Diana Princess of Wales
01.07.1961 - 31.08.1997
Diana Princess of WalesDiana Frances Mountbatten-Windsor 01.07.1961 bis 31.08.1997
Diana, Princess of Wales (Diana Frances Mountbatten-Windsor, née The Lady Diana Spencer) (1 July 1961 – 31 Augut1997) was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales. Her two sons, Prince William of Wales and Prince Henry of Wales (called Prince Harry), are, respectively, second and third in line to the British throne.
From her marriage in 1981 to her divorce in 1996, she was styled Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales. After her divorce from the Prince of Wales in 1996, Diana lost the resulting Royal Highness style. As the former wife of the heir to the throne she received a title based on the format used for the ex-wives of peers, namely her personal name, followed by her title. Under Letters Patent issued by Elizabeth II she was known after her divorce as Diana, Princess of Wales. Posthumously she is most popularly referred to as Princess Diana, a title she never held. She is also sometimes known by her former titles above.
An iconic presence on the world stage, Diana was noted for her high-profile charity work. Yet her philanthropic endeavours were overshadowed by her scandal-plagued marriage to Prince Charles. Her bitter claims, via friends and biographers, of adultery, mental cruelty, and emotional distress visited upon her by her husband and the royal family in general, and her own admissions of adultery and numerous love affairs riveted the world for much of the 1990s, spawning books, tabloid newspaper and magazine articles, and television movies. During her lifetime, Diana appeared on the cover of People more times than any other individual.
From the time of her engagement to the Prince of Wales in 1981 until her death in a car accident in 1997, the Princess was arguably the most famous woman in the world: the pre-eminent female celebrity of her generation: a fashion icon, an image of feminine beauty, admired and emulated for her involvement in AIDS issues, and the international campaign against landmines. During her lifetime, she was often described as the world's most photographed person. To her admirers, the Princess of Wales was a role model — after her death, there were even calls for her to be nominated for sainthood — while her detractors consider her to have been mentally ill (possibly with Borderline Personality Disorder).
As of 2006, the inquiries into her death by the British police and French authorities continue.
Diana Frances Spencer was born as the youngest daughter of Edward Spencer, Viscount Althorp, and his first wife, Frances Spencer, Viscountess Althorp (formerly the Honourable Frances Burke Roche) at Park House on the Sandringham estate. She was baptised at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, by Rt. Rev. Percy Herbert (rector of the church and former Bishop of Norwich and Blackburn); her godparents included John Floyd (the chairman of Christie's) and Mary Colman (a niece of the Queen Mother). Partially American in ancestry — a great-grandmother was the American heiress Frances Work - she was also a descendant of King Charles I. According her biographer Lady Colin Campbell, Diana's great-great-great-grandmother Eliza Kewark (some sources spell the surname Kevork or Kevorkian) was a native of Bombay, India and likely of Indian descent, though family lore identifies Kevork/Kewark as of Armenian ancestry.
During her parents' acrimonious divorce over Lady Althorp's adultery with wallpaper heir Peter Shand Kydd, Diana's mother sued for custody of her children, but Lord Althorp's rank, aided by Lady Althorp's mother's testimony against her daughter during the trial, meant that custody of Diana and her brother was awarded to their father. On the death of her paternal grandfather, Albert Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer, in 1975, Diana's father became the 8th Earl Spencer, and she acquired the title of The Lady Diana Spencer and moved from her childhood home at Park House to her family's sixteenth-century ancestral home of Althorp. A year later, Lord Spencer married Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, the only daughter of the romance novelist Barbara Cartland, after being named as the "other party" in the Earl and Countess of Dartmouth's divorce.
