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Diana, Princess of Wales

Diana, Princess of Wales, Diana Frances Spencer, (July 1, 1961 - August 31, 1997), was the former wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, and the mother of the second and third in line to the British, Australian, Canadian and other Commonwealth of Nations thrones, Princes William and Harry. From the time of her marriage to the Prince of Wales in 1981 until her death in a car accident in Paris in 1997 Diana had one of the world's most high profile, most photographed and most iconic of celebrities. From 1981 until her divorce, Diana's formal style and title had been Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales. After her divorce, she was styled Diana, Princess of Wales.

Early years

Diana was the youngest daughter of the Rt. Hon. Frances Ruth Burke-Roche (daughter of the fourth Baron Fermoy) and the Rt. Hon. Edward John Spencer, Viscount Althorp, making Diana a descendant of many of the kings of England, including Charles I, Charles II, and James II. She was also a great-granddaughter of Frances Ellen Work (the Hon. Mrs James Boothby Burke-Roche, later Mrs Aurel Batonyi), an American heiress whose father, Frank Work, was a prominent stockbroker. (Another descendant of Frances Work is American actor Oliver Platt.)

On the death of her paternal grandfather, Albert Edward John Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer in 1975, Lord Althorp became the eighth Earl Spencer, and his daughter acquired the courtesy title of Lady Diana Spencer. She was educated in Norfolk and at boarding school in Kent, and was regarded as an academically average student. At 16 she attended Institut Alpin Videmanette, a finishing school in Rougemont, