by Sarah Masih
Princess Diana had stolen the hearts of the public ever since she was first introduced to the media in 1977. Wife of Prince Charles and mother to Prince William and Prince Henry, she was the perfect example of royalty out in the streets.
A documentary, about the life of Princess Diana, that I have recently watched, has also taught me that things are not always what they seem. She did so much good in the world -- she was an angel, but most effectively, she humanized the Royal family.
Who was Diana Spencer?
Princess Diana was born on July 1st, 1961 near Sandringham, England to Edward John Spencer and Frances Ruth Burke Roche, the Viscount and Viscountess of Althorp. Her parents divorced when she was quite young and her father won custody of her and her siblings.
Diana had two older sisters-Lady Jane Fellowes and Lady Sarah McCorquodale, and an older brother, Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer. She became Lady Diana Spencer after her father earned the title of Earl Spencer in 1975.
Education and Jobs
She got her education from Riddlesworth Hall and West Heath School and concluded her schooling at Chateau d’Oex in Switzerland.
Diana returned to England and became a kindergarten assistant at the Young England School in Pimlico. Diana loved working with kids, but she knew in her heart that she would end up marrying someone in the public eye. She thought that he would be the ambassador, but little did she know she would end up marrying the most eligible bachelor in the Western world at that time.
Courting the Prince
It was not known that Diana had dated anyone else before Prince Charles. In a documentary that was released in 2017 called Diana: In Her Words, she claims that photographers were following her everywhere, and at one point, they rented the house across from hers and would set up binoculars to peek inside her room.
Prince Charles, on the other hand, was not new to having cameras on him. He gave many hints of marrying Diana before the news of their engagement broke out. The world was obsessed with this couple -- the formal, garden-loving prince and a modest young woman with an interest in fashion and pop culture.
Prince Charles proposed to Diana with an 18-karat white gold ring topped with a 12-carat oval Ceylon sapphire surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds. It was made by the crown jeweler Garrard, and reportedly inspired by a brooch created in 1840 for Prince Albert as a wedding present for Queen Victoria. The ring reportedly cost Charles £28,000 at the time, or 35,000 U.S dollars equivalent.
The two announced their engagement on February 6, 1981. Their engagement caused a huge celebration to erupt in England, with thousands of spectators gathering around the royal palace to congratulate the couple.
The Wedding of the Century
The long-awaited marriage of the two lovebirds took place on July 29, 1981. The bride wore a taffeta wedding dress made with silk and antique lace and 10,000 pearls, created by designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel. On her head, she wore an 18th-century Spencer family tiara. Her veil was about 25 ft long and barely fit in the carriage which she arrived in. It took a total of 3 and a half minutes for Diana to walk down the aisle.
The ceremony was broadcasted on television all over the world. Nearly one billion people from 74 countries watched the wedding that was deemed the “wedding of the century.”
Diana gave birth to two sons: Prince Willam Arthur Philip Louis born on June 21st, 1982. Prince Henry Charles Albert David is fondly known as “Prince Harry” was born on September 15th, 1984. When she was pregnant with William, she claimed it was at a time when her bulimia was at its worst and she was often sick.
She also claimed that she was forced to go out in public to protect the reputation of the Royal Family. During secret interviews that she did, she admitted that her sons kept her marriage from falling apart.
Eventually, no amount of children could save Diana and Charles’ relationship. Their divorce was announced in December 1992, by the British Prime Minister. It was finalized in August 1996.
Diana revealed that they had been growing apart for a long time while Diana struggled with depression and bulimia. During their union, there were reports of infidelity from both sides.
According to a book by Tina Brown, Diana had maintained a relationship with a Pakistani heart surgeon named Hasnat Khan in 1995. On the other hand, Prince Charles admitted to dating Camilla Parker Bowles whom he eventually married in 2005.
It was even rumored that Queen Elizabeth II urged Charles and Diana to end their marriage. Diana kept her title “Princess of Wales.”, however, she agreed to give up her title of “Her Royal Highness” and claims to the British throne.