Diana was educated at Riddlesworth Hall in Norfolk and at West Heath Girls' School (later reorganised as the New School at West Heath, a special school for boys and girls) in Sevenoaks, Kent, where she was regarded as an academically below-average student, having failed all of her O-level examinations. In 1977, aged 16, she left West Heath and briefly attended Institut Alpin Videmanette, a finishing school in Rougemont, Switzerland. At about that time, she first met her future husband, who was dating her sister, Lady Sarah. Diana was a talented amateur singer, excelled in sports and reportedly longed to be a ballerina. Her favourite band was allegedly Duran Duran.
Family and marriage
The Prince and Princess of Wales return from their wedding at St Paul's Cathedral
Diana's family, the Spencers, had been close to the British Royal Family for decades. Her maternal grandmother, Ruth, Lady Fermoy, was a longtime friend and a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
The Prince's love life had always been the subject of press speculation, and he was linked to numerous women. Nearing his mid-thirties, he was under increasing pressure to marry. Legally, the only requirement was that he could not marry a Roman Catholic, but a member of the Church of England was preferred. His great-uncle Lord Mountbatten of Burma, who was assassinated in 1979, had advised him to marry a virginal young woman who would look up to him. In order to gain the approval of his family and their advisors, any potential bride was expected to have a royal or aristocratic background, as well as be Protestant and, preferably, a virgin. Diana seemed to meet all of these qualifications.
Reportedly the Prince's former girlfriend (and, eventually, his second wife) Camilla Parker Bowles helped him select the 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer as a potential bride, when Diana was working as a part-time assistant at the "Young England Kindergarten", a day care centre and nursery school in Pimlico. Contrary to claims, she was not a "kindergarten teacher", since she had no educational qualifications to teach, and "Young England" was not a kindergarten, despite its name. It was at this school that the famous iconic snap of a 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer was taken by John Minihan with the morning sun to her back, her legs in silhouette through her skirt.
Buckingham Palace announced the engagement on 24 February 1981, and the wedding took place in St Paul's Cathedral in London on Wednesday, 29 July 1981, before 3,500 invited guests and an estimated 1 billion television viewers around the world. Among other performers, the acclaimed New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa sang Handel's "Let the Bright Seraphim" during the wedding ceremony, at the request of Prince Charles.
Diana was the first Englishwoman to marry the heir to the throne since 1659, when Lady Anne Hyde married the Duke of York and Albany, the future King James II (although, unlike Charles, James was heir presumptive and not heir apparent). Upon her marriage, Diana became Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales and was ranked as the third most senior royal woman in the United Kingdom after the Queen and the Queen Mother.
The Prince and Princess of Wales had two children within three years of their marriage, Prince William of Wales on 21 June 1982 and Prince Henry of Wales (commonly called Prince Harry) on 15 September 1984.
After the birth of Prince William, the Princess of Wales apparently suffered from postpartum depression. She had previously (before her marriage) suffered from bulimia nervosa, which recurred, and even before the birth of Prince William, she made some suicide attempts. In one interview, years later, she claimed that, while pregnant with Prince William, she had thrown herself down a set of stairs and was discovered by her mother-in-law (that is, Queen Elizabeth II). Others suggested she did not, in fact, intend to end her life (and, by some, that the suicide attempts never took place), and that she was merely making a 'cry for help'. In the same interview in which she told of the suicide attempt while pregnant with Prince William, she said her husband had accused her of crying wolf when she threatened to kill herself.
Diana dancing with John Travolta at a White House dinner on 9 November 1985
In the mid-1980s, the marriage of Diana and Charles fell apart, an event at first suppressed, but then sensationalised, by the world media. Both the Prince and Princess of Wales allegedly spoke to the press through friends, each blaming the other for the marriage's demise. Diana had an affair with her riding instructor James Hewitt and perhaps later with James Gilbey, her telephone partner in the so-called Squidgygate affair, while Charles resumed his old, pre-marital relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.
