Throughout history women have made their mark in a wide variety of ways. Each Saturday I plan to highlight one of these remarkable women. There will be no limit to the areas of history that I may include; however as a guide I will look to the month of their birth, the month of their death or the month associated with their mark in history when I select them. Is there an outstanding women in history you would like me to include? I welcome your suggestions. Would you like to guest blog one of the world’s outstanding women? Let me hear from you.
Today as July is the month of her birth, an outstanding woman who needs no introduction.
When I decided to include Princess Diana in my weekly post about the World’s Outstanding Women, I hesitated because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to narrow all the information down. Afterall it’s a blog post not a 1,000 page biography. Searching around the web, I decided I would take a frequently asked questions approach (FAQ). With the help of the following website, here is Princess Diana http://www.dianapow.com/faq.html#faq1.
Diana was born on 1 July 1961 at Park House, situated on the edge of the royal estate Sandringham, in Norfolk. Park House belonged to HM The Queen but was leased to Diana’s parents, the then Viscount and Viscountess Althorp, from 1955 to 1975. Besides being the Viscount and Viscountess Althorp, Diana’s parents were Edward John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer and the Honorable Frances Burke Roche who married in 1954 and divorced in 1969. dd in 2004. Diana’s has three living siblings and one brother, John who died at birth in 1960. Diana’s siblings are Elizabeth Lavinia Sarah (b. 19 March 1955), Cynthia Jane (b. 11 February 1957), Charles Edward Maurice, 9th Earl Spencer (b. 20 May 1964).
Diana’s early years were spent at home cared for by her nanny at Park House. When she was older, Diana was taught by a governess at home. Later, she attended a day school and then was sent to a boarding school, Riddlesworth Hall, Norfolk. In 1973, Diana attended her sisters’ alma mater, West Heath at Sevenoaks, Kent. Until 1975, the family lived at Park House but shortly before turning fourteen years old, Diana’s grandfather died and her father became 8th Earl Spencer. At this point, the family moved to their sixteenth-century ancestral home, Althorp House in Northamptonshire.
Diana left West Heath in December 1977. She finished her schooling at the Institut Alpin Videmanette, near Gstaad, Switzerland but was only there a very short time (January to March 1978). Most information I could find states that Diana was never a particularly successful student. Later that year, Diana worked at various occupations: as a mother’s helper in Hampshire, as well as doing occasional babysitting and cleaning work. In early 1979, Diana became a student teacher, helping young children with their dancing lessons. That summer, Diana and some friends moved into a London apartment bought with money left to her in a trust fund by her American great-grandmother. In the fall of 1979, Diana found work as an assistant teacher at London’s Young England Kindergarten. Some time later, she looked after a young American boy who lived with his parents in London.
Diana’s interests and hobbies included tennis, swimming, skiing, tap dancing, playing the piano, listening to music and enjoying the ballet.
In November 1977, Charles and Diana met at a shooting party one weekend at Althorp. However, it wasn’t until July 1980 that Charles invited Diana to a polo match in Sussex. This was the start of their romance. More invitations followed that year. Charles proposed to Diana during the evening of 6 February 1981 while at Windsor Castle: they were in the nursery when Charles “told her how much he had missed her while he was away skiing and then asked her simply to marry him”. Diana “broke into a fit of giggles”, but replied “Yes please”. Their engagement remained a secret until after Diana’s return from a family holiday in Australia and Prince Andrew’s 21st birthday. At 11:00 a.m. on the 24th of February, Buckingham Palace’s Press Office released a brief statement announcing the engagement of Charles and Diana: “The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are pleased to announce the engagement of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, to the Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of Earl Spencer and the Honorable Mrs. Shand-Kydd.”
Charles and Diana were married on 29 July 1981 at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. Their honeymoon began at Broadlands (in Romsey, Hampshire), the home of Charles’s late great-uncle Lord Mountbatten, and continued on a Mediterranean cruise aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. The honeymoon finished at Balmoral, the Queen’s Scottish estate.
Diana’s first child, Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales, was born on 21 June 1982 at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington (London). Her second child, Prince Henry Charles Albert David (Harry) of Wales, was born on 15 September 1984 at the same hospital.
Diana, Charles and their sons lived in a three-story apartment at Kensington Palace, London. They also lived at their country home, Highgrove House (a nine-bedroom Georgian house on 350 acres of land), near Tetbury, in Gloucestershire.
After her divorce, Diana continued to lived at Kensington Palace with their children, while Charles moved into St. James’s Palace.
From her marriage in 1981, Diana became president or patron of over 100 charities. For more about her charities, click here.
Charles and Diana’s official separation was announced on 9 December 1992 by Prime Minister John Major. On 15 July 1996, a decree nisi was granted and was made absolute on 28 August 1996. Charles was represented by Fiona Shackleton of the firm Farrer and Co, while Diana was represented by Anthony Julius of the firm Mishcon de Reya. Diana received a financial settlement, retained her apartment in Kensington Palace and continued to share equal responsibility for their sons.
Diana died at the Pitié Salpétrière Hospital, Paris, France on 31 August 1997. She had been involved in a car accident which left her companion, Dodi al-Fayed, and the chauffeur, Henri Paul, dead. The only survivor was the bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones.
Diana’s funeral was held at Westminster Abbey on 6 September 1997. Her coffin was covered with a Royal Standard which was not the Sovereign’s Royal Standard but one that was slightly different (that is, it was edged with ten ermine tails on a white background). This particular version of Royal Standard is one that is reserved for members of the royal family who are styled ‘Royal Highness’, but HM The Queen gave permission for its use on Diana’s coffin.
Diana’s brother, Charles, wanted a private funeral for his sister and his and the Spencer family’s wishes were taken into account by the royal family and the government. Diana’s funeral was not a State Funeral (accorded to the sovereign and on rare occasions to national heros like Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill), nor was it a Ceremonial Royal Funeral (accorded to the sovereign’s consort and to members of the royal family who hold high military rank), nor was it a Private Royal Funeral (accorded to those who hold the rank of Royal Highness).
Diana’s funeral was a “a unique funeral for a unique person”, in the words of Buckingham Palace. It was both a public yet private funeral. It was a state event but did not have all the pomp and ceremony of a State funeral. I think the world’s reaction to her death turned it into more than the Royal family expected or planned.
Diana was buried later that day in sanctified ground on a small island in a lake on the Althorp estate, her family’s ancestral home. The publication of Diana’s burial certificate, dated 12 September 1997, states that she was buried ‘in an extra-parochial place, namely at Althorp Park in the County of Northamptonshire in the grave previously consecrated by the Bishop of Peterborough on the Island in The Oval, a small lake within the estate.
My post from a year ago today: Say it Ain’t So, Joe