She was the Princess that millions around the world would come to love and admire. Princess Diana’s life may have seemed like a fairytale but the truth behind the tiara is much more sinister…
On July 1, 1961, Diana Frances Spencer was born. The golden-haired little girl was born into an affluent and wealthy family who had had ties to the British throne for generations. One of five of John Spencer, Viscount Althorp’s children, Diana was born into incredible privilege but she would later describe her childhood as “very unhappy.”
Young Diana had a particularly troubled relationship with her stepmother. The little girl had an early passion for ballet, piano and swimming.
Change is Coming
Diana finished her schooling in 1978 and moved to London to work as a kindergarten teacher’s assistant. She had a clear and inherent maternal instinct and love for children, a tender character trait that ultimately would serve her well in the years to come.
At the age of 19, Diana’s life would soon change when she gained the attention of a young Prince.
A Potential Bride
Diana was introduced to Prince Charles at just 16. Royal fans might be surprised to learn that Charles was in fact dating Diana’s older sister, Sarah, at the time of their first meeting. The Royal family would later deem Lady Diana a more appropriate match for the royal bachelor. A high-profile courtship would soon ensue. Diana and Charles’s initial relationship was formal.
It was reported that they would have just a dozen dates before the Prince would propose to young Diana. Allegedly, Diana referred to Charles as ‘Sir’.
Whatever in Love Means
The couple’s engagement became official on 24 February 1981. Diana became an overnight tabloid sensation. The often vicious British press took particular interest in the naïve bride-to-be. Initially, Diana seemed besotted with Charles but a now-infamous interview clip would suggest that the Prince was hesitant regarding his feelings for Diana.
In a press conference announcing their engagement, a reporter would ask “…and I suppose, you’re in love?” “Of course,” Diana replied. “Whatever ‘in love’ means,” Charles would respond with a laugh.
The Wedding of the Century
On 29 July 1981, 750 million people would watch Diana become the Princess of Wales. The spectacular royal event would make history as the wedding of the century. 600 000 British spectators flocked to the streets of London to catch a glimpse of the blushing bride and the dashing prince.
The wedding ceremony seemed to be a real-life fairytale but the day was not what it appeared for young Diana.
In an interview in 1991, Diana would recall the wedding as ‘the worst day of her life.’ “I felt I was a lamb to the slaughter. I knew it and couldn’t do anything about it,” she said. Despite her obvious hesitation, the wedding proved to be a thrilling world spectacle. Diana wore an extravagant silk gown reportedly worth almost $12, 000.
In an unforeseen and controversial move, the bride omitted the promise that she would “obey” the Prince in her wedding vows. The move caused some comment at the time.
The Other Woman
There was one woman amidst the wedding crowds who would play a startling role in the royal marriage. Camilla Parker Bowles watched on as her former lover wed Diana. Camilla and Charles had dated in 1970 after meeting at a polo match.
Charles had wished to marry Camilla but she was considered an unsuitable choice by his mother, the Queen.
Still In Love
Camilla was married to Andrew Parker Bowles at the time of Diana and Charles’s wedding but it has been well documented that the Prince was still besotted with his former girlfriend.
It has been repeatedly reported that Charles felt pressured into his union with Diana, that he cried on the eve of their wedding over the loss of his true love, Camilla. Despite their high profile marriages, their passionate romance was far from over.
A Horrid Honeymoon
The newlyweds split their honeymoon period between the Scottish highlands and the Mediterranean seas. Despite appearances, the newlyweds were already experiencing marital trouble. Diana was fraught with insecurity over Charles’s lingering feelings for Camilla.
Diana, in a letter to a friend, stated the period ‘was a perfect opportunity to catch up on sleep.’ The true depths of Diana’s personal demons were revealed to her new husband but Diana refused to seek professional treatment despite the prince’s encouragement.
It was later reported that Charles wore his favorite cuff links during the honeymoon, a beloved gift from Camilla, while a photo of the other woman once fell out of the Prince’s journal as Diana looked on.
“I remember crying my heart out on my honeymoon,” the Princess would later say in 1991. Sadly, the troubled honeymoon would predict the doom and eventual end of the marriage.
