Biography PART 1
Diana was the youngest daughter of John Spencer, Viscount Althorp (later the 8th Earl Spencer) who was of British descent and Frances Spencer, Viscountess Althorp (formerly the Honourable Frances Burke Roche, and later Frances Shand Kydd) who was of English and Irish descent. She was born at Park House, Sandringham in Norfolk, England on 1 July 1961, and was baptised on 30 August 1961 at St. Mary Magdalene Church by the Rt. Rev. Percy Herbert (rector of the church and former Bishop of Norwich and Blackburn), with godparents that included John Floyd (the chairman of Christie’s). She was the fourth child to the couple, with older sisters Sarah (born 19 March 1955) and Jane (born 11 February 1957), as well as an infant brother, The Honourable John Spencer (born and died on 12 January 1960). The heir to the Spencer titles and estates, her younger brother, Charles, was born three years after her on 20 May 1964.
Following her parents’ acrimonious divorce in 1969 (over Lady Althorp’s affair with wallpaper heir Peter Shand Kydd), Diana’s mother took her and her younger brother to live in an apartment in London’s Knightsbridge, where Diana attended a local day school. Every Christmas, the Spencer children returned to Norfolk with their mother, and Lord Althorp subsequently refused to allow them to return to London. Lady Althorp sued for custody, but her mother’s testimony during the trial against her contributed to the court awarding custody of Diana and her brother to their father. On 14 July 1976, Lord Spencer married Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, the only daughter of romantic novelist Barbara Cartland and Alexander McCorquodale, after he was named as the “other party” in the Dartmouths’ divorce. During this time Diana travelled between her parents’ homes. Her father inherited the earldom and Spencer seat in Althorp, Northamptonshire on 9 June 1975, and her mother moved to the Island of Seil on the west coast of Scotland. Diana, like her siblings, did not get along with her stepmother.
On her father’s side, she was a descendant of King Charles II of England through four illegitimate sons:
Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Grafton, son by Barbara Villiers, 1st Duchess of Cleveland
Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Richmond and Lennox, son by Louise de Kérouaille
Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St Albans, son by Nell Gwyn
James Crofts-Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, leader of the famous Monmouth Rebellion in 1685, son by Lucy Walter.
She was also a descendant of King James II of England through an illegitimate daughter, Henrietta FitzJames, by his mistress Arabella Churchill. On her mother’s side, Diana was Irish and Scottish, as well as a descendant of American heiress Frances Work, her mother’s grandmother and namesake, from whom the considerable Roche fortune was derived.
The Spencers had been close to the British Royal Family for centuries, rising in royal favour during the 1600s. Diana’s maternal grandmother, Ruth, Lady Fermoy, was a long-time friend and a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Her father had served as an equerry to King George VI and to Queen Elizabeth II.
In August 2009, the New England Historic Genealogical Society published Richard K. Evans’s The Ancestry of Diana, Princess of Wales, for Twelve Generations.
From her marriage in 1981 to her divorce in 1996 she was styled Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales. She was generally called “Princess Diana” by the media despite having no legal right to that particular honorific, as it is reserved for a princess by birthright rather than marriage.
Diana was first educated at Silfield School, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, then at Riddlesworth Hall in Norfolk, and at West Heath Girls’ School (later reorganised as the The New School at West Heath) in Sevenoaks, Kent, where she was regarded as a poor student, having attempted and failed all of her Olevels twice. Her outstanding community spirit was recognised with an award from West Heath. In 1977, at the age of 16, she left West Heath and briefly attended Institut Alpin Videmanette, a finishing school in Rougemont, Switzerland. At about that time, she first met her future husband, who was then dating her eldest sister, Lady Sarah. Diana reportedly excelled in swimming and diving, and longed to be a professional ballerina with the Royal Ballet. She studied ballet for a time, but then grew to 5’10″, far too tall for the profession.
Diana moved to London before she turned seventeen, living in her mother’s flat, as her mother then spent most of the year in Scotland. Soon afterward an apartment was purchased for £50,000 as an 18th birthday present, at Coleherne Court in Earls Court. She lived there until 1981 with three flatmates.
