Diana, Princess of Wales (Diana Frances; née Spencer; 1 July 1961 – 31 August 1997), was a member of the British royal family as the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, who is the eldest child and heir apparent of Queen Elizabeth II. 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. She was involved with dozens of charities including London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for children, of which she was president from 1989.
Diana Frances Spencer was born on 1 July 1961, in Park House, Sandringham, Norfolk. She was the fourth of five children of John Spencer, Viscount Althorp (1924–1992), and his first wife, Frances (née Roche; 1936–2004). The Spencer family has been closely allied with the British royal family for several generations. Both of Diana’s grandmothers had served as ladies-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. The Spencers were hoping for a boy to carry on the family line, and no name was chosen for a week, until they settled on Diana Frances, after her mother and after Lady Diana Spencer, a many-times-great-aunt who was also a prospective Princess of Wales.
On 30 August 1961, Diana was baptised at St. Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham. She had three siblings: Sarah, Jane, and Charles. Her infant brother, John, died shortly after his birth one year before Diana was born. The desire for an heir added strain to the Spencers’ marriage, and Lady Althorp was reportedly sent to Harley Street clinics in London to determine the cause of the “problem”. The experience was described as “humiliating” by Diana’s younger brother, Charles: “It was a dreadful time for my parents and probably the root of their divorce because I don’t think they ever got over it.” Diana grew up in Park House, situated on the Sandringham estate. The Spencers leased the house from its owner, Queen Elizabeth II. The Royal Family frequently holidayed at the neighbouring Sandringham House, and Diana played with Princes Andrew and Edward as a child.
Diana was seven years old when her parents divorced. Her mother later began a relationship with Peter Shand Kydd and married him in 1969. Diana lived with her mother in London during her parents’ separation in 1967, but during that year’s Christmas holidays, Lord Althorp refused to let Diana return to London with Lady Althorp. Shortly afterwards he won custody of Diana with support from his former mother-in-law, Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy. In 1972, Lord Althorp began a relationship with Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, the only daughter of Alexander McCorquodale and Dame Barbara Cartland. They married at Caxton Hall, London in 1976. Diana became known as Lady Diana after her father later inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975, at which point her father moved the entire family from Park House to Althorp, the Spencer seat in Northampton.