Diana, Princess of Wales Diana Frances was born on 1 July 1961 – 31 August 1997, was a member of the British royal family as the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, and the heir apparent to the British throne. She was the mother of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry.
Diana was born into the Spencer family, a family of British nobility with royal ancestry and was the youngest daughter of John Spencer, Viscount Althorp, and Frances Roche. She grew up in Park House, situated on the Sandringham estate, and was educated in England and Switzerland. In 1975—after her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer—she became known as Lady Diana Spencer. She came to prominence in February 1981 when her engagement to Prince Charles was announced to the world.
Diana’s wedding to the Prince of Wales took place at St Paul’s Cathedral on 29 July 1981 and reached a global television audience of over 750 million people. During her marriage, Diana was Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay, and Countess of Chester. The marriage produced two sons, the princes William and Harry, who were then respectively second and third in the line of succession to the British throne. As Princess of Wales, Diana undertook royal duties on behalf of the Queen and represented her at functions overseas. She was celebrated for her charity work and for her support of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Diana was involved with dozens of charities including London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for children, of which she was president from 1989. She also raised awareness and advocated ways to help people affected with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and mental illness. Diana remained the object of worldwide media scrutiny during and after her marriage, which ended in divorce on 28 August 1996. Media attention and public mourning were extensive after her death in a car crash in a Paris tunnel on 31 August 1997 and subsequent televised funeral.
Diana first met Charles, Prince of Wales, when she was 16 in November 1977; he was dating her older sister, Lady Sarah. They were guests at a country weekend during the summer of 1980 when she watched him play polo and he took a serious interest in Diana as a potential bride. The relationship progressed when he invited her for a sailing weekend to Cowes aboard the royal yacht Britannia. This was followed by an invitation to Balmoral (the Royal Family’s Scottish residence) to meet his family one weekend in November 1980. Lady Diana was well received by the Queen, the Queen Mother and the Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Charles subsequently courted Diana in London. The Prince proposed on 6 February 1981, and Lady Diana accepted, but their engagement was kept secret for the next few weeks.
Their engagement became official on 24 February 1981. Diana selected a large engagement ring that consisted of 14 solitaire diamonds surrounding a 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire set in 18-carat white gold, which was similar to her mother’s engagement ring. The ring was made by the Crown jewelers Garrard. In 2010, it became the engagement ring of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. The Queen Mother gave Diana a sapphire and diamond brooch as an engagement present.
Following the engagement, Diana left her occupation as a kindergarten teacher and lived for a short period at Clarence House, which was the home of the Queen Mother. She then lived at Buckingham Palace until the wedding. Diana was the first Englishwoman to become the spouse of an heir apparent in 300 years, and she was also the first royal bride to have a paying job before her engagement. She made her first public appearance with Prince Charles in a charity ball in March 1981 at Goldsmiths’ Hall, where she met the Princess of Monaco.
Twenty-year-old Diana became Princess of Wales when she married the Prince of Wales on 29 July 1981 at St Paul’s Cathedral, which offered more seating than Westminster Abbey, which was generally used for royal nuptials. The service was widely described as a “fairytale wedding” and was watched by a global television audience of 750 million people while 600,000 spectators lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the couple en route to the ceremony. At the altar, Diana accidentally reversed the order of Charles’s first two names, saying “Philip Charles” Arthur George instead. She did not say that she would “obey” him; that traditional vow was left out at the couple’s request, which caused some comment at the time. Diana wore a dress valued at £9,000 with a 25-foot (7.62-metre) train.
After she became Princess of Wales, Diana automatically acquired rank as the third-highest female in the United Kingdom Order of Precedence (after the Queen and the Queen Mother), and was fifth or sixth in the orders of precedence of her other realms, following the Queen, the relevant viceroy, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen Mother, and the Prince of Wales. Within a few years of the wedding, the Queen extended Diana visible tokens of membership in the Royal Family; she lent the Princess the Cambridge Lover’s Knot Tiara, and granted her the badge of the Royal Family Order of Queen Elizabeth II.
The Prince and Princess of Wales after the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York in 1986. The couple made their homes at Kensington Palace and at Highgrove House, near Tetbury. On 5 November 1981, the Princess’s pregnancy was officially announced. In January 1982—twelve weeks into the pregnancy—Diana fell down a staircase at Sandringham, and the royal gynecologist Sir George Pinker was summoned from London. He found that although she had suffered severe bruising, the fetus was uninjured. In the private Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, on 21 June 1982, under the care of Pinker, the Princess gave birth to the couple’s first son and heir, William Arthur Philip Louis. Amidst some media criticism, she decided to take William, still a baby, on her first major tours of Australia and New Zealand, but the decision was popularly applauded. By her own admission, the Princess of Wales had not initially intended to take William until it was suggested by Malcolm Fraser, the Australian prime minister.