Terrified and Alone
On 5 November 1981, the Princess’s first pregnancy was officially announced. Amidst the tabloid spectacle, Diana was overwhelmed with the prospect of becoming a mother. Her relationship with Charles was disintegrating and the Princess began to feel trapped within the royal relationship. Later that year, Diana would fall down a staircase. A royal doctor found that the fetus was unharmed.
Diana later confessed that she had intentionally played a role in the incident, sharing “I was… trying to get my husband’s attention, for him to listen to me.”
On 21 June 1982, the Princess gave birth to the couple’s first son and heir apparent, Prince William. The world was overjoyed to welcome the little boy. In one of many of Diana’s controversial parenting decisions, contrary to long-standing tradition, the young prince was born in a hospital rather than on royal grounds.
Diana proved to be a loving, attentive and hands-on mother. She refused to defer her child’s care to a royal helper and was determined to offer her son a childhood unhindered by the demands of royal life.
The Second Prince
The second prince, Harry, was born on September 15 in 1984. The Princess’s second pregnancy was a period of relative happiness for the couple but Diana’s relief would be short lived. Charles was reportedly furious that Harry had red hair and ‘looked like a Spencer.’
Many speculated as to whether Charles was indeed Harry’s biological father, given his surprising similarity to James Hewitt, Diana’s long time close friend and riding instructor.
The Affair Continues
In 1986, Charles would resume his affair with Camilla. While Diana busied herself with the demands of motherhood and royal life, Charles would return to the arms of his former love with little regard for Diana or his children. Diana was reportedly aware of the resumed romance from the very start.
She turned to self harm and a dangerous relationship with food to cope with the humiliation and hopelessness she felt.
Diana’s Other Love
Charles seemed to feel little remorse regarding his affair with Camilla. In response to Diana’s outrage, he famously responded, “Do you seriously expect me to be the first Prince of Wales in history not to have a mistress?” In retaliation to Charle’s blatant affair, Diana sought out her own extramarital love.
She began a romance with James Hewitt which would last until 1991. Diana would later confirm the relationship in her groundbreaking 1995 interview.
In 1989, Diana would confront Camilla about the affair while the two women both attended a high profile event in London. She later revealed; “I said, ‘Camilla, I’d just like you to know that I know exactly what’s going on.’ And she said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ And I said, ‘I know what’s going on between you and Charles, and I just want you to know that…
Don’t treat me like an idiot… She said to me: ‘You’ve got everything you ever wanted. You’ve got all the men in the world fall in love with you and you’ve got two beautiful children, what more do you want?’ So I said, ‘I want my husband’.”
The People’s Princess
Despite the dark truth behind her seemingly picture-perfect royal marriage, Diana continued to serve the British people with grace, compassion and dignity. She became a world-renowned icon, revered for her kindness, warmth and generosity. She was fondly dubbed by the press and public, ‘The People’s Princess.’
She made an internal decision to find solace from her crumbling relationship by using her celebrity status for the betterment of the world. She embraced members of the public and historically shattered stigmas when she chose to shake the hand of an AIDS patient without protective gloves.
Rocked by Scandal
In 1992, leaked telephone call recordings would make their way to the British tabloids. Said to have been recorded in 1989, the hour-long phone call revealed the true nature of Camilla and Charles’s relationship to the shocked public. Both parties declared their love for one another while describing their fierce longing to be together.
The scandal was dubbed ‘Camillagate’ by the press. Outraged by the public humiliation and condemnation, the royal family soon took action.
Separated at Last
In December 1992, then Prime Minister John Major announced the couple’s “amicable separation” to the House of Commons. Though many speculated that the Princess would retreat from the public eye following the announcement, Diana seemed overjoyed by the ned of the royal marriage.
In 1995, the Princess would reveal all, shocking the world in one of her most honest TV interviews that has solidified its ground-breaking place in popular culture.
The Infamous Interview
In the frank interview for the BBC’s Panorama programme, the Princess of Wales revealed intimate details about her time under the tiara to journalist Martin Bashir. She admitted to the romantic affair with James Hewitt.
