The respective backgrounds of the Prince and Princess of
Wales were an additional challenge in the creation of a
happy family atmosphere. She had come from a broken
home, while his upbringing had been formal to say the least.
His early companion had been his nanny, and he lacked any
close involvement with his parents.
The love of solitude to which the Prince adhered even after
marriage, combined with his love of polo and hunting,
inevitably left the Princess on many occasions without him.
But both parents shared an adoration for their children.
Even as the world rejoiced on their wedding day, the
Princess was aware that she had not entirely captured Prince
Charles's heart. Yet she always felt that she would win him.
He most probably felt that the marriage was akin to an
arranged one, and some have said that he did not enter into it
in the same spirit as his bride. When the Princess realised
that Prince Charles was never entirely to reciprocate the love
she felt for him, she, like many mothers, transferred much of
her devotion to her sons.
The Princess celebrated her 21st birthday in July 1982, and
that September she represented the Queen at the funeral of
Princess Grace of Monaco in the cathedral at Monte Carlo.
The Princess was soon busily involved in the world of public
duty. As the years went by, she evolved into a deeply
committed member of the Royal Family. She swiftly became
better informed in the early days of her marriage a Fleet
Street editor was surprised to hear Prince Charles explaining
to her at lunch that Chancellor Kohl was the leader of West
Germany. She also learnt the tricks of the royal trade,
speaking easily to individual members of the public of all
ages and possessing a good instinct as to what to talk about.
Yet in the early days she seldom made speeches in public,
and when she did they were of the most formal sort. As she
gained confidence, she began to write her own speeches,
delivering them from the podium with calm assurance. She
spoke of the importance of the family in everyday life, the
rehabilitation of drug-users, and urged more compassion for
those dying of Aids. When she and the Prince of Wales
appeared together in television interviews it was not long
before she was the more articulate of the two, leaving him
almost monosyllabic, despite an earlier reputation for fluency.
The modern manner is for members of the Royal Family to
be actively involved with any organisation of which they are
patron or president. Until she gave up most of her charitable
commitments at the end of 1993, the Princess was never
merely a figurehead, but served directly as fundraiser,
promoter, chairman of meetings and, of course, as public
She gave her support to an enormous number of charities, in
a wide range of fields. Among her key presidencies or
patronages were Barnardo's; the Great Ormond Street
Hospital for Children; Centrepoint; English National Ballet;
RADA; the Royal Academy of Music; the Leprosy Mission;
the National Aids Trust; the Royal Marsden Hospital; Help
the Aged; and the National Meningitis Trust.
An exhausting round of overseas travel was also a feature of
her marriage. Her first big overseas tour occurred in March
and April 1983, when she accompanied Prince Charles on a
visit to Australia. The infant Prince William went with them.
They travelled extensively from the Northern Tterritory to
Canberra, through New South Wales, Tasmania, Southern
Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria. At
that time the Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, was a
committed republican, but he was forced to concede that the
Princess was "a lovely lady".
The Australian trip (followed on that occasion by 12 days in
New Zealand) was the first of three such visits. In June they
went to Canada where there was an outbreak of "Di-mania",
a 1980s equivalent of Beatlemania.
In February 1984, the Princess made her first major solo
visit abroad, to Norway to attend a gala performance of
Carmen by the London City Ballet. Arriving in the snow,
she was at once dubbed "The Snow Princess".
In the spring of 1985 she and the Prince of Wales went to
Italy, a 17-day tour which included a visit to Sir Harold
Acton at La Pietra, and to the Pope in Rome. Venice was
perhaps the highlight of the tour, and here they were joined
by Prince William and Prince Harry.
In October the Princess spent two days with the 1st
Battalion The Royal Hampshire Regiment (of which she was
was Colonel-in-Chief until she relinquished her military
commitments on her divorce in 1996) in West Germany.
Following their second Australian visit, they paused briefly in
Fiji, and rested in Hawaii before visiting the Reagans in the
United States. The White House dinner and dance was
typical of the mid-Eighties bonanza-style entertainment
favoured during the Reagan era, and the highlight of the
evening was when the Princess accompanied John Travolta
in a sensational dance to You're the One that I Want (from
the film Grease), an experience which both enjoyed and
which served to resurrect Travolta's flagging career.
Other destinations during these years included Austria, Japan
(where there was more "Di-mania"), the Gulf states, Portugal
In 1989 the Princess returned to the United States, this time
for a less glitzy trip to New York, where she visited centres
for the homeless and dying children in the Aids ward of
Harlem Hospital. She was dubbed, in American parlance,
"Bigger than Gorby, Better than Bush". There was a visit to
Kuwait (where security was intense following the Salman
Rushdie affair), and the United Arab Emirates. In June she
and the Prince revisited Australia, and in November they
went on a Far East tour, taking in Indonesia and Hong
Visiting Nigeria in 1990, the Princess saw much suffering at
first hand, and pointedly shook hands with the chief of a
leper colony. In May the same year she and the Prince paid
the first royal visit to a Warsaw Pact country, when they
travelled to Hungary. In October the Princess went alone to
Washington for a ballet gala and to further understanding of
In November she and the Prince went to Japan for the
enthronement of Emperor Akihito (a visit surrounded by
controversy in Britain). There were also visits to Brussels, to
British troops in Germany, to Prague, and to Expo 92 in
Besides the birth of her two children, there were other events
of significance in her years of marriage. She much
encouraged the union between Prince Andrew and her friend
Sarah Ferguson, and she was delighted when they married in
1986. For some years they remained close friends and
confidantes, and it was a cause of distress to her when that
marriage came apart in the spring of 1992.
