Diana, Princess of Wales
Former wife of the heir to the British throne. The daughter of Earl Spencer, Diana married Charles, Prince of Wales in 1981, and they had two sons, William and Harry. A popular, glamorous figure, she worked for many charities. Their marriage fell apart acrimoniously, and they divorced in 1996. She continued to campaign for humanitarian causes until her death in a car crash in Paris.
Member of the UK royal family. Daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer, Diana married Prince Charles in St Paul's Cathedral, London, in 1981. She had two sons, William and Harry, before her separation from Charles in 1992. In February 1996, she agreed to a divorce, after which she became known as Diana, Princess of Wales. Her worldwide prominence for charity work contributed to a massive outpouring of public grief after her death in a car crash in Paris, France, in 1997. Her funeral proved to be the biggest British televised event in history.
Childhood Diana was born in Sandringham, Norfolk. Her father, Lord Althorp, became the 8th Earl Spencer in 1975, following the death of her paternal grandfather, Albert Edward John, 7th Earl Spencer. Lord Althorp had been a Captain in the Royal Scots Greys and served as equerry to King George VI 1950–52 and to Queen Elizabeth II 1952–54. Her mother, born the Honourable Frances Roche, was the daughter of the 4th Baron Fermoy and of Ruth, Lady Fermoy, a Woman of the Bedchamber and close personal friend to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
In 1969, after the dissolution of her parents' marriage, her mother remarried, but the children remained in the custody of their father. Diana was educated at home until the age of nine, when she was sent to Riddlesworth Hall near Thetford in Norfolk. At twelve she was transferred to West Heath school in Sevenoaks, Kent. Despite her undistinguished academic performance she was given a special award for service when she left the school in 1977. She then went to the Chateau d'Oex school, an exclusive finishing school near Montreux, Switzerland, but returned to England after a few months. After working briefly as a part-time cook, nanny, and governess, she worked as a teacher at the fashionable Young England Kindergarten School in Pimlico, London, 1979–81.
A childhood playmate of Prince Charles's younger brothers, her romance with Prince Charles blossomed during 1980. Lady Di – as she was called by the world press – soon endeared herself to the public, beloved for her style, charisma, vulnerability, and active charity work.
Divorce Charles and Diana were officially divorced in August 1996. As part of the settlement, believed to be worth between £15 million and £17 million, the Princess lost the title of Her Royal Highness and was to be known as Diana, Princess of Wales. As Buckingham Palace confirmed, both the queen and the prince continued to regard the princess as a member of the royal family and she continued to live at Kensington Palace. She resigned as the patron of 93 British and Commonwealth charities, and cut her workload to just six charities of her choice: the Centrepoint homeless charity, the National Aids Trust, the Leprosy Mission, which had links with Mother Teresa of Calcutta's mission, the English National Ballet, the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, and the Royal Marsden Hospital, which specializes in cancer research and treatment. In the last few years of her life, Diana became deeply involved in the anti-landmine campaign.
Car crash investigation Diana died in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997 together with her companion, Dodi Fayed, and their chauffeur. The accident happened as their car was being pursued by paparazzi photographers on motorcycles. In 1999 the original investigation into the car crash which killed Diana absolved staff at the Ritz Hotel in Paris of any blame and lifted manslaughter charges against nine French press photographers. A later inquest, however, ruled in 2008 that Diana and Al Fayed were unlawfully killed by the gross negligence of the chauffeaur Henri Paul, who was well over the drink-drive limit, and the photographers.
Public mourning Public response to Diana's death was unprecedented, as hundreds of thousands paid floral tributes and signed books of condolence. The strength of public feeling and criticism directed at the royal family for their apparent indifference to the death of the princess led the queen to make an live television tribute to the late Princess of Wales, and to arrange Diana's funeral in a way that would allow the public to be involved. The queen normally speaks to the nation on Christmas Day; this was the second exception to this rule in her 45-year reign (the other was on 24 February 1991 at the end of the Gulf War). A record 31.5 million people – three quarters of British adults – watched the funeral. The BBC's coverage was also broadcast in 185 countries to an estimated 2.5 billion people around the world.