A True Humanitarian
Following the end of her marriage, she devoted her time to her sons and charities. In several interviews, she had deemed her royal duties to be overwhelming and intense. She also never liked constantly being in the media’s eyes. Being able to evade from all of those responsibilities must have been freeing for the Princess.
During this time, she helped raise awareness about the leftover landmines in post-war Angola. Throughout her lifetime, she remained a patron to several charities. At the peak of her career, she was linked to about 100 charities, most of which she served up until she divorced Prince Charles.
After her divorce, she remained loyal to about six charities. Despite her untimely death, these charities still received grants from Diana through the Princess of Wales Memorial Fund which set up public donations amounting to more than 100 million U.S dollars.
23 years later, her mark on the world still shows. Her contributions to causes surrounding land mines, leprosy, and homelessness are still impacting the world.
In 1997, Diana sent the world into a frenzy when she started dating Dodi Fayed. Fayed was an Egyptian film producer. They met at a polo match in 1986 and openly dated during the summer of 1997.
Their relationship was in every tabloid you could imagine. Many members of the Royal family did not approve of their relationship, including then-Prime Minister Tony Blair. Diana’s butler Paul Burrell called Fayed a rebound for her relationship with Hasnat Khan.
While she was in France with Fayed, she was involved in a car crash while escaping the paparazzi on August 31st, 1997. Fayed and the driver both died on site, but Diana was alive till she was hospitalized. However, she lost her life to critical injuries a few hours later. She was only 36 years old.
Her death shocked the world and the world mourned for the loss of such a wonderful human. Queen Elizabeth II was widely criticized for not making a public statement about Diana’s death.
On September 5th, the Queen made a televised address from Buckingham Palace, which she said:
“No one who knew Diana will ever forget her. Millions of others who never met her, but felt they knew her, will remember her. I, for one, believe there are lessons to be drawn from her life and from the extraordinary and moving reaction to her death. I share in your determination to cherish her memory.”
At first, the group of reporters who were chasing the car was blamed for the crash, however, later it was discovered that their driver was under the influence of alcohol.
Some conspiracy theories that have surfaced over the years claim that Diana’s death was part of an assassination plot planned by the Royal family itself, though no clear proof has been found.
Diana was known as a symbol of love, hope, and humanity, and it was only right that she be honored for her work.
On September 6th, Diana’s funeral procession began from Kensington Palace, with her coffin resting on a gun carriage drawn by six black horses. Thousands of people gathered in the streets to mourn the loss of their beloved Princes. 15-year-old William and 12-year-old Harry joined the processing along the final stretch of the cavalcade.
An estimated 2.5 billion people watched the funeral, which was held at Westminster Abbey, on television. Elton John gave a performance in honour of Diana and a powerful eulogy was given by Diana’s brother, Earl Charles Spencer.
Diana’s body was laid at a gravesite near her family’s Althorp estate.
In 2007, just before the 10th anniversary of her death, Princes William and Harry honored their mother with a special concert that took place on her 46th birthday. The proceeds of the event went to the charities that Diana once supported.
Prince William also honored his beloved mother when naming his second child, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, who was born on May 2nd, 2015.
Her efforts were continued after her death. Funds were started to provide resources for palliative care, penal reform, asylum, and other issues.
In 2013, the fund was incorporated into The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Princess Catherine) and Prince Harry.
Princess Diana showed the world that what seems to be perfect is often not. She humanized the Royal family and let the world into the back scenes of a seemingly perfect marriage. ‘Perfect’ was used a lot to describe her life, her style, her work, but what we learned was that she was struggling -- with the media, with bulimia, and a failing marriage.
Although one may think that she fell short of the royal standard, she was loved by the public throughout her life. Her style, elegance, and grace has been captured in history and is now being brought back by style icons such as Harry Styles.
She may not be the ideal Princess or a perfect wife but she was a model humanitarian and that is the greatest title one could perhaps ever achieve.
Diana: In Her Own Words (Documentary)