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The Legacy of Princess Diana

Princess Diana

July 1, 1961: Diana Frances Spencer is born.

1969: Diana’s parents, Frances and Johnnie Spencer, divorce and her father is given custody of the four children.

1975: Diana’s father becomes the eighth Earl Spencer and Diana becomes Lady Diana Spencer on the death of her grandfather.  The family moves to the ancestral estate, Althorp, in Northamptonshire, England.

1977: Diana meets Prince Charles for the first time at a hunting party at her family’s home at Althorp.  Prince Charles, who was already 29-years old, remarked later that Diana was “a very jolly and amusing and attractive 16-year old—full of fun.”

A young Princess in the making

1979: Diana moves to a South Kensington apartment where she lives with three roommates.  She also begins to work as a nanny and teaching assistant at the Young England Kindergarten.

July 1980: Diana attends a weekend party at the home of Philip de Pass.  The Prince is among the guests and he and Diana talk at length for the first time.  Apparently the Prince is touched when Diana inquires how he is holding up after the loss of his godfather, Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was assassinated nine months earlier.  Charles apparently invites Diana to accompany him to Buckingham Palace, but she declines saying it would be rude to leave her host de Pass.

Charles and Diana have several dates in the next several months.  They attend a concert at the Royal Albert Hall one Sunday evening.  The Prince invited her to join him on the royal yacht, Britannia, for the August regatta and to Balmoral in Scotland for the Braemar Games.

February 4, 1981: Charles and Diana have an intimate dinner in his apartment at Buckingham Palace.  Later that evening in the castle’s nursery where he played as a child, Charles proposes to Diana.

February 24, 1981: Charles and Diana announce their engagement to the world.

Prince Charles and Diana Spencer announce their engagement

July 29, 1981: Diana and Charles are married at St Paul’s Cathedral.  The wedding cost an estimated $48 million and was watched by some 750 million viewers around the world.

June 21, 1982: The couple’s first son, Prince William, is born.  Although Diana had a difficult pregnancy with a lot of morning sickness, she and Charles are elated at the birth of the new heir.

Princess Diana and Prince William

Early 1980s: Diana emerges as a fashion icon whose grace and personal appeal constantly outshines that of her husband at public events.  She is also a clotheshorse, spending an estimated $2,500 per week during the first year of her marriage.  Women begin to style their hair like Diana and mimic her choice of clothing and jewels.  A contestant at the 1984 Miss World Beauty pageant famously remarked that Diana was “the one we all want to look like.  The Princess of Wales is number one.” Diana also convinces Prince Charles to update his image somewhat.  She convinces him to let his hair grow just a bit longer, and urges him to wear brighter ties and less somber suits.

September 15, 1984: The couple’s second son, Prince Harry, is born.

Late 1980s and early 1990s: Diana becomes the “People’s Princess” due to her warmth and tireless work for a variety of charities.  She represents the International Red Cross and is praised for her support for battered women and the homeless.  Among other causes, she is also the voice for victims of AIDS and landmines.

December 9, 1992: Diana and Prince Charles officially separate, although there are no plans for divorce.  This is the same year that Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson separate, and Princess Anne divorces her husband Mark Phillips.

It is estimated that between 1981 and 1994, Diana spent $2 million on clothes.  This is said to include more than 3000 outfits, over 100 evening gowns, 600 pairs of shoes, and 400 hats.

November 20, 1995: Diana appears in a candid interview by Martin Bashir on Panorama and tells the world of her unhappy marriage.

August 28, 1996: The divorce of Charles and Diana becomes official.

June 25, 1997: Seventy-nine of Diana’s dresses are auctioned at Christies in New York.  One of the highlights of the event was the sale of the velvet dress Diana wore the night she danced with John Travolta at the White House.  The gown reportedly sold for $222,500.  The event raises $3.26 million for a variety of charities.

August 31, 1997:  Diana and Dodi Fayed are killed in a car crash inside the Alma Tunnel in Paris.

September 6, 1997: Diana’s public funeral at Westminster Abbey draws an estimated 3 million mourners.  By September 10th, the pile of flowers, gifts, and notes left by well-wishers outside Kensington Gardens grew to be 1.5 meters deep.  One message read: “You were a Cinderella at the Ball and now you are a Sleeping Beauty.”

Immediately after her death, an estimated $1 billion in donations poured into the Diana, Princess of Wales, Memorial Fund for her favorite charities.  Diana’s legacy also continues through her sons, Princes William and Harry.