Fast Facts About Princess Diana

By Gabi Conti

Diana, Princess of Wales, wears an outfit in the colors of Canada during a state visit to Edmonton, Alberta, with her husband. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

She Had Many Names

As per tradition, Diana was a royal even before she married the Prince of Wales, descended from two illegitimate children of King Charles II. At the time of her birth on July 1, 1961, she was known as the Honourable Diana Spencer, and 14 years later, her father, John Spencer, inherited his earldom, granting her the title of Lady Diana. Of course, she became a princess when she married Prince Charles at St. Paul's Cathedral on July 29, 1981, but her official title was Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales and Countess of Chester, Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay, Countess of Carrick, Baroness of Renfrew, Lady of the Isles, Princess of Scotland. She lost this title after her divorce, but she was still called the Princess of Wales until her untimely death.

Her Marriage Was Rocky

Fairy tale romances may work for kids' movies, but the reality of being a princess can be far from magical. The Prince's heart seemed to belong eternally to Camilla Shand, with whom he'd had a relationship in the early '70s that ended when he was sent overseas on military service. By the time he returned, she'd married another. He pursued many women in the years that followed, even Diana's sister, but he never got over the woman now known as Camilla Parker Bowles, and they rekindled their relationship during both of their marriages.

He decided to marry Diana based more on the wishes of his family, who viewed her as an ideal princess, than his own love. In fact, they'd only ever interacted on 13 occasions by the time they were engaged. Infamously, when an interviewer asked during their engagement if they were in love, Diana said, "Of course," while Charles responded, "Whatever love means." They had two children together, William and Harry, but couldn't make their tumultuous relationship work and divorced in 1991. After her death, Charles was often seen with the ex–Parker Bowles, though they waited several more years to marry.

Diana in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in 1983. (Russ Quinlan/Wikimedia Commons)

She Was Under A Lot Of Pressure

An estimated 750 million people watched the Prince and Princess of Wales exchange vows, giving the noblewoman who nevertheless spent her young adulthood in ordinary jobs like nannying, housecleaning, and assisting teachers a nauseating taste of what was to come. Despite being chosen by the Queen, they had a rocky relationship, and Diana often expressed her unhappiness with the level of control others had over her life. She developed an eating disorder and reacted to Prince Charles's infidelity by having her own affair.

Still, she found an outlet for her troubles in her charitable work, which was focused on HIV and cancer research and the HALO Trust, which removes old landmines from war-torn nations. Many decades after Diana's departure from the royal family, her son, Harry, called his own wife's frustration "history repeating itself" and gave up his royal status in exchange for a more peaceful life for his family.

Flowers and tributes left at Kensington Palace soon after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales on August 31, 1997. (Maxwell Hamilton/Wikimedia Commons)

Her Sudden Death

Princess Diana seemed to find some happiness after her divorce, dating and traveling the world on her own terms. However, her freedom was cut short when she and her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, died after their driver crashed in the Pont de l'Alma tunnel in Paris, France on August 31, 1997. It is believed that the driver, Henri Paul, had been drinking that night, and his intoxicated state was likely the cause of the crash, as no other vehicle was involved in the incident. Her funeral was watched by an estimated 2.5 billion people across the globe. She was only 36.

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Gabi Conti

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