In London she took an advanced cooking course at her mother’s suggestion, although she never became an adroit cook, and worked first as a dance instructor for youth, until a skiing accident caused her to miss three months of work. She then found employment as a playgroup (pre-preschool) assistant, did some cleaning work for her sister Sarah and several of her friends, and worked as a hostess at parties.
Relationship with the Prince of Wales
Prince Charles, Diana and Sandro Pertini.
Prince Charles had previously been linked to Diana’s older sister Sarah, and to Davina Sheffield, Scottish heiress Anna Wallace, the Honourable Amanda Knatchbull (granddaughter of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma), actress Susan George, Lady Jane Wellesley, heiress Sabrina Guinness and Camilla Shand, inter alia. In his early thirties, he was under increasing pressure to marry. Under the Royal Marriages Act 1772, his marriage required the Queen’s formal consent. Under the Act of Settlement 1701, royals must marry within the Church of England or forfeit their place in the order of succession to the throne. Diana’s aristocratic descent, Church of England faith, presumed virginity and native Englishness appeared to render her a suitable royal bride.
Prince Charles had known Diana for several years, but he first took a serious interest in her as a potential bride during the summer of 1980, when they were guests at a country weekend, where she watched him play polo. The relationship developed as he invited her for a sailing weekend to Cowes aboard the royal yacht Britannia, followed by an invitation to Balmoral (the Royal Family’s Scottish residence) to meet his family. There, Diana was well received by Queen Elizabeth II, by Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and by the Queen Mother. The couple subsequently courted in London. The Prince proposed on 6 February 1981, and Diana accepted, but their engagement was kept secret for the next few weeks.
Engagement and wedding
Main article: Wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer
Their engagement became official on 24 February 1981, after Diana selected a large £30,000 ring consisting of 14 diamonds surrounding a sapphire, similar to her mother’s engagement ring. 20-year-old Diana became The Princess of Wales when she married Charles on 29 July 1981 at St Paul’s Cathedral, which offered more seating than Westminster Abbey, generally used for royal nuptials. It was widely billed as a “fairytale wedding,” watched by a global television audience of 750 million. At the altar Diana accidentally reversed the order of Charles’s 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 £9000 with a 25-foot (8-metre) train. The couple’s wedding cake was created by Belgian pastry chef S. G. Sender, who was known as the “cakemaker to the kings.
On 5 November 1981, Diana’s first pregnancy was officially announced, and she frankly discussed her pregnancy with members of the press corps. In the private Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington on 21 June 1982, Diana gave birth to her and Prince Charles’s first son and heir, William. Among some media, she decided to take William, still a baby, on her first major overseas visit to Australia and New Zealand, but the decision was popularly applauded. By her own admission, Diana had not initially intended to bring William until it was suggested by the Australian Prime Minister.
A second son, Harry, was born about two years after William on 15 September 1984. Diana asserted that she and Prince Charles were closest during her pregnancy with “Harry”, as the younger prince became known. She was aware their second child was a boy, but did not share the knowledge with anyone else, including Prince Charles.
She was universally regarded as a devoted and demonstrative mother. However, she rarely deferred to Prince Charles or to the Royal Family, and was often intransigent when it came to the children. She chose their first given names, defied the royal custom of circumcision, dismissed a royal family nanny and engaged one of her own choosing, in addition to selecting their schools and clothing, planning their outings and taking them to school herself as often as her schedule permitted. She also negotiated her public duties around their timetables.
Though in 1983 she confided in Premier of Newfoundland Brian Peckford: “I am finding it very difficult to cope with the pressures of being Princess of Wales, but I am learning to cope,” from the mid-1980s, the Princess of Wales became increasingly associated with numerous charities. As Princess of Wales she was expected to visit hospitals, schools, etc., in the 20th-century model of royal patronage. Diana developed an intense interest in serious illnesses and health-related matters outside the purview of traditional royal involvement, including AIDS and leprosy. In addition, the Princess was the patroness of charities and organizations working with the homeless, youth, drug addicts and the elderly. From 1989, she was President of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.
