Life and Legacy of The People’s Princess

  • 30 Jun - 06 Jul, 2018
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Best known as the ‘people’s princess’, Lady Diana, the name that transcended borders, still lives in the hearts of her admirers around the world. On the occasion of her 57th birth anniversary, we take a look at the tragically short yet illustrious life of the world’s most admired royal.

Born in an aristocratic family

On July 1, 1961, Diana Spencer was born to Viscount Althorp Edward John Spencer and Viscountess Althorp Frances Shand Kydd near Sandringham, England. As part of an aristocratic family, Diana was raised with a silver spoon in her mouth. After her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer in the year 1975, she became Lady Diana. When Diana was young, her parents divorced and the father won children’s custody. She, along with her siblings, grew up in the midst of a broken family, which if not more, had some affect on her life as the girl who grew up to be a rebellious royal. Daina received her initial education at home and later attended Riddlesworth Hall School and then the West Heath School. She was a shy young lady growing up, who loved music and dance. Following her fondness for children, Diana moved to London after finishing school at Institut Alpin Videmanette in Switzerland and began working with children. She eventually became an assistant at the Young England Kindergarten.

Being married in the royal family

Diana was familiar with the royal family way before she got married to Prince Charles. She had reportedly spent her younger days playing with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward when her family rented Park House – an estate owned by Queen Elizabeth II. Later in 1977, Diana got along with their eldest brother Charles, who was 13 years older than her. Despite the age difference, the two eventually got engaged in 1981. Being the heir to the throne of Britain, Charles was heavily discussed in the media and his courtship to the young Diana was not an exception at all. The public and press were fascinated with the apparently odd couple, for Diana was a shy and meek young lass interested in fashion and pop culture, while Charles was a reserved Prince. But Diana was destined to rule the hearts of millions, for she married the most eligible bachelor of the time, Prince Charles on July 29, 1981 and became the Princess of Wales. The marriage was a celebratory affair not just in Britain but around the world.

She became an integral part of the royal family and was assigned some of the most important royal duties. Initially, overwhelmed by the scrutinising media attention and responsibilities as a royal, Diana started developing her own interests within the realm of her happening life. Be it attending royal parties to charity events to social gatherings, she proved to be a rather eccentric addition to the otherwise conventionally-driven royal family. She later involved herself into several international charities, making her one of the most philanthropic people in the world.

Diana, the doting mother

Lady Diana and Prince Charles were blessed with two sons – Prince William Arthur Philip Louis and Prince Henry Charles Albert David aka Prince Harry on June 21, 1982 and September 15, 1984, respectively. Diana was the most doting mother, as she spent most of her time with her children apart from fulfilling her royal duties. She was known for her affection towards her children even when in public. An iconic photo where she embraces her sons after her return from royal engagements in Canada in 1991 touched the hearts of her numerous fans across the globe. She was playful, emotional, mischievous, smothering and full of love for her two lads who still remember how their mother would squeeze them with affection.

“She was extremely good at showing her love. She was extremely good at showing what we meant to her and what feelings meant and how important it was to feel,” William once spoke of his mother. In another instance, Harry said, “She would just engulf you and squeeze you as tight as possible... And being as short as I was then, there was no escape, you were there and you were there for as long as she wanted to hold you.”

Divorce, affairs and the aftermath

Her fairytale wedding to Charles ended with a bitter divorce in 1996 after Diana found her husband cheating her for another woman – Camilla Parker Bowles – whom he could not marry, for the palace apparently didn't approve of the match. Despite several confrontations with both, Charles and Camilla, Diana gave up and moved on with her life, having to give up her title of Princess and thus resuming her former title Lady with her name. Her marriage was possibly never meant to be the happily-ever-after kind, for the couple became estranged over the years, as Charles kept getting romantically involved with his now wife, Camilla. His infidelities broke Diana and led her towards depression, and she even suffered from an eating disorder, bulimia. Following the tensions their marriage endured, announcement of their separation took place in December 1992 and their divorce was finalised four years later.

As rebellious as she appeared to be, Diana showed Charles what moving on meant, for she devoted her life to her sons and charity work, as well as romanced two Muslim men – Dr Hasnat Khan and Dodi Al Fayed. It is said that she was madly in love with the former. She lost her heart to a young Dr Hasnat Khan, a Pakistani heart surgeon described as "Mr Wonderful" by the late Diana.

Hasnat too admired her but gave into his cultural norms, choosing family over love. But he still has a soft corner for the lady who loved him like crazy. "I found her a very normal person with great qualities," he said in an interview.

The other romance she had was with an Egyptian film producer and a notorious playboy Dodi Al Fayed in 1997, which many now believe was to make her former flame Khan jealous, as well as send a message of rebellion to the royals. She knew she’ll be followed by paparazzi wherever she’d go with Dodi, for her vacations and appearance with Fayed were popular among tabloids around the world. It was her short yet stirring affair with Dodi that somehow ended her life in the blink of an eye.

The ill-fated accident

It was an unfortunate day in Paris when Diana accompanied with Dodi sat in the ill-fated car that raced the roads of the city, while being hounded by paparazzi photographers throughout the commute. The two, in the midst of escaping limelight, lost their lives in a deadly accident in the morning of August 31, 1997. The driver and Fayed died on spot, while Diana succumbed to her injuries in a Paris hospital a few hours later.

Her sudden death left the world in shock, where many couldn’t believe if the princess of their hearts had actually left the world. Her sons coped with the tragedy maturely and despite having received immense flak for Diana’s death, the royal family gathered to pay their respects to the life and legacy of the people’s princess on September 5, 1997.