Diana, Princess of Wales (Diana Frances Mountbatten-Windsor, née Spencer) (1 July 1961–31 August 1997) was the first wife of HRH The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. From her marriage in 1981 to her divorce in 1996 she was styled Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales. She was generally called Princess Diana by the media despite having no right to that particular honorific, as it is reserved for a princess by birthright rather than marriage. Though she was noted for her pioneering charity work, the Princess’s philanthropic endeavours were overshadowed by a scandal-plagued marriage. Her bitter accusations of adultery, mental cruelty and emotional distress visited upon her by her husband riveted the world for much of the 1990s, spawning biographies, magazine articles and television movies.
Diana’s family, the Spencers, had been close to the British Royal Family for decades. Her maternal grandmother, the Dowager Lady Fermoy, was a longtime friend of, and a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
The Prince’s love life had always been the subject of press speculation, and he was linked to numerous women. Nearing his mid-thirties, he was under increasing pressure to marry. In order to gain the approval of his family and their advisors, including his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten of Burma, any potential bride had to have an aristocratic background, could not have been previously married, should be Protestant and, preferably, a virgin. Diana fulfilled all of these qualifications.
Reportedly, the Prince’s former girlfriend (and, eventually, his second wife) Camilla Parker Bowles helped him select the 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer as a potential bride, who was working as an assistant at the Young England kindergarten in Pimlico. Buckingham Palace announced the engagement on 24 February 1981. Mrs. Parker Bowles had been dismissed by Lord Mountbatten of Burma as a potential spouse for the heir to throne some years before, reportedly due to her age (16 months the Prince’s senior), her sexual experience, and her lack of suitably aristocratic lineage.
The wedding took place at St Paul’s Cathedral in London on Wednesday 29 July 1981 before 3,500 invited guests (including Mrs. Parker Bowles and her husband, a godson of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) and an estimated 1 billion television viewers around the world. Diana was the first Englishwoman to marry an heir-apparent to the throne since 1659, when Lady Anne Hyde married the Duke of York and Albany, the future King James II. Upon her marriage, Diana became Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales and was ranked as the most senior royal woman in the United Kingdom after the Queen and the Queen Mother.
The Prince and Princess of Wales had two children, Prince William of Wales on 21 June 1982 and Prince Henry of Wales (commonly called Prince Harry) on 15 September 1984.
After the birth of Prince William, the Princess of Wales suffered from post-natal depression. She had previously suffered from bulimia nervosa, which recurred, and she made a number of suicide attempts. In one interview, released after her death, she claimed that, while pregnant with Prince William, she threw herself down a set of stairs and was discovered by her mother-in-law (that is, Queen Elizabeth II). It has been suggested she did not, in fact, intend to end her life (or that the suicide attempts never even took place) and that she was merely making a ‘cry for help’. In the same interview in which she told of the suicide attempt while pregnant with Prince William, she said her husband had accused her of crying wolf when she threatened to kill herself. It has also been suggested that she suffered from borderline personality disorder.
In the mid 1980s her marriage fell apart, an event at first suppressed, but then sensationalised, by the world media. Both the Prince and Princess of Wales spoke to the press through friends, accusing each other of blame for the marriage’s demise. Charles resumed his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, whilst Diana became involved with James Hewitt and possibly later with James Gilbey, with whom she was involved in the so-called Squidgygate affair. She later confirmed (in a television interview with Martin Bashir) the affair with her riding instructor, James Hewitt. (Theoretically, such an affair constituted high treason by both parties.) Another alleged lover was a bodyguard assigned to the Princess’s security detail, although the Princess adamantly denied a sexual relationship with him. After her separation from Prince Charles, Diana was involved with married art dealer Oliver Hoare and, lastly, heart surgeon Hasnat Khan.
The Prince and Princess of Wales were separated on 9 December 1992; their divorce was finalised on 28 August 1996. The Princess lost the style Her Royal Highness, and became Diana, Princess of Wales, a titular distinction befitting a divorced peeress. However, at that time, and to this day, Buckingham Palace maintains it; since the Princess was the mother of the second and third in line to The Throne, she remained a member of the Royal Family.
In 2004, the American TV network NBC broadcast tapes of Diana discussing her marriage to the Prince of Wales, including her description of her suicide attempts. The tapes were in the possession of the Princess during her lifetime; however, after her death, her butler took possession, and after numerous legal wranglings, they were given to the Princess’s voice coach, who had originally filmed them. These tapes have not been broadcast in the United Kingdom.
Questions about the text
1. Diana Spencer was born in…
2. The royal wedding took place in 1981.
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3. After the marriage, Diana became Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales.
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4. The Prince and Princess of Wales got divorced in 1994.
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5. Diana lost her title of Princess of Wales after the divorce.
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