Diana later confirmed the affair with Hewitt in a television interview with Martin Bashir for the BBC program Panorama. Although no charges were considered, adultery with the Queen consort or Princess of Wales has been high treason in England at least since the Treason Act 1351, so if she were prosecuted and there had been a trial and conviction of the Princess for adultery with Hewitt, both guilty parties would have been subject to execution by hanging. (The closest precedent to such action was the 1820 attempt of George IV to divorce his wife, Caroline of Brunswick, and have her stripped of her royal title by Parliament on grounds of adultery. Nevertheless, the prosecutors did not seek to have her tried and declared guilty of treason or other crimes.
Even so, the Pains and Penalties Bill 1820 failed in Parliament, embarrassed the government, and aroused popular resentment toward the King because he was widely believed to be guilty of adultery himself). Another supposed lover was detective/bodyguard Barry Mannakee, who was assigned to the Princess's security detail, although the Princess adamantly denied a sexual relationship with him.
After her separation from Prince Charles, Diana became involved with married art dealer Oliver Hoare, to whom she allegedly made a series of anonymous telephone calls, and with rugby player Will Carling. She also publicly dated respected heart surgeon Hasnat Khan before her brief involvement with Dodi Al-Fayed, and is said to have made repeated telephone calls to Khan during his working day and to have parked her car outside his home on more than one occasion.
The Prince and Princess of Wales were separated on 9 December 1992; their divorce was finalised on 28 August 1996. The Princess lost the title Her Royal Highness and instead was styled as Diana, Princess of Wales. However, since the divorce, Buckingham Palace has maintained that Diana was officially a member of the Royal Family, since she was the mother of the second and third in line to the throne.
In 2004, seven years after her death, the American TV network NBC broadcast videotapes of Diana discussing her marriage to the Prince of Wales, including her description of her suicide attempts.The tapes were in the possession of the Princess during her lifetime; however, after her death, her butler took possession, and after numerous legal wranglings, they were given to the Princess's voice coach, who had originally filmed them. These tapes have not been broadcast in the United Kingdom.Charity work
Starting in the mid-to-late 1980s, the Princess of Wales became well known for her support of charity projects. This stemmed naturally from her role as Princess of Wales and also as an interested supporter of various health causes newly arisen in the UK. Diana is credited with some influence in campaigns against the use of landmines and helping the victims of AIDS.
In April 1987, the Princess of Wales was the first high-profile celebrity to be photographed knowingly touching a person infected with HIV. Her contribution to changing the public opinion of AIDS sufferers was summarised in December 2001 by Bill Clinton at the 'Diana, Princess of Wales Lecture on AIDS', when he said:
In 1987, when so many still believed that AIDS could be contracted through casual contact, Princess Diana sat on the sickbed of a man with AIDS and held his hand. She showed the world that people with AIDS deserve no isolation, but compassion and kindness. It helped change world opinion, and gave hope to people with AIDS with an outcome of saved lives of people at risk.
Diana also supposedly made clandestine visits to show kindness to terminally- ill AIDS patients. According to nurses, she would turn up unannounced, for example, at the Mildmay Hospice in London, with specific instructions that these visits were to be concealed from the media.
Perhaps her most well-publicised charity appearance was her visit to Angola in January 1997, when, serving as an International Red Cross VIP volunteer , she visited landmine survivors in hospitals, toured de-mining projects run by the HALO Trust, and attended mine awareness education classes about the dangers of mines immediately surrounding homes and villages.
The pictures of Diana touring a minefield, in a ballistic helmet and flak jacket, were seen worldwide, although mine experts had already cleared the course of her walk. In August that year, she visited Bosnia with the Landmine Survivors Network. Her interest in landmines was focused on the injuries they create, often to children, long after a conflict is over.
