Best known for: Becoming Princess of Wales when she married Prince Charles
Nickname: Lady Di
Princess Diana Source: US Federal Government
Where did Princess Diana grow up?
Diana Frances Spencer was born in Norfolk, England on July 1, 1961. She was born into a high ranking and important British family. Her father, John Spencer, was a Viscount when she was born and would later inherit the title of Earl. Her mother, Frances, came from a family with strong ties to the royal family and Queen Elizabeth II.
Diana grew up on a large estate in Norfolk called Park House. She had two older sisters (Sarah, Jane) and a younger brother (Charles). Her sisters were mostly away at boarding school while she was young, so Diana became close to her brother Charles. One of the toughest things Diana had to deal with was when her parents got divorced. Not long after that, eight-year-old Diana was sent to boarding school.
At school Diana excelled in athletics, music, and art. She did not enjoy math and science. One of her favorite things to do was to work with the elderly and the disabled. She loved to help others. When she completed boarding school at the age of sixteen, she went to finishing school in Switzerland. Finishing school is where girls from high society families learn about cooking, dancing, and attending parties. Diana didn't like the school and begged her father to let her come home. He finally agreed and she returned to England.
When Diana turned 18 she moved into an apartment with three of her friends. She didn't need money because her father paid for all of her expenses. However, she also didn't want to just sit around and attend parties. Diana took a job as an assistant at a Kindergarten. She really loved working with kids. She also took jobs babysitting for friends.
Diana and Prince Charles Source: Ronald Reagan Library
Meeting Prince Charles
Diana had first met Prince Charles when she was sixteen years old. However, it was three years later when they met again at a friend's party that their romance began. For a time, their romance was secret and kept from the newspapers. Once the word got out, however, Diana's life was never the same. Photographers and reporters followed her around and waited outside her apartment. She couldn't go anywhere without being surrounded by photographers wanting a picture. Despite all the press and pressure of dating the Prince, Diana remained calm, polite, and poised.
A Huge Wedding
On February 6, 1981 the prince asked Lady Diana to marry him. This was big news in Britain. The public was fascinated with the couple. Their wedding would be the event of the century. Before the wedding, Diana moved into Buckingham Palace where she learned all about being a princess. The wedding was going to be huge and the rituals complex. She didn't want to make a mistake. On July 29, 1981, the wedding finally took place at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. Around 750 million people around the world watched the wedding take place on television. After the wedding, Diana and Charles went on a Mediterranean cruise for their honeymoon.
Princess of Wales
Diana was now the Princess of Wales. However, her life was not the fairytale she imagined. The press continued to follow her around whenever she was in public. She hardly saw the prince, who spent much of his time fishing and hiking, except for at public events. She was also fairly lonely and missed her old apartment and friends.
Heir to the Throne
Much to the delight of the royal family, Diana gave birth to a son on June 21, 1982. His name was William Arthur Philip Louis. Young Prince William was now in line to become king of England someday. Diana was overjoyed to have a child. Although it was difficult with all of her royal duties, she wanted to be involved in every aspect of her child's life. Two years later, Diana had another son, Henry, who was called Prince Harry.
The marriage of Princess Diana and Prince Charles began to fall apart. They spent little time together and had little in common. Charles was cold and intellectual, the exact opposite of Diana. Charles was often jealous of Diana's popularity with the press and the people of England. He had also remained close friends with his former girlfriend Camilla Parker. By the 1990s, the marriage was over. Their divorce was announced in 1992 by England's Prime Minister at the House of Commons. The divorce became final in 1996.
Both during her marriage to Prince Charles and after, Princess Diana spent much of her time and efforts bringing attention to various charities. She would often visit sick children or battered women. She spoke for groups such as the Red Cross and AIDS foundations. One of her major efforts was to outlaw the use of landmines in battle. Landmines are often left long after a war is over, causing deaths and injuries to innocent people including children.
On August 31, 1997 Diana was traveling in Paris with a friend named Dodi Fayed. The car they were in was being chased by paparazzi (photographers who follow celebrities). The car crashed, killing both Diana and Dodi. Her death was mourned by much of the world. It is estimated that 2.5 billion people watched her funeral on TV.
Interesting Facts about Princess Diana
Diana's parents were married at Westminster Abbey. The queen attended their wedding.
While a child she visited the nearby home of the royal family and played with the younger princes, Andrew and Edward.
Prince Charles was thirteen years older than Lady Diana.
She did not like people to call her "Di" even though she was often called "Lady Di", "Shy Di", or "Princess Di."