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Diana, Princess of Wales

 

Life: (1961-1997)

July 1 1961 - August 31 1997

On Sunday 31 August, Britain awoke to media reports that Diana, Princess of Wales had been killed in a terrible car accident in a road tunnel near the Seine R in Paris, France. Her friend, Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the Mercedes Benz in which they were traveling, Henri Paul, were also dead. The sole survivor, Dodi's bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was in hospital with horrific facial injuries. Early reports suggested that the crash was caused by paparazzi (freelance photographers) seeking photographs of Diana with Dodi, the man to whom she had recently been romantically linked.

 

Within hours, the news of Diana's death raced around the world. The shock and disbelief were followed by an unprecedented international outpouring of grief. It was a tragic end to the life of Diana, Princess of Wales

 

1961 - 1975 Diana Frances Spencer

Diana Frances Spencer was born on July 1, 1961. Diana and her two elder sisters Sarah and Jane, and their younger brother Charles, were born into a life of wealth and privilege.

 

Diana's life was happy until 1966-67 when her mother, Frances, left her father for Peter Shand Kydd. It was the first in a long line of sad and lonely periods in Diana's life. The protracted and messy legal proceedings ended in 1969 when the divorce became final and Diana's father was awarded custody of the four children. Soon after, Frances and Peter were married. The following year, when Diana was nine, she was sent to Riddlesworth Hall school, after which went to West Heath boarding school in Kent.

 

1975 - 1981 Lady Diana Spencer

The common thread in stories about Diana's time at school was that she never excelled there. The most notable events during this time occurred not at school but at home. In 1975 Diana's grandfather died; her father became the 8th Earl Spencer and she became Lady Diana Spencer. The next year her father re-married. Diana's new stepmother, Raine, was the daughter of romantic novelist Barbara Cartland.

 

Diana's school career ended when she failed all of her final exams. She left West Heath and went to a finishing school in Switzerland where she was lonely and homesick. Diana returned to England and stayed with her mother until she moved into her own flat in London, which she shared with girlfriends. During this time she worked as a cleaner and nanny. In 1979 she worked for a short time as a dance teacher until a friend offered her a job at the Young England Kindergarten. It was while she was working at the kindergarten that Lady Diana Spencer became known to the world as the fiancée of Britain's Prince of Wales, future King of England.

 

It is generally agreed that the courtship of Lady Diana and Prince Charles began in July 1980 and was in full swing by August. Diana and Charles spent the New Year of 1981 together with the royal family at Sandringham. No doubt many reporters followed them to the holiday retreat marking the beginning of the intense media interest that persisted throughout Diana's lifetime.

 

Charles proposed to Diana early in February 1981. She accepted and the engagement was announced on February 24. From that point onwards, Diana's life was no longer her own. She was whisked off into the protective fold of the royal family to distance her from the insatiable hunger of the media and to undertake a crash course in royal etiquette. Undoubtedly it was difficult for the nineteen-year-old Diana to realize the enormity of the role she was taking on. She had not only accepted a proposal of marriage, she had accepted a completely new life and was faced with the prospect of one day becoming Charles's queen. This was certainly daunting for a young woman whose adult life had barely begun.

 

1981 - 1996 Her Royal Highness, The Princess of Wales

On July 29, 1981 Diana married Charles and became Her Royal Highness, The Princess of Wales. The wedding was televised and watched by about 700 million people around the world.

 

According to the media and the public at the time, Charles and Diana's wedding signalled the beginning of a modern- day fairytale. Of course, it was not a fairytale: it was the story of two people trying to make a life together under extraordinary circumstances. Charles, after all, was not just Diana's new husband, he was the man who would one day become King of Britain and head of the Church of England. Diana had not just married a man, she had married a prince and in the process had become a member of Britain's royal family.

 

One of the factors that heightened the pressure on the Wales's marriage was the unrelenting media attention that focused on the couple, particularly Diana, wherever they went. Over the years, magazines and newspapers around the world have published countless numbers of photographs and words about Diana, her husband, her children, her lifestyle, her clothes, her successes, and her failures.

 

In addition to this mass of information, many authors have written books about the Princess of Wales. One such book, Diana, Her True Story by Andrew Morton, caused a storm when it was published in June 1992 because it shattered the fairytale myth that the media, and Buckingham Palace, had built up around the marriage. Morton revealed that Diana's tearful outbursts before the wedding were caused by Charles's close relationship with Mrs Camilla Parker-Bowles, one of the Prince's former girlfriends, and not prenuptial nerves as some reports claimed. The book also gave details of Diana's suicide attempts and her battle with the eating disorder bulimia nervosa.

 

Other biographies, along with the Palace, claimed that Charles and Diana were blissfully happy together during their engagement and honeymoon and that Camilla, among other women in the Prince's circle, was simply a close friend. However, Morton cites two incidents as proof that Diana's jealousy of Camilla was not baseless. Just days before the wedding Charles gave Camilla a bracelet that he had ordered especially for her. Diana had discovered the gift and confronted Charles about it, but he gave it to Camilla anyway. Morton also says that on their honeymoon, Diana was upset when two photographs of Camilla fell out of Charles's diary. In a television interview years later, Charles confirmed the nature of the relationship he had with Camilla by admitting to adultery.