She is believed to have influenced (though only after and perhaps as a result of her death) the signing, by the governments of the UK and other nations in December, 1997, of the Ottawa Treaty, which created an international ban on the use of anti-personnel landmines. Introducing the Second Reading of the Landmines Bill 1998 to the British House of Commons, the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, paid tribute to Diana's work on landmines:
All Honourable Members will be aware from their postbags of the immense contribution made by Diana, Princess of Wales to bringing home to many of our constituents the human costs of landmines. The best way in which to record our appreciation of her work, and the work of NGOs that have campaigned against landmines, is to pass the Bill, and to pave the way towards a global ban on landmines.
As of January 2005, however, Diana's activities regarding landmines had borne little fruit. The United Nations appealed to the nations which produced and stockpiled the largest numbers of landmines (China, India, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States) to sign the Ottawa Treaty forbidding their production and use, for which Diana had campaigned. Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that landmines remained "a deadly attraction for children, whose innate curiosity and need for play often lure them directly into harm's way".
Death of Diana, Princess of Wales
On 31 August 1997 Diana was involved in a car accident in the Pont de l'Alma road tunnel in Paris, along with her new lover Dodi Al-Fayed, and their driver Henri Paul. Their Mercedes crashed on the thirteenth pillar of the tunnel. Fayed's bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones was closest to the point of impact and yet the only survivor of the crash, since he was the only occupant of the car who was wearing a seatbelt. Henri Paul and Dodi Fayed were killed instantly. Diana, unbelted in the back seat, slid forward during the impact and "submarined" under the seat in front, causing massive internal bleeding. She was transported to the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital where, despite lengthy resuscitation attempts, she died. Her funeral on 6 September 1997 was broadcast and watched by over 1 billion people worldwide.
The death of Diana has been the subject of widespread theories, supported by Mohamed Al-Fayed, whose son died in the accident. These were rejected by French investigators and British officials, who stated that the driver, Henri Paul, was drunk and on drugs. Among Mr Fayed's suggestions were that Diana was pregnant by Dodi at the time of her death and that Dodi had just bought her an engagement ring, although witnesses to autopsies reported that the princess had not been pregnant and the jeweller cited by Mr Fayed denied knowledge of any engagement ring. Nonetheless, in 2004 the authorities ordered an independent inquiry by Lord Stevens, a former chief of the Metropolitan Police, and he suggested that the case was "far more complex than any of us thought" and reported "new forensic evidence" and witnesses Telegraph, May 2006. The French authorities have also decided to reopen the case.
Several press photos were taken of the crash scene within moments of the crash. On 13 July 2006 Italian magazine Chi published photographs showing Diana in her "last moments" despite an unofficial blackout on such photographs being published. The photographs were taken minutes after the accident and show the Princess slumped in the back seat while a paramedic attempts to fit an oxygen mask over her face. The photographs were also published in other Italian and Spanish magazines and newspapers.
The editor of Chi defended his decision by saying he published the photographs for the "simple reason that they haven't been seen before" and that he felt the images do not disrespect the memory of the Princess. The British media publicly refused to publish the images, with the exception of The Sun, which printed the picture but with the face blacked out.
Final resting place
Princess Diana's final resting place is said to be in the grounds of Althorp Park, her family home. The original plan was for her to be buried in the Spencer family vault at the local church in nearby Great Brington, but Diana's brother, Charles, the 9th Earl Spencer, said that he was concerned about public safety and security and the onslaught of visitors that might overwhelm Great Brington. He decided that he wanted his sister to be buried where her grave could be easily cared for and visited in privacy by her sons and other relatives.
Lord Spencer selected a burial site on an island in an ornamental lake known as The Oval within Althorp Park's Pleasure Garden. A path with 36 oak trees, marking each year of her life, leads to the Oval. Four black swans swim in the lake, symbolizing sentinels guarding the island. In the water there are several water lilies. White roses and lilies were Diana's favorite flowers. On the southern verge of the Round Oval sits the Summerhouse, previously in the gardens of Admiralty House, London, and now serving as a memorial to Princess Diana. An ancient arboretum stands nearby, which contains trees planted by Prince William and Prince Harry, other members of her family and the princess herself.