31 August 2021 marks the sombre 24th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana in what would’ve been her 60th year had she survived that fateful crash.
Almost a quarter-century after her death at the age of 36, she remains one of the most instantly recognisable people with an enigmatic quality that seemed to reignite any interest in the British royal family. In celebration of her life, here are 7 interesting facts about the Queen of Hearts.
1. Many siblings
Diana was the fourth of five siblings, although one brother – John Spencer – died just hours after his birth in January 1960, the year before Diana was born. Her other siblings include her two sisters Sarah (now Lady Sarah McCorquodale) who actually dated Prince Charles before Diana did, and Jane (now Lady Jane Fellowes), as well as her younger brother Charles Spencer (now the Earl Spencer). Her parents, Frances Shand Kydd and Edward John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, got divorced when Diana was seven years old.
2. A lady of many names
In 1975 when her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer, Diana Spencer became Lady Diana Spencer and was nicknamed ‘Lady Di’. After marrying Prince Charles, she inherited the title Princess of Wales, although Charles insisted that she be stripped of the title ‘Her Royal Highness’ after their divorce.
3. A whirlwind romance
Prince Charles met Princess Diana when she was just 16 and he was 29, and dating her sister at the time. However, it was a few years later that the couple got together. Charles was being pressed to find a bride and they met only 13 times before tying the knot, with many of their conversations held telephonically.
4. The ring
When it came to the engagement ring, Diana broke protocol by not having one specifically designed, but rather choosing the ring from a brochure. The ring consists of 14 solitaire diamonds around a 12-carate oval blue Ceylon sapphire set in 18-carat white gold. Although priced at $36 000 when it was first bought in 1981, it’s a priceless piece of jewellery that was passed on to Kate Middleton when Prince William asked her to marry him.
5. Breaking tradition
This wasn’t the first, and certainly wouldn’t be the last time that Diana broke tradition and upset a few royals. When she gave birth to Prince William on 21 June 1982, she opted not to have her child at the palace but to rather go to a hospital – the Lindo Wing at St Mary’s Hospital in London. She gave birth to both her sons there, with Kate Middleton following suit with Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s son Archie was born at Portland Hospital in London, with daughter Lilibet born in a hospital in California.
6. Diana fever
This breaking with tradition might not have sat well with the royals, but it certainly broke the barriers with the ‘common’ folk and made Diana the most popular royal by far. In what was coined ‘Diana fever’, people around the world came out en masse whenever Diana was visiting, eager to touch the ungloved hand of the ‘people’s princess’.
7. A charitable heart
One of Diana’s greatest assets was her generous spirit. She used her elevated platform to raise awareness, and share compassion for charities and their causes around the world. Diana, who was linked to more than 100 charities, brought massive attention to Aids and HIV prevention. She famously took the hand of an HIV-positive man at London Middlesex Hospital without gloves on when there was a misguided belief that the virus could pass through skin contact. Another iconic image is of Diana walking through a field of landmines in Angola in 1997, just months before her death. She propelled the landmine issue to international prominence for The HALO Trust. Other charitable causes she supported included education, cancer and homelessness. In her short 36 years, Diana lived an incredible life filled with heartache, compassion and love – or as her good friend Elton John put it, ‘A candle in the wind’.
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