- Kimimasa Mayama/Reuters
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s tragic death.
She was first propelled into the national spotlight at the age of 20, when she wedded England’s Prince Charles at the age of 20.
Their troubled marriage ultimately imploded, turning the couple in tabloid fodder.
However, Diana went on to become an international icon in her own right. Her sophisticated style dictated fashion trends. Her dedication to charitable causes won her admiration and accolades.
And, in the wake of her death in Paris, then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair famously referred to her as “the people’s princess.” The mass, global outpouring of grief that her death sparked proved it an apt observation.
Here’s a look at the life of Diana, Princess of Wales:
Diana Frances Spencer was born on July 1, 1961 to a British noble family. Her brother, the Earl Spencer, reminisced that she was ‘incredibly brave,’ even as a young girl.
In school, the future princess failed all her O-levels — twice. However, Diana had a sense that she was destined for something important. “I knew that something profound was coming my way,” she said in the documentary “Diana: In Her Own Words.” “I was just treading water, waiting for it.”
- Hulton Archive / Stringer / Getty Images
Before her marriage, Diana reportedly shared a flat with three roommates and worked as a part-time kindergarten teacher in London’s Pimlico district.
She first met Prince Charles in 1977 when she was 16. The prince was dating her older sister at the time. Their romance didn’t begin until three years later when Diana watched Charles play polo at Balmoral Castle.
Reports indicate that the 32-year-old Charles was under pressure to marry at the time. The prince proposed to Diana in February 1981, after only a few dates. She accepted straight away. In total, Charles and Diana only met 13 times before they were married.
Their lavish, fairytale wedding ceremony received plenty of attention from the press and the public — 750 million people around the world tuned in to watch. CBS reported that the total cost of the wedding was close to $70 million in today’s dollars.
However, Diana would later describe her wedding day as “the worst day of my life,” according to Brides.com.
The subsequent honeymoon on Royal Yacht Britannia provided Diana with a chance to “catch up on sleep,” according to Vanity Fair. Upon returning to England, the newlyweds moved into London’s Kensington Palace and Tetbury’s Highgrove House.
Source: Vanity Fair
The following summer, Diana gave birth to the couple’s first son, William Arthur Philip Louis.
Source: The Guardian
A second son — Henry Charles Albert David, or “Harry” — followed on September 5, 1984.
Source: Toronto Sun
Prince William and Prince Harry have described their mother’s parenting style as informal, loving, and mischievous. “She understood that there was a real life outside of Palace walls,” William said.
Diana grew used to accompanying Charles on official visits around the world, although she reportedly expressed hope privately that “we won’t have to do any more traveling this year” in 1983. However, she quickly became a popular international figure. On her 1985 trip to the US, she turned heads by dancing with John Travolta in the White House.
But all was not well in the royal marriage, which had been on the rocks from the start. The prince and princess both reportedly engaged in extra-marital affairs.
Source: Daily Mail
Charles is said to have continued seeing his current wife Camille Parker-Bowles, who he had been in a relationship with before his marriage to Diana. Diana would later quip, “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”
- Express Newspapers/Getty Images
The couple formally separated in 1992. Diana ultimately went public about the breakdown of their relationship, speaking candidly about her husband’s alleged infidelity and her own struggles with bulimia, depression, and self-harm. Their divorce was finalized in 1996.
Source: Business Insider
In the wake of her much-scrutinized separation from Charles, Diana hid from the spotlight. However, by 1994, she chose to resume her public life.
During and after her marriage, Diana was one of the most photographed women in the world. She also traveled the globe, meeting with many luminaries…
… like Mother Teresa…
… Nelson Mandela …
… Pope John Paul II …
… and Elton John, who became a personal friend.
During her marriage to Charles, Diana attempted to support a huge number of charities. Upon becoming single, she resigned from about 100, in order to better focus on a few projects.
She famously became a major advocate for AIDS patients. She was photographed shaking patients’ hands without gloves. The Princess of Wales is credited with helping to change mainstream stigmas about interacting with AIDS and HIV patients.
Diana also advocated for the removal of dangerous land mines. In 1997, she even walked through an active minefield in Angola and hosted a television special on the topic.
Diana also sat on the board of the Royal Marsden Hospital, which specializes in cancer treatment.
In her personal life, Diana found love again with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan in 1995. However, the couple broke up in 1997. That year, Diana began dating Dodi Fayed, the son of an Egyptian billionaire.
Source: Vanity Fair
While fleeing the ever-present paparazzi, Diana, along with Fayed and driver Henri Paul, was killed in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997.
Source: The New York Times
Her sudden death swept England up in a massive display of collective grief and mourning.
Source: The Guardian
Today, Diana is still remembered for her drive to help others. She once recommended that people should “carry out a random act of kindness with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.”
Source: The Huffington Post