On what would have been Princess Diana’s 53rd birthday, we remember the People’s Princess’ life and why she was adored by her subjects.
An innocent Diana Spencer came into the public eye when she started dating the second in line to the British throne in 1980, even though she was born into an aristocratic English family on July 1, 1961. Charles and Diana had known each other since 1977, when he started dating her sister, Sarah.
The couple officially started dating, and their engagement was announced by Buckingham Palace on February 24, 1981. Charles married 20-year-old Diana in front of thousands of British citizens, and millions of television viewers, on July 29 of the same year.
Princess Diana was an unknown kindergarten teacher, and was thrust into the spotlight overnight when it was revealed one of the most eligible bachelors in the world was dating her. At the time, Prince Charles was in his early 30s and under increased pressure to marry.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ relationship was a contentious one, and she felt the pressures of living under the microscope as a member of the British royal family. Initially, the Queen and her family viewed Di — as she was affectionately called — favorably, but as she began to assert her personality, things turned dicey.
The royal couple had two children, Prince William — third in line to the throne — and Prince Harry. Princess Diana introduced her own way of bringing up her children, which clashed with the very traditional monarchy. What we see today in Prince William and his wife, Duchess Kate, is a reflection of Diana’s parenting style.
Princess Diana antagonized the royals by taking charge of all aspects of her children’s lives, including choosing their names, taking them to school when her scheduled allowed, and working her public appearances around their activities. All this made her an endearing figure to her subjects, and went against the very established traditions of the monarchy.
In 1983, Princess Diana confided in then-Premier of Newfoundland, Brian Peckford, “I am finding it very difficult to cope with the pressures of being Princess of Wales, but I am learning to cope.” By the mid-1980s, Diana was heavily involved in charities near and dear to her heart.
As their marriage fell apart in the early 1990s, Diana became more and more popular with the people, eclipsing her dull husband during their public appearances. Both the Prince and Princess blamed each other publicly for their marital problems, and finally in December of 1992 their separation was announced.
In later years, Princess Diana blamed Prince Charles’ longtime lover — and current wife — Camilla Parker-Bowles for their split, even though she believed he had other affairs. The couple’s divorce was final on August 28, 1996, after years of acrimony and blame.
Following her divorce, Princess Diana took on several causes. One of the most important was the minefields in Angola — a cause Prince Harry continues to this day. Di traveled to the affected region, and photos were famously snapped of her wearing protective gear.
— HuffPostUK Pictures (@HuffPostUKPics) August 18, 2013
Princess Diana died tragically on August 31, 1997 in Paris, after the car she was in crashed in a city tunnel as it was chased by paparazzi. Her death threw Britain into days of mourning, with subjects leaving thousands of flowers at the doors of Buckingham Palace.
Millions wept witnessing her young sons, William and Harry, as they accompanied their father during her funeral procession. Princess Diana is a beloved and controversial figure in English history that is still mourned 17 years later.
[Image via Twitter]