During her final year, Diana lent highly visible support to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, a campaign that went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997 after her death.
From left to right, Prince Charles and the Princess of Wales, the United States First Lady Nancy Reagan, and United States President Ronald Reagan in November 1985.
During the early 1990s, the marriage of Diana and Charles fell apart, an event at first suppressed, then sensationalised, by the world media. Both the Prince and Princess of Wales allegedly spoke to the press through friends, each blaming the other for the marriage’s demise.
The chronology of the break-up identifies reported difficulties between Charles and Diana as early as 1985. During 1986, Prince Charles turned again to his former girlfriend, Camilla Shand, who had become Camilla Parker-Bowles, wife of Andrew Parker-Bowles. This affair was exposed in May 1992 with the publication of Diana: Her True Story, by Andrew Morton. The book, which also laid bare Diana’s allegedly suicidal unhappiness, caused a media storm. This publication was followed during 1992 and 1993 by leaked tapes of telephone conversations which negatively reflected on both the royal antagonists. Transcripts of taped intimate conversations between Diana and James Gilbey were published by the Sun newspaper in Britain in August 1992. The article’s title, “Squidgygate”, referenced Gilbey’s affectionate nickname for Diana. Next to surface, in November 1992, were the leaked “Camillagate” tapes, intimate exchanges between Charles and Camilla, published in Today and the Mirror newspapers.
In the meantime, rumours had begun to surface about Diana’s relationship with Major James Hewitt, her former riding instructor. These would be brought into the open by the publication in 1994 of Princess in Love.
In December 1992, Prime Minister John Major announced the Wales’ “amicable separation” to the House of Commons,. and the full Camillagate transcript was published a month later in the newspapers, in January 1993. On 3 December 1993, Diana announced her withdrawal from public life. Charles sought public understanding via a televised interview with Jonathan Dimbleby on 29 June 1994. In this he confirmed his own extramarital affair with Camilla, saying that he had only rekindled their association in 1986, after his marriage to the Princess of Wales had “irretrievably broken down.
While she blamed Camilla Parker-Bowles for her marital troubles, Diana at some point began to believe Charles had other affairs. In October 1993 Diana wrote to a friend that she believed her husband was now in love with Tiggy Legge-Bourke and wanted to marry her. Legge-Bourke had been hired by Prince Charles as a young companion for his sons while they were in his care, and Diana was extremely resentful of Legge-Bourke and her relationship with the young princes.
Diana at the Cannes film festival in 1987
Diana was interviewed in a BBC Panorama interview with journalist Martin Bashir, broadcast on 20 November 1995. In it, Diana asserted of Hewitt, “Yes, I loved him. Yes, I adored him.” Of Camilla, she claimed “There were three of us in this marriage.” For herself, she said “I’d like to be a queen of people’s hearts.” On Charles’s suitability for kingship, she said: “Because I know the character I would think that the top job, as I call it, would bring enormous limitations to him, and I don’t know whether he could adapt to that.
In December 1995, the Queen asked Charles and Diana for “an early divorce,” as a direct result of Diana’s Panorama interview. This followed shortly after Diana’s accusation that Tiggy Legge-Bourke had aborted Charles’s child, after which Legge-Bourke instructed Peter Carter-Ruck to demand an apology. Two days before this story broke, Diana’s secretary Patrick Jephson resigned, later writing Diana had “exulted in accusing Legge-Bourke of having had an abortion”.
On 20 December 1995, Buckingham Palace publicly announced the Queen had sent letters to Charles and Diana advising them to divorce. The Queen’s move was backed by the Prime Minister and by senior Privy Councillors, and, according to the BBC, was decided after two weeks of talks. Prince Charles immediately agreed with the suggestion. In February Diana announced her agreement after negotiations with Prince Charles and representatives of Queen, irritating Buckingham Palace by issuing her own announcement of a divorce agreement and its terms.
Ancestors of Diana, Princess of Wales