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 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 gynaecologist Sir George Pinker was summoned from London. He found that although she had suffered severe bruising, the foetus 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 organised her public duties around their timetables.
On 31 August 1997, Diana was fatally injured in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris. The accident also resulted in the deaths of her companion Dodi Fayed and the driver, Henri Paul, who was the acting security manager of the Hôtel Ritz Paris; Trevor Rees-Jones (Diana’s bodyguard) survived the crash. The televised funeral, on 6 September, was watched by a British television audience that peaked at 32.10 million, which was one of the United Kingdom’s highest viewing figures ever. Millions more watched the event around the world.
The initial French judicial investigation concluded that the accident was caused by Paul’s drunken loss of control of the vehicle. In February 1998, Mohamed Al-Fayed, owner of the Paris Ritz where Paul had worked, publicly maintained that the crash had been planned, accusing MI6 and the Duke of Edinburgh. An inquest in London starting in 2004 and continued in 2007–08 attributed the accident to grossly negligent driving by Paul and to the pursuing paparazzi. On 7 April 2008, the jury returned a verdict of “unlawful killing”. The day following the final verdict of the inquest, Al-Fayed announced he would end his 10-year campaign to establish that it was murder rather than an accident, stating that he did so for the sake of the Princess’s children.