Things You Never Knew About Princess Diana
Princess Diana was a trailblazer, activist, style icon, and one of the most influential people of the 20th century. Although she lived much of her life in the spotlight, under oppressive scrutiny, there’s much you probably don’t know about the beloved late royal. From her favorite fashion designer to her pre-royal working life, her taste in music to her parenting style, here are 30 things to remember about the People’s Princess.
She was the fourth of five children.
- Princess Diana had two sisters, Sarah (now Lady Sarah McCorquodale) and Jane (now Lady Jane Fellowes), and a younger brother, Charles Spencer (now the Earl Spencer). Her other brother, John Spencer, died hours after his birth in January 1960, a year and a half before Diana was born.
Her parents divorced when she was 7.
- Diana’s parents, Frances Shand Kydd and Edward John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, divorced when she was just seven years old. Diana’s parents had a tumultuous relationship, and she cited cheating and physical abuse as some of the reasons for their separation.
Her grandmother served as a lady-in-waiting to the Queen Mother.
- Diana’s maternal grandmother, Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy, was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. This meant she acted as a personal assistant and a companion. She was a close friend to the Queen and organized many of her parties.
- She grew up in a house on the Sandringham estate leased from Queen Elizabeth.
Sandringham House is located in Norfolk and is owned by the royal family. On the grounds is Park House, where Princess Diana’s mother Frances was born in in 1936 and Diana was born in 1961. The estate is a royal family staple and Sandringham House hosts many of the family.
She wanted to be a ballerina, but was too tall.
- Diana studied ballet and wanted to become a professional dancer, but grew too tall to continue.
She became “Lady” Diana after her father inherited a title.
- Diana became Lady Diana Spencer in 1975, after her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer. “Lady Di” became her nickname, even after she got the title of Princess of Wales when she married Prince Charles.
School was not her strong suit.
Diana was homeschooled until she was nine and then attended boarding school for the rest of her education. She failed her O-Level exams twice and dropped out of school when she was 16. She attended school in Switzerland for only one semester before she met Prince Charles.
- She worked as a nanny and a teacher.
Before she met Prince Charles and became a princess, Diana worked many odd jobs, including as a nanny and a school teacher.
- She was the first royal bride to have a paying job.
- When she married Prince Charles in 1981, Diana became the first royal bride ever to have had a paying job until becoming engaged to an heir. And the Duchess of Cambridge was the first royal bride to have a university degree.
Prince Charles dated her older sister first.
- Diana met her future husband through her older sister, Sarah. Prince Charles and Sarah had a fling in in the late ’70s, which is how Diana first met the prince. Sarah and Diana were very close and often traveled together until the end of Diana’s life. Diana said that Sarah was “the only person I know I can trust.”
- She had only met Prince Charles 12 times before they got married.Before they were engaged in 1981, Charles and Diana had only met about a dozen times.At the time, Diana was just 19, and Charles was 32.
Her wedding dress was record-breaking.
- Diana’s ivory taffeta wedding dress was made by husband-and-wife design team David and Elizabeth Emanuel.
- Her wedding dress was record-breaking.
- The gown boasted over 10,000 pearls and a 25-foot-long train, one of the longest royal trains the world had ever seen.
She was the first to give birth in a hospital.
- It was royal tradition for heirs to the throne to be born at home. However, Prince William was the first future monarch born in a hospital, as Diana gave birth to both William and Harry at the Lido Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital.
- Her parenting style was very unconventional for a royal.
- Diana was no ordinary royal mom. She was determined to raise Prince William and Prince Harry as “normally” as possible.
- Her parenting style was very unconventional for a royal.
- “She made sure that they experienced things like going to the cinema, queuing up to buy a McDonald’s, going to amusement parks, those sorts of things that were experiences that they could share with their friends,” said Patrick Jephson, Princess Diana’s chief of staff for six years.
Catherine Walker was her favorite designer
- Diana’s private couturier Catherine Walker had a “quasi-sisterly bond” with the princess. Walker designed many of Diana’s most iconic looks and is given credit for her signature style.
- On wearing a white halter dress designed by Walker in 1996, Diana wrote to the designer, “I was so proud and felt very confident to stride out there and deliver my first speech since the divorce. The compliments about your design and expertise would have made your ears burn.”
She always wrote a “thank you” card.
- Diana was famous for writing thank you cards to anyone that gave her a gift. She reportedly wrotethank you notes to the thousands of people who brought gifts to Prince William after he was born. Today, some of her handwritten letters have been auctioned off for anywhere from $2,000 to $2o,000, depending on the content and uniqueness of the note.
- She was a breakthrough activist for HIV awareness.
Diana shakes hands with an unidentified AIDS patient on April 19, 1987.
- Diana made history in April 1987 when she was photographed shaking an HIV patient’s hand without wearing gloves. The photo helped spread the message of HIV awareness and educate the public’s perception of the illness. That day, the Princess opened the UK’s first HIV/Aids unit at London Middlesex Hospital that specifically treated patients infected with the virus.
- She had a lot of famous friends.
Diana had many A-list friends, including Elton John
- Diana had many A-list friends, including Elton John, George Michael, Tilda Swinton, and Liza Minelli.
- Diana was also friends with Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, and stayed at their ranch in Colorado with William and Harry for ten days to escape the paparazzi.
- ABBA was her favorite band.
- She coined the term “cleavage bags.”Most photos of Diana getting out of a car to enter an event show her using her clutch as a shield. Designer Anya Hindmarch, who worked with Diana often, said, “we used to laugh when we designed what she called her ‘cleavage bags,’ little satin clutches which she would cover her cleavage with when she stepped out of cars.”
- She lost her royal title after the divorce. After divorcing Prince Charles, Diana lost the title of her royal highness. While Queen Elizabeth II reportedly wanted her to keep it, Charles was “adamant” that she give it up. She was given the new title of Diana, Princess of Wales.
She had an affair with her son’s horseback riding teacher.
- While Charles had an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, there was a fourth person involved in his and Diana’s love square: James Hewitt. He was initially hired to teach Diana, William, and Harry horseback riding before the two engaged in an affair back in the late ’80s.
- On 31 August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales died in hospital as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris, France.
- Her companion, Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the Mercedes S280, Henri Paul, were pronounced dead at the scene.