Princess Diana, A Royal with a Common Touch

Education and Childhood

Diana was born in Park House, the house her parents had rented on Queen Elizabeth II’s estate in Sandringham. It is where Diana’s childhood playmates were the Queen’s youngest children, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Diana was the third daughter and youngest daughter of parents of the British nobility.

Family and Divorce

Diana, Princess of Wales, was the ex-wife (1981-1996) of Charles, Prince of Wales; the mother of the heir, second in line to the British throne, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (born 1982); and one of the most important celebrities of his time.

The couple married on July 29, 1981, at St. Paul’s Cathedral in a globally televised ceremony watched by hundreds of millions of viewers. Their first child, Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales, was born on June 21, 1982, and their second, Prince Henry (“Harry”) Charles Albert David, on September 15, 1984.

The People’s Princess

After the divorce, Diana maintained her high public profile and continued many of the activities she had previously undertaken on behalf of charities, supporting causes as diverse as the arts, children’s issues, and AIDS patients.

A ban on land mines was also part of her work. Diana took William and Harry to hospitals, homeless shelters, and orphanages so they could understand “people’s emotions, insecurities, distress, and hopes and dreams.” She earned the nickname “the People’s Princess” for her compassion, personal warmth, humility, and accessibility.

The funeral and Death

Despite her celebrity status, the media (particularly the paparazzi) repeatedly invaded her privacy and interfered with her charitable work. Diana, along with her companion, Dodi Fayed, and their driver, Henri Paul, were killed in a tunnel under the streets of Paris in 1997 on August 31st while trying to evade pursuing journalists.

As a testimony to her immense impact on the British psyche, her death produced unprecedented levels of public mourning. Taking a risk with tradition, the royal family arranged the international televised royal funeral in response to the extraordinary outpouring of grief. It became an iconic image of Prince William and Prince Harry, then aged 15 and 12, walking behind Diana’s casket in her funeral cortege with their father.

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