. Diana attended with her grandmother, Lady Ruth Fermoy. Afterward, the three of them went back to Buckingham Palace for a late dinner. More invitations followed. Prince Charles proposed to Lady Diana on February 6, 1981. The engagement was announced on February 24. Ten days after the announcement of the royal engagement, Diana moved of her apartment and settled into a suite of rooms at Buckingham Palace. She spent her days learning royal protocol, and even received instructions on proper royal behavior by the Queen Mother herself. On July 29, 1981, Prince Charles married Lady Diana in St. Paul’s Cathedral, before a congregation of 2,500. The ceremony and the royal processions were watched by more than 750 million television viewers in more than 70 countries. Diana was now the Princess of Wales, and the future queen of England. The royal couple spent the first three nights of their honeymoon in Scotland. Then, they departed for a three months Mediterranean cruise on the royal yacht, Britannia. Charles and Diana lived in two main homes. Their country home was Highgrove, an estate in the countryside of Gloucestershire, and their base in London was Kensington Palace. 

 

 

 

Diana was keenly aware that one of her most important royal duties was to produce an heir to the throne. On June 21, 1982, Diana gave birth to her first son. She and Charles named him William Arthur Philip Louis. During the early days of 1984, Diana discovered that she was pregnant again. On September 15, 1984, Diana gave birth to her second son. The new baby was named Henry Charles Albert David, but he would be called Harry. Diana's two sons are commonly referred to as 'the heir and the spare'. Although Diana and Charles did their best in front of the public and press, rumors began to swirl inside the palace about the state of the royal marriage, and that Charles and Diana were growing apart and each had separate private lives. As the decade wore on, the tension between the two began to creep into even their public appearances, as it became ever more difficult for them to live up to the front of the perfect royal marriage. 

 

On November 25, Charles told Diana he wanted a separation. She agreed. On December 9, 1992, Buckingham Palace announced that the Prince and Princess of Wales were separating. Few months later, a stressed and tired Diana stated that she was withdrawing from public life. During the separation period, Charles and Diana harassed each other through the press. The constant warfare between the two was severely damaging the monarchy's reputation. The Royal Family was furious at their behavior, and Queen Elizabeth II wrote to both Charles and Diana asking them to start divorce proceedings. On August 28, 1996, the final divorce decree was issued. Under the terms of an agreement reached between Diana and the royal family, Diana was barred from ever succeeding to the throne and forced to drop the prefix H.R.H, from her name, becoming known simply as Diana, Princess of Wales. She shared custody of William and Harry with Charles and was to be involved in all decisions regarding them, she was able to continue living in Kensington Palace, and received a lump sum alimony payment of $20 million dollar. 

 

 

 

On July 1997, Diana received an invitation to vacation in the tropical paradise of St. Tropez at an estate belonging to Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al Fayed. Al Fayed was a close friend to Diana's father Earl Spencer and stepmother Countess of Dartmouth. He was the owner of the world-famous Harrods department store in London. When arrived to Nice, France, Diana was introduced to Al Fayed's handsome, unmarried, 41 year old son, Emad, better known as Dodi. After two weeks, Dodi invited Diana to another Mediterranean cruise on the 'Jonikal', Al Fayed's luxurious yacht. She accepted. On August 30, Diana and Dodi traveled to Paris for a short stay, as Diana was planning to return to London to spend few days with her sons before they went back to school.

 

After a private dinner at the Ritz Hotel, Diana and Dodi decided to leave the hotel by the back entrance, in hopes of eluding the photographers. At 12:00 pm, they got into a black Mercedes, driven by the hotel chuffer, Henri Paul. Despite these efforts, a group of photographers figured out what was going on and was waiting at the Ritz's back entrance. As soon as the black Mercedes pulled away, they followed. When the black Mercedes entered Paris's Alma Tunnel, the driver lost control of the wheel. At 12:30 pm, the car crashed in the 13th pillar of the tunnel. The driver and Dodi died instantly after the crash, but Diana and the bodyguard were very badly injured. The princess suffered from internal bleeding. At the resuscitation room at La Pitie Salpetriere Hospital, doctors were massaging Diana's weak heart and made an immediate operation aiming to save her life. Two hours later, the hospital announced the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, on August 31, 1997, at 4:00 am Paris time. She was 36 year old.

 

The public funeral of The Princess of Wales started on 6 September 1997 at 9:08 am, and the official ceremony was held at Westminster Abbey in London. The coffin was carried from the palace on a gun carriage, along Hyde Park to St. James's Palace, where Diana's body had remained for five days before being taken to Kensington Palace. Two thousand people attended the ceremony in Westminster Abbey, and more than one million people lined the streets of London, while the British television audience peaked at 32.10 million, one of the United Kingdom's highest viewing figures ever. Two billion people traced the event worldwide, making it one of the most watched events in history. The event was not a state funeral, but a royal ceremonial funeral including royal pageantry and Anglican funeral liturgy.

 

The burial occurred privately later the same day. 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 was placed in her hands, a gift she had received from Mother Teresa, who died the same week as Diana. Her grave is located on an island within the grounds of Althorp, the Spencer family home for centuries. The island is in an ornamental lake known as The Round Oval within Althorp Park's gardens. A path with thirty six oak trees, marking each year of her life, leads to the Oval. Four black swans swim in the lake. In the water there are water lilies, which, in addition to white roses, were Diana's favourite flowers. The Spencer family's decision to bury the Princess in this secluded and private location has enabled William, Harry, and other Spencer relatives to visit her grave in private.

 

At the burial ceremony, the Royal Standard flag which had covered the coffin was removed by Diana's brother moments before she was buried, and replaced with the Spencer family flag; the Earl claimed that "She is a Spencer now." 

 

Sources:

  • Diana Her True Story By Andrew Morton. Publication Year: 1992

  • The Funeral Of Diana, Princess Of Wales By Nigel Dacre. Publication Year: 2003

Life In London

Death And Funeral