The 31st August, 1997 is a date which is undoubtedly engraved in the minds of Brits all across the United Kingdom. Much like September 11th, it’s a date upon which when the question is raised, ‘where were you?’, we remember more vividly than we’d like. On a fateful visit to Paris, the Princess was critically injured in a car crash when escaping the paparazzi, and would succumb to her injuries in hospital just hours later.
The daughter of the late Earl Spencer and the Hon. Mrs Shand-Kydd, Diana was born on the 1st July 1961 in Park House near Norfolk. Diana’s parents divorced when she was just six years old with the late Earl winning custody. She was educated at Riddlesworth Hall, and also attended boarding school.
Diana took her first steps towards monarchy when her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975. It’s widely known that Diana was somewhat bashful, often displaying shy characteristics in the public eye, but she showed a fondness for music and dancing, and warmed towards children. Having graduated from the Institut Alpin Vidamanette in Switzerland, Diana moved back to the United Kingdom, relocating to London, where she began working with children at Young England Kindergarten in St George’s Square.
Diana was already accustomed to the British Royal family, apparently spending many an afternoon playing with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward while the Spencer family rented Park House, which was owned by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Diana first became reacquainted with her future husband, Prince Charles, who was 13 years older than her, in 1977. Heir to the British throne, it comes as no surprise that Charles often found himself in the limelight of media organisations from all over the world, and the sparks of romance kindled with Diana were no different. Seemingly embodying the age old adage of ‘opposites attract’, the press found it fascinating that Charles’ reserved and garden-loving nature would infuse with Diana’s love of fashion and popular culture. The pair were married on July 29th, 1981 at St Paul’s Cathedral in a ceremony broadcast all over the world which many people considered to be ‘the wedding of the century.’
In June of the following year, the couple had their first child together, Prince William, who was joined just over two years later by younger brother Prince Harry. Overwhelmed by her Royal duties and endless media coverage of her life on a daily basis, Diana began a philanthropic campaign, supporting a number of charities and striving to help the homeless, people suffering with HIV and AIDS and children in need.
Sadly in the years that followed, Diana and Charles became estranged, and reports of apparent infidelities rose to the surface of their marriage. The announcement of their separation came in December 1992 from Prime Minister at the time, John Major, who read a statement from the monarchy to the House of Commons. In 1996, the divorce was finalized.
In the months that followed, Diana remained in the eyes and hearts of the public, devoting her time to her children and to charities fighting against the use of landmines. She used her status as an A list celebrity and public figure to raise awareness in the fight against them. However, this iconic status comes with its flaws – the media was sent into a frenzy in 1997 when she began a whirlwind romance with Egyptian film producer Dodi Al-Fayed. Soon after on a fateful visit to Paris, the couple were involved in a car crash, and Diana would pass away from fatal injuries in a Parisian hospital just hours later. She was 36.
Al-Fayed and her driver were killed in the collision, with her bodyguard suffering serious injuries. News of her death quickly spread across the globe, sending the country, and the world into mourning. Thousands attended her funeral held at Westminster Abbey, which was broadcast on national television. Her body was buried at the Spencer family estate in Althorp.
Her legacy lives on through her actions when she was alive, and Prince William and Kate Middleton paid tribute to ‘The People’s Princess’, naming their daughter Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana.