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Diana, princess of Wales

British princess
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Alternative Title: Lady Diana Frances Spencer

Diana, princess of Wales, original name Diana Frances Spencer, (born July 1, 1961, Sandringham, Norfolk, England—died August 31, 1997, Paris, France), former consort (1981–96) of Charles, prince of Wales; mother of the heir second in line to the British throne, Prince William, duke of Cambridge (born 1982); and one of the foremost celebrities of her day. (For more on Diana, especially on the effect of her celebrity status, see Britannica’s interview with Tina Brown, of The Diana Chronicles [2007].)

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Early life and education

Diana was born at Park House, the 数字货币杠杆交易_数字货币周home that her parents rented on Queen Elizabeth II’s estate at Sandringham and where Diana’s childhood playmates were the queen’s younger sons, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. She was the third child and youngest daughter of Edward John Spencer, Viscount Althorp, heir to the 7th Earl Spencer, and his first wife, Frances Ruth Burke Roche (daughter of the 4th Baron Fermoy). Her parents’ troubled marriage ended in divorce when Diana was a child, and she, along with her brother and two sisters, remained with her father. She became Lady Diana Spencer when her father succeeded to the earldom in 1975. Riddlesworth Hall (near Thetford, Norfolk) and West Heath School (Sevenoaks, Kent) provided the young Diana’s schooling. After attending the finishing school of Chateau d’Oex at Montreux, Switzerland, Diana returned to England and became a kindergarten assistant at the fashionable Young England school in Pimlico.

Marriage and divorce

She renewed her contacts with the royal family, and her friendship with Charles, prince of Wales and Diana, princess of Wales

Charles, prince of Wales and Diana, princess of Wales
Charles, prince of Wales, and Diana, princess of Wales, on the grounds of Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, while on their honeymoon, August 1981.
Press Association/AP Images

“Princess Di” rapidly evolved into an icon of grace, elegance, and glamour. Exuding natural charm and charisma, she used her celebrity status to aid numerous charitable causes, and her changing hairstyles and wardrobe made her a fashion trendsetter. Behind the scenes, however, marital difficulties between the princess and prince were growing. Diana struggled with severe candid television interview in 1995. After prolonged negotiations that left Diana with a substantial financial settlement but without the title Her Royal Highness, the couple’s divorce became final on August 28, 1996.

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“The People’s Princess” and charity work

Death and funeral

Long one of the most-photographed women in the world, Diana’s unprecedented popularity both in Diana, princess of Wales: car crash

Diana, princess of Wales: car crash
French police services preparing to take away the wreckage of the car crash in Paris that caused the deaths of Diana, princess of Wales, Dodi Fayed, and the car's driver, Henri Paul, 1997.
Jerome Delay/AP Images

Though the photographers were initially blamed for causing the accident, a French judge in 1999 cleared them of any wrongdoing, instead faulting Paul, who was found to have had a blood alcohol level over the legal limit at the time of the crash and to have taken prescription drugs incompatible with alcohol. In 2006 a Scotland Yard inquiry into the incident also concluded that the driver was at fault. In April 2008, however, a British inquest jury ruled both the driver and the paparazzi guilty of unlawful killing through grossly negligent driving, though it found no evidence of a conspiracy to kill Diana or Fayed, an accusation long made by Fayed’s father.

Her death produced unprecedented expressions of public mourning, testifying to her enormous hold on the British national psyche. The royal family, apparently caught off guard by the extraordinary outpouring of grief and by criticism of their emotional reticence, broke with tradition in arranging the internationally televised royal funeral. The image of Prince William, then age 15, and Prince Harry, then age 12, walking solemnly with their father behind Diana’s casket in her funeral cortege became iconic. At Diana’s funeral Elton John performing at the funeral of Diana, princess of Wales

Elton John performing at the funeral of Diana, princess of Wales
Elton John singing at the funeral of Diana, princess of Wales.
Rota/Camerapress/Retna Ltd.
Goodbye England’s rose;
May you ever grow in our hearts.
You were the grace that placed yourself
Where lives were torn apart.

The recording of that version of the song became the most successful pop single in history to date, selling more than 30 million copies.

Diana’s life, and her death, polarized national feeling about the existing system of populist age of media celebrity in which Diana herself was a central figure.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.

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