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Princess Diana death anniversary: Life and times of the late royal

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On the Princess’ death anniversary (August 31), we travel back in time to pay a tribute to the late royal

  • Born Diana Spencer on July 1, 1961, Princess Diana became Lady Diana Spencer after her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975. She came in the limelight in February 1981 when her engagement to Prince Charles was announced to the world.
  • Both of Diana’s grandmothers had served as ladies-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
  • Diana had reportedly was a playmate of Prince Andrew and Prince Edward as a child while her family rented Park House, an estate owned by Queen Elizabeth II.
  • After completing her education, she took a series of low-paying jobs; she worked as a dance instructor, as a playgroup pre-school assistant, did some cleaning work for her sister Sarah and several of her friends, acted as a hostess at parties. She also worked as a nanny for the American Robertsons in London. Diana also was a nursery teacher’s assistant at the Young England School in Pimlico.
  • Diana first met Charles, Prince of Wales (13 years senior to her), when she was 16 in November 1977. At the time, the Prince was dating Diana’s older sister, Lady Sarah. But it was in 1980, that Prince Charles took notice and an interest in Diana. The Prince proposed on 6 February 1981, and Lady Diana accepted.
  • Diana’s engagement ring consisted of 14 solitaire diamonds surrounding a 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire set in 18-carat white gold. The ring was made by the Crown jewellers Garrard. In 2010 the ring became the engagement ring of Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, wife of Prince William.
  • After her marriage to Prince of Wales on July 29, 1981, Lady Diana became Princess of Wales. During her marriage, she also was Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Rothesay, and Countess of Chester.
  • Diana was the first Englishwoman to become the spouse of an heir apparent in 300 years, and she was also the first royal bride to have a paying job before her engagement.
  • Diana wore a wedding dress valued at £9,000 with a 25-foot (7.62-metre) train.
  • In the private Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, on 21 June 1982, Diana, now Princess, gave birth to her first son, William Arthur Philip Louis. And gave birth to her second son, Henry Charles Albert David (popularly known as Prince Harry), on September 15, 1984.
  • Diana, throughout her life, was surrounded by controversies. One such rumour surrounds around Prince Harry’s birth, suggesting that Prince Charles is not the biological father, but Cavalry officer James Hewitt, with whom Diana had an extra-marital affair, was. However, Harry had already been born by the time the affair between Hewitt and Diana began.
  • It was in 1990, that the marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales fell apart, both blaming each other for the separation. Post separation, the Prince rekindled his love affair with Camilla Parker Bowles and Princess Diana dated several, first of whom was British-Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan. In 1997, she ended the relationship. Post the doctor, came Dodi Fayed, the son of former Harrods owner, Mohamed Al-Fayed.
  • After the divorce, Princes Diana focused her attention on charity work and started working towards helping the world’s afflicted and disadvantaged, specially AIDS and leprosy patients. Her charity, humanitarian work fixated the spotlight on her.
  • On 31 August 1997, Diana was fatally injured in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris. The accident also resulted in the deaths of her companion Dodi Fayed and the driver, Henri Paul.
  • The Princess also suffered from an eating disorder called bulimia. Bulimia was revealed as Princess Diana’s “secret disease” in 1992 in Andrew Morton’s book: Diana: Her True Story. Morton described that she first struggled with bulimia in 1981, and was still suffering from it during the late ‘80s when she sought treatment.
  • Princess Diana admitted that she began to follow a strict diet after people made comments on TV and in magazines about her “pudgy” appearance. Once she started dieting, she couldn’t stop.
  • It is also said that she was suicidal even when she was married to the Prince of Wales. She started loathing herself to such an extent that she cut her wrists with razor blades, scratched herself down the thighs, threw herself down when pregnant.
  • In a letter dated October 1996 and written to Paul Burrell, her butler and friend, she wrote saying she is fearing her assassination, “This phase in my life is the most dangerous. They are planning an accident in my car.”
  • In 1985, when she was the mother of two young, she fell in love with Barry Mannakee, a Royal Protection Officer. She said she was “happy to give all this up” and leave the Royal Family to be in a relationship with him. Shortly after he left his job as her bodyguard, Mr Manakee was killed in a motorbike accident in 1987.
  • Apart from her humanitarian work, Princess Diana also gained popularity as a style icon. She broke royal norms when it came to fashion by wearing long slit, low neckline, strapless dresses and suits. Her outfits also comprised of androgynous gear, such as a tuxedo and a bow tie.

—Compiled by Manasi Y Mastakar