Diana, Princess of Wales full name Diana Frances was born on 1 July 1961 and died on 31 August 1997. She was the 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.
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.
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.
A second son, Henry Charles Albert David, was born on 15 September 1984. The Princess asserted she and the Prince were closest during her pregnancy with Harry (as the younger prince has always been known). She was aware their second child was a boy, but did not share the knowledge with anyone else, including the Prince of Wales. Suggestions that Harry’s father is not Charles but James Hewitt, with whom Diana had an affair, are based on alleged physical similarity between Hewitt and Harry; however, Harry was born before the affair began.
Diana gave her sons wider experiences than was usual for royal children. She rarely deferred to the Prince or to the Royal Family, and was often intransigent when it came to the children. She chose their first given names, dismissed a royal family nanny and engaged one of her own choosing, selected their schools and clothing, planned their outings, and took them to school herself as often as her schedule permitted. She also organized her public duties around their timetables.