“Were you unfaithful?” asked Mr Bashir. “Yes,” answered the Princess. “I was in love with him.” Diana would also reveal the sad truth behind Charles’s long-time relationship with Camilla.
A Marriage of Three
When asked by Bashir whether she believed Camilla played a role in the royal marriage’s deterioration, she famously responded, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.
” When asked about the effect the affair had on her, she revealed she was ‘pretty devastated’ and resorted to desperate measures to cope with her heartache.
A Devastated Princess
Diana spoke of her failing mental health, the invasive press attention and her feelings of desperation during the marriage. “You have so much pain inside yourself…
People see it as crying wolf or attention-seeking, and they think because you’re in the media all the time you’ve got enough attention.” The interview proved to be the tipping point for the royal family.
Finally, The End
On 20 December, Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen had sent letters to the Prince and Princess, advising both of them to divorce immediately.
Pressured by his mother and the world press, Charles soon formally agreed to the divorce in a written statement. As mother to the throne’s heir, the Princess retained her royal title while still performing her many royal duties.
The Hefty Sum
Diana received a hefty settlement of £17 million as well as £400,000 to be received annually. The couple signed a detailed confidentiality agreement, consenting to refrain from discussing their marriage and separation with the press.
Instead of withering in the face of such worldwide scandal, the Princess emerged as beautiful and elegant as ever.
A New Lease on Life
The newly available Princess soon embarked on her life outside the palace walls. She had a love affair with the British-Pakistani heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan, who she was called “the love of her life” by many of her closest friends in later years.
Their relationship lasted almost two years, with the pair battling against the prying eyes of the British press. Following her heartbreak at the romance’s end, Diana would soon find love again.
Diana began a relationship with Dodi Fayed, the son of an Egyptian billionaire. The pair famously took a romantic holiday in the South of France months into their relationship. Images of the couple’s 1997 holiday would make world headlines.
The pictures revealed a new Diana to the world. She sunbathed, sat on the yacht’s diving board, reclined in revealing bathing suits. Unbeknown to Diana and millions of admirers, the summer would be the last of Diana’s life.
The Fateful Night
On Saturday, 30 August 1997, Diana left Sardinia on a private jet and arrived in the city of Paris accompanied by her lover. The couple later left the Ritz hotel in a Mercedes following a decoy vehicle in an attempt to evade the onslaught of the local paparazzi.
Soon after leaving the hotel, they drove along the embankment road beside the River Seine. It was believed that Diana and Dodi were not wearing seat belts.
At 12:23 a.m., the chauffeur lost control of the vehicle at the entrance to the Pont de l’Alma tunnel. The car struck the righthand wall of the tunnel, causing substantial damage to the vehicle.
Trailing photographers flooded the scene of the accident, while many tried to pry the car doors open in order to help Diana and Dodi, others took images of the dreaded scene that would soon reach the front covers of every newspaper in the world.
Evan Rachel Wood
Gravely injured, Diana was reported to murmur repeatedly, “Oh my God,” and after the hoards of photographers were pushed away by police, she pleaded, “Leave me alone.” Fayed did not survive the initial impact of the crash while Diana was rushed to a local hospital for immediate medical attention.
Despite multiple attempts to save her, Diana’s internal injuries were too extensive and the Princess soon succumbed to her injuries, passing at 4 AM.
A Funeral fit for a Princess
News of the fatal accident soon reached the world and millions upon millions were devastated by the loss of the people’s most beloved royal. Prince Charles soon arrived in Paris and would transport Diana’s body to London to be finally laid to rest.
On September 6, the funeral would take place. An estimated 3 million mourners crowded the surrounding streets of Westminster Abby. Heart-breaking images of Diana’s bereft young sons were broadcast around the globe.
Though Diana was laid to rest over 20 years ago, the Princess left behind a legacy that continues to be felt and cherished by millions. In a touching eulogy delivered by her brother, Charles, it was said, “Diana was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of beauty.”
She will forever be regarded as an icon, a fragile soul who selflessly offered her love to the world while asking nothing in return.