Inspiring Women series: Diana, Princess of Wales

October 5, 2020

“The greatest problem in the world today is intolerance. Everyone is so intolerant of each other.” – Princess Diana 

Inspiring women series: Diana, Princess of Wales

Diana Frances Spencer was born on July 1, 1961. She was the fourth of five children. The Spencer family had been closely allied with the British royal family for several generations, Diana's grandmothers had served as ladies in waiting to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.


Diana grew up with three siblings: 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 the Queen's sons Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. 

Diana was seven years old when her parents divorced. Her mother later married Peter Shand Kydd. Her father married Raine, Countess of Dartmouth. Diana's relationship with her stepmother was particularly bad. She resented Raine, whom she called a "bully", and on one occasion Diana "pushed her down the stairs," describing her childhood as "very unhappy." 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 Northamptonshire.  

Diana was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne, and the mother of Prince William and Prince Harry.  Diana's activism and glamour made her an international icon and earned her an enduring popularity as well as an unprecedented public scrutiny, exacerbated by her tumultuous private life.

Diana came to prominence in 1981 upon her engagement to Prince Charles, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, after a brief courtship. Their wedding took place at St Paul's Cathedral in 1981 and made her Princess of Wales,  a role in which she was enthusiastically received by the public. The couple had two sons, the princes William and Harry, who were then second and third in the line of succession to the British throne. 

Diana's marriage to Charles, however, suffered due to their incompatibility and extramarital affairs. Five years into the marriage, the couple's incompatibility and age difference of almost 13 years became visible and damaging. The couple separated in 1992, soon after the breakdown of their relationship became public knowledge. Charles resumed his relationship with his former girlfriend Camilla Parker Bowles, and Diana later began an affair with Major James Hewitt, the family's former riding instructor. 

In 1989, Diana was at a birthday party for Camilla's sister, when she confronted Camilla about her and Charles's extramarital affair. These affairs were later exposed in May 1992 with the publication of, Diana: Her True Story. The book, also revealed the Princess's allegedly suicidal unhappiness, causing a media storm. The details of their marital difficulties became increasingly publicized, and the marriage ended in divorce in 1996.

As Princess of Wales, Diana undertook royal duties on behalf of the Queen and represented her at functions. She was celebrated in the media for her unconventional approach to charity work. Her patronages initially centered on children and youth but she later became known for her involvement with AIDS patients and campaign for the removal of landmines. She also raised awareness and advocated ways to help people affected with cancer and mental illness. As princess, Diana was initially noted for her shyness, but her charisma and friendliness endeared her to the public and helped her reputation survive the acrimonious collapse of her marriage. Considered to be very photogenic, she was a leader of fashion in the 1980s and 1990s. Media attention and public mourning were extensive after her death in a car crash  in a Paris tunnel in 1997. 

Information found on Wikipedia


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