 

The accuracy of the information in Diana, Her True Story was attacked by many when it was published in 1992, even though Morton claimed that the book was based on interviews with people who were close to Diana. When Diana did nothing to discredit the book, her tacit approval was assumed. Buckingham Palace suspected that Diana had actually collaborated with Morton to write the book but when confronted with this allegation, Diana denied it. However, on Monday 29 September 1997, a month after Diana's death, Andrew Morton revealed that the book was based on six secret interviews given to him by Diana herself. According to Morton, not only did Diana provide interviews, she read and made corrections to the entire manuscript and chose the photograph for the cover. This revelation casts the book in a new light: in essence, it can be seen as Diana's autobiography up until 1992.

 

On June 21, 1982, less than a year after the wedding, Diana gave birth to her first child and heir to the throne, Prince William Arthur Philip Louis. In the following year, Diana broke with royal tradition and took Prince William with her when she and Charles embarked on a royal tour of Australia.

 

The couple's second child, Prince Henry Charles Albert David (known as Prince Harry) was born on September 15, 1984. Diana adored both her boys and tried to bring them up as "normally" as possible. She wanted them to appreciate their roles and responsibilities within the monarchy as well as develop an understanding of life outside it.

 

Diana's role as a mother was one that she loved, but her role as a wife did not bring her the same happiness. The couple's relationship deteriorated over the years and by 1987 they were spending long periods apart and facing media reports from all quarters that speculated on the rift in the marriage.

 

According to Morton's 1992 book, the late eighties and early nineties were a time of re-evaluation for Diana. She began to address the problem of her bulimia nervosa, investigate her spirituality, and carve her own niche in the world by undertaking hospital visits and becoming involved with the issue of AIDS. Charles and Diana grew further and further apart as they pursued different paths. During 1991 and 1992 they were basically living separate lives.

 

On December 9, 1992 after a year fraught with extreme tension, British Prime Minister John Major announced in Parliament that the Prince and Princess of Wales were to officially separate. Andrew Morton's 1994 book Diana, Her New Life says that most of 1993 became a media battle between Diana and Charles and their respective supporters. By the end of the year Diana decided that it was time for her to bow out of the spotlight. On December 3 1993, almost a year after the separation, Diana announced her withdrawal from public life. While she intended to maintain her support for a small number of charities, she decided not to attend any more State occasions.

 

The years after Diana's retirement from public life were dotted with more headlines about the couple, including revelations of adultery. In a television interview on June 29 1994 Charles admitted that he had had an adulterous affair with Mrs Camilla Parker-Bowles. On November 20 1995 Diana also used a television interview to admit that she had committed adultery with James Hewitt, an Army officer. At this point it seemed inevitable that divorce would soon follow, and it did.

 

1996 - 1997 Diana, Princess of Wales

On August 28 1996 Charles and Diana's divorce became official. They were given joint custody of William and Harry. As part of the settlement, Diana lost the title Her Royal Highness, instead being referred to as Diana, Princess of Wales. Even though she divorced Prince Charles, she remained a member of the royal family because of her position as mother of Prince William, who is second in line to the throne after Charles.

 

After the divorce Diana continued to carve a place for herself in the world away from the royal family. She returned to public life on her own terms and gave her support to various charities and causes. She was very involved with the Red Cross and the campaign to ban landmines.

 

In 1997, Diana was romantically linked with Dodi Fayed, the son of Mohammed Fayed, millionaire and owner of the exclusive English department store Harrod's. In July, Diana, William, and Harry were photographed on holiday with Dodi and his family in St Tropez.

 

On Saturday August 30 1997, Diana and Dodi dined at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, which is owned by Dodi's father. After dinner they left in a Mercedes Benz, which was followed by press photographers on motor bikes who wanted to photograph Diana and Dodi together. After the Mercedes entered a tunnel near the R Seine at high speed it crashed into a pillar. The driver, Henri Paul, and Dodi were killed instantly. Diana and Dodi's bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, were taken to hospital. Diana died at 4am on Sunday August 31 1997.

 

Diana's death was reported in Britain on Sunday morning. Mourners immediately began placing flowers and cards outside Buckingham Palace and Diana's home, Kensington Palace, and queued throughout the week to sign condolence books and pay their last respects.

 

Diana's funeral was held on Saturday 6 September 1997. Millions of people lined the streets of London and millions more from around the world watched on television as the funeral cortege made its way to Westminster. Diana's two sons William and Harry, her brother Charles the Earl of Spencer, Prince Charles, and the Duke of Edinburgh walked behind her coffin as it was transported on a horse-drawn gun carriage. The funeral was attended by hundreds of Diana's friends and family, including many actors and musicians she knew, such as Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sting, and George Michael. Elton John, a close friend of Diana's, performed a revised version of his song 'Candle in the Wind' and her brother Charles gave a moving, heart-felt eulogy.

 

After the service, Diana's brother Charles, William, Harry, and Prince Charles traveled to Althorp, the Spencer family estate in Northamptonshire where Diana was laid to rest on an island on a lake.