The Duchess of York had appeared to be a good ally at
court, never as glamorous as the Princess, never likely to
threaten her place in the esteem of the general public, but
certainly her friend. But the arrival of the Duchess of York
was, in retrospect, a damaging thing for the Princess of
Wales, for she began to be tarnished by the new Duchess's
fun-loving and sometimes irresponsible attitude.
The two may have seemed alike in character, but they were
essentially different, the Princess being a great deal more
dutiful and less interested in the perks. But the Duchess of
York influenced her somewhat and it was during the time
when they were close that the two then Royal Highnesses
prodded their friends with the tip of their ferrule at the Royal
Ascot meeting, one of a number of incidents that caused
Establishment eyebrows to be raised.
Each girl represented an alternative fantasy for the young: to
be like the Princess of Wales was to diet rigorously and
undertake regular aerobics. The Duchess of York, on the
other hand, made few concessions and her attitude was
more one of "Take me as I am". In 1988 they were both in
Klosters when their friend Major Hugh Lindsay was killed in
an accident skiing off-piste with the Prince of Wales. This
tragedy long dampened the spirits of all three.
For many years a small circle was aware of the not
altogether happy state of the Princess of Wales's marriage.
Much was written about this over the years, but the situation
continued until The Sunday Times adopted the story in
1992 and blew it up to sensational proportions. The public
was left with another dream shattered, and the monarchy's
image was tarnished.
The 1992 revelations suggested that the Prince and Princess
of Wales had failed to establish a mutually happy rapport
during their marriage. There were many obstacles to natural
happiness. With nearly 13 years between them, they were
almost of different generations, he being born in the late
1940s, she in the early 1960s. The Prince was always of a
serious disposition, inflexible in his way of life, not noted for
his willingness to accept change. The Princess was initially
more light-headed, though she developed considerably in the
first decade of the marriage. She certainly entered the union
with a more generous heart than her husband, who did not
disguise his anxiety that the taking of a wife was an additional
burden in an already busy life.
Despite her enormous popularity with the public, the
differences in their interests seemed to divide them
increasingly as the years progressed. Though they were both
energetically and successfully involved in public life, the
framework of their home life gradually eroded. He began to
entertain separately. She spent more time in London,
frequently away from Highgrove. Their problems were the
focus of more attention than any couple could bear. Not only
did they have to face their respective difficulties, but they had
to do so in the full blast of media attention.
The strain began to show. The Prince of Wales had resumed
his earlier association with a former girlfriend, Mrs Camilla
Parker-Bowles. The Princess's name was linked with those
of two men nearer to her age, the Old Etonian James Gilbey
and the Life Guards officer James Hewitt. There were clear
signs of marital discord during a visit to India in February
1992, when the Princess spent time alone looking miserable
at the Taj Mahal, and during a four-day trip to Korea in
November that year, when the Prince and Princess, clearly
unhappy in each other's company, were dubbed "The
Glums" by reporters.
By the end of 1992, speculation about the state of the royal
marriage had come to a head, fuelled by the release of a tape
of an intimate conversation between the Princess and James
Gilbey. There was talk of separate living arrangements, and a
suggestion that reconciliation was now impossible. In
December, John Major confirmed to the House of
Commons that the couple were to separate.
Separation did little to reduce public interest, particularly
after the discovery in 1993 of another intimate tape
recording, this time of a conversation between the Prince and
Mrs Parker Bowles. In December 1993 the Princess
tearfully bowed out of public life, severing her links with most
of the charities she had supported and begging to be left
alone by the press. In 1994 Prince Charles admitted his
long-standing and continuing relationship with Mrs Parker
Bowles in a television interview with Jonathan Dimbleby.
Despite her pleas for privacy, the Princess remained very
much in the public eye. As she set about putting her life in
order during the period of personal confusion that followed
the separation visiting gymnasiums one day and
psychotherapists the next her every step was dogged by
photographers and reporters. Yet her relationship with the
media was always more complicated than she was prepared
to admit. She may have been unhappy about some of the
press ambushes, and about speculation on her association
with married men such as the art dealer Oliver Hoare and the
England rugby captain Will Carling, but there were
undoubtedly occasions when she courted the attention, in an
attempt to influence perceptions of her marriage and its
Nowhere was this more evident than in her extraordinary
decision taken without consulting the Royal Household or
even her own advisers to appear on a special editon of the
BBC Panorama programme in November 1995. She
spoke frankly about her unhappy relationship with the Royal
Family, her eating disorders, and her own and her husband's
adultery. She announced her desire to be seen as "a queen of
people's hearts". On August 28, 1996, the Prince and
Princess of Wales divorced.
Throughout her marital difficulties, the Princess had remained
devoted to her sons. After the divorce, when she and the
Prince were given joint custody, she continued to invest
considerable energy in their upbringing. She was an adoring
mother, and there were many images of mother and children
together, the most celebrated when the children ran to their
mother's arms on Britannia after a period apart. The
devotion was reciprocated, and her boys were a great
After her divorce the Princess made a return to public life,
associating herself particularly with the work of the Red
Cross, and taking a leading and sometimes controversial
role in the international campaign to ban landmines. Earlier
this year she auctioned many of her dresses to raise money
for charity. She also seemed to find new happiness in her
private life, spending much of the past few weeks in the
company of Dodi Fayed, who died with her.
When she married the Prince of Wales, Diana said on
television that she saw her life as a great challenge. Realistic
though she was at 20 years of age, she underestimated how
great that challenge would prove and at what cost.