Diana, Princess of Wales, died August 31st at 4am Paris time after a car crash in Paris aged 36. She was born at Park House, Sandringham, on July 1, 1961. Not since the heyday of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had there been an international icon to match Diana, Princess of Wales. Her picture on the cover of magazines was enough to guarantee sales worldwide, and no personality in history was ever the subject of more unremitting attention on the part of the paparazzi. In that sense, the fact that she should have met her death ­ with her new boyfriend Dodi Fayed ­ while apparently seeking to escape a motorcycle pursuit by photographers carries its own cruel irony along with it. In an age when stars have become drabber and more ordinary, she achieved unrivalled glamour and respect. She developed from being a relatively unprepossessing kindergarten teacher into a stylish and beautiful young woman, always well dressed, and beloved for her gentle and loving nature. The most successful princesses in history have been those who loved children and cared for the sick. The Princess enjoyed a natural affinity with both children and the sick. She devoted much energy to their care, in a way entirely in tune with the age. Her warmth and kindness found many outlets, particularly in regard to those struck down with HIV. She was spontaneous in manner, happily ignoring royal protocol to bestow a kiss on a child in the crowd, and writing letters to members of the public signed "love Diana". Almost from the day she emerged into public life, the British people took her to their hearts. She brought to the Royal Family not only her very English beauty, but the enthusiasm of youth, combined with an innate dignity and a good-natured sense of humour. She was not an intellectual: neither a good passer of exams nor a noted reader. But she possessed a canny and straightforward form of common sense. She listened and she learnt, and whereas she may have found her schooldays boring, she relished her role as Princess of Wales. She loved fashion and dancing, and pop stars and groups such as Phil Collins and Spandau Ballet. In the early years of her marriage she was as excited at meeting stars like Elizabeth Taylor as they were to meet her. Though she was born into the far from stimulating world of the conventional upper-class girl, reared in the counties of Norfolk and Northamptonshire and veering in youth towards the world of the "Sloane Ranger", her character had great possibilities for development, and develop she did, into a figure of international importance, confident of her place on the world stage. She was given little support, it would seem, by her own family or that into which she married. Perhaps one of the reasons that the British public loved her as they did was that they always feared for her, and were concerned that she might be unhappy, while admiring her for being a fighter who refused to give up in the face of adversity. The world's press loved her, too. Newspapers built her up into the epitome of a fairy-tale princess. Occasionally they were fickle and turned on their creation, but it was generally more comfortable to let the world love her, and their onslaughts were accordingly short-lived. The press interest was relentless, however, and it began long before the engagement was in any sense firm. After her marriage, her every movement, her every outfit, her every mood, was the excuse for many column inches of press comment. She was a natural joy for photographers, being both photogenic and having an innate understanding of the needs of journalists. Her face could sell a million copies of any publication, and both they and she knew it. She adorned many a magazine cover by editor's choice, and once, memorably, that of Vogue by her own wish. In this great love for a public figure there was bound to lurk danger. When she flourished the press supported her, but when life was dark it deserted her. In the summer of 1992, the forthcoming publication of a biography by Andrew Morton, a journalist from the lower echelons of the trade, caught the attention of Andrew Neil, the Editor of The Sunday Times. Several weeks of serialisation damaging to the monarchy followed. Despite complaints from the Press Council and pleas from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the campaign raged on. It could be seen as a major destructive force in the Princess's life. Diana, Princess of Wales, was born at Park House, Sandringham, as the Hon Diana Frances Spencer. She was the third and youngest daughter of Viscount Althorp (later the 8th Earl Spencer, who died in 1992), and his first wife, the Hon Frances Roche (later married for some years to the wallpaper heir, Peter Shand-Kydd). She became Lady Diana Spencer on the death of her grandfather in 1975. Her Spencer forebears had been sheep farmers in Warwickshire, who settled at Althorp, Northamptonshire, in 1506. Cousins of the Spencer-Churchills, they included many connoisseurs and patrons of the arts. Having inherited a considerable fortune from Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, they were able to spend large sums on antiquities, paintings and sculpture. For many generations they served their Sovereigns, and the tradition continued. The Princess's father was equerry to King George VI and to the present Queen. Both her grandmothers, the Countess Spencer and Ruth Lady Fermoy were close members of the court of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, as were no fewer than four Spencer great-aunts. To her two sons, the Princess of Wales passed strong physical Spencer traits, considerably diluting the Hanoverian strain in the Royal Family. While the Princess's paternal ancestors were representative of the Whig oligarchy of the 18th century, she also descended through several lines from the Stuart Kings Charles II and James II, who were not ancestors of the Prince of Wales. Other paternal forebears included the great Duke of Marlborough, Sir Robert Walpole, the Marquess of Anglesey (who lost a leg at Waterloo), and the Earl of Lucan, of Balaclava fame. On her mother's side there was Irish and Scottish blood, with a sprinkling of pioneer New England stock. Her closest relationship to the Prince of Wales was that of seventh cousin once removed, through their common descent from the 3rd Duke of Devonshire. The Princess was educated at Riddlesworth Hall in Norfolk, and then at West Heath, a boarding school in Kent. She achieved no O-level passes. Later she attended a finishing school, the Institut Alpin Videmanette at Rougemont in Switzerland, for six weeks. Her childhood was somewhat unsettled and unhappy because of the separation of her parents when she was six, and their divorce in 1969. She had more natural affinity with her father than with her mother. During the period after leaving school, the Princess worked as a nanny, a babysitter and a skivvy. She attended a cookery course in September 1978, and soon after this her father collapsed with a grave cerebral haemorrhage, from which it took him months to recover. In 1979 she worked briefly as a student teacher at Miss Vacani's dance studios. Later she was invited by friends to help at the Young England Kindergarten in Pimlico, where she was popular with the children. She worked at the kindergarten three days a week and at other times she looked after a small American boy. In London the Princess shared a flat at Coleherne Court, Earls Court, with three girlfriends. They found her a kind and thoughtful flatmate, keen on housework and evenings in front of the television, a lover of ballet, opera and cinema. She loved to dance and sometimes they returned to find her dancing happily around the flat. At the time of the pre-wedding press siege, these girls were to prove staunchly loyal allies. Fortunately, they were content to spend hours in each other's company. Years later, one of them, Mrs William Bartholomew, the former Carolyn Pride, was a source for the Morton biography of the Princess. The Prince and Princess of Wales claimed to have met in a ploughed field at Althorp where Prince Charles was staying as a guest of Lady Sarah Spencer, the Princess's elder sister, in November 1977. The accepted version of the story is that Prince Charles and Lady Sarah were romantically involved, though not deeply so. The younger sister fell in love with everything about the Prince, was keen to be Princess of Wales, and saw in him a challenge. She knew from an early age that she would have to tread carefully, and she never put a foot wrong. It was not until the late summer of 1980 that Lady Diana Spencer's name came to the attention of the world. The Prince of Wales was nearly 32 and the subject of his eventual marriage had been of consuming interest to the media for nearly a decade. Nor had he helped his difficulty by pronouncing that he thought 30 a good age at which to marry. As November 1978 loomed, the pressure increased. But he remained a bachelor, and there were times when he looked a less than happy man. Lady Diana's appearance on the scene refocused press attention on the Prince's bachelor state. While a discreet and low-key courtship was executed in private, Lady Diana was pursued to and from work by determined cameramen and reporters and had to resort to complicated manoeuvres to rescue the last vestiges of her privacy. Her subtle handling of the press earned her not only universal respect but the real affection of these normally hard-hearted men. At one point after she had broken down in tears, a note of apology was placed under her windscreen wiper. But the press pursuit persisted to such an extent that Lady Diana's mother wrote a letter of appeal to The Times. Later the Queen was obliged to complain to newspaper editors through her press secretary. The Prince proposed early in February 1981. The engagement was announced on February 24, after which Lady Diana was better protected. From that day on she was surrounded by what she described as "a mass of smiling faces". Indeed the engagement was greeted with universal approval ­ though the Princess herself found her immediate pre-marriage days in Buckingham Palace both tense and lonely. The Royal Wedding took place in St Paul's Cathedral on July 29, 1981, by the shared wish of both bride and groom. Prince Charles ensured that it was a "marvellous, musical, emotional experience", with three orchestras playing and Kiri te Kanawa (soon afterwards appointed a Dame) and the Bach Choir singing. Lady Diana chose her favourite school hymn, I vow to thee my Country. Many heads of state attended, including nearly all the crowned heads of Europe, President Mitterrand of France, and Mrs Nancy Reagan, wife of the then President of the United States. The King of Tonga required a special chair to be built to support his mighty frame. A last-minute absentee was King Juan Carlos of Spain, because of the decision of the Prince and Princess to embark on the Royal Yacht Britannia at Gibraltar. The wedding day was such that for a brief while it seemed that all strife was set aside, the sun blazed richly and at the end of it, the police thanked the public for their vigilance, and the public praised the police, and, as one commentator put it, "the world was a friendlier and easier place for everyone". The honeymoon was spent first at Broadlands, the home of Lord and Lady Romsey, and a favoured retreat of the Prince when he had stayed there with the late Lord Mountbatten in his youth. Then they cruised on Britannia in the Mediterranean. A long holiday at Balmoral followed. Returning to London in October, the Prince and Princess took up residence at Kensington Palace and at Highgrove House in Gloucestershire. These were their homes for the next 11 years. Their first royal engagement was a 400-mile tour of Wales, the first such visit of a Princess of Wales for 113 years. The tour included a visit to Caernarfon Castle where the Prince had been invested in 1969. The Princess of Wales was given the Freedom of Cardiff, made her first public speech and spoke a few words of Welsh. Despite the ever-present threat of incendiary devices, the tour was a resounding success. The Princess made an immediate impact on the world of fashion. The British fashion industry, long in a precarious state, was given a welcome boost by her arrival. Her style was fresh, attractive and original. She became the personification of current trends in British fashion, with felicitous results for the trade. The Princess soon revealed a penchant for outfits of considerable glamour. On her first outing with her fiancé, she had arrived at Goldsmiths' Hall in a décolleté black taffeta dress, a considerable contrast to her formerly discreet image, which caused the octogenarian Lady Diana Cooper to joke: "Wasn't that a mighty feast to set before a King?" Her wedding dress with its lavish detail and lengthy train matched the magnificence of St Paul's Cathedral and her going away outfit was chic and stylish. The fair fringe she favoured early in the marriage was widely copied for a time. Very soon the Princess was pregnant, giving birth to a boy, Prince William of Wales, on June 21, 1982. A second son, Prince Harry, followed in September 1984. In the early years of the marriage the Waleses normally undertook joint engagements. This was the period of the Princess's apprenticeship. But it soon became clear that of the two it was her that the public most wished to see, and Prince Charles was to some extent reduced to a male dancer supporting his glorious ballerina in her pirouettes. While the popularity of his bride should have delighted him, it added a sense of pointlessness to his slightly frustrated life. Equally, he was irritated when he tried to make an important speech, and the next day the papers merely reported his wife's outfit. He failed to grasp that one of the things the world wanted was a recurring series of images of a young couple enjoying a happy family life. He always appeared reluctant in such photo-calls, fearing that this diminished the import of his more serious endeavours. The Princess, on the other hand, fulfilled all such demands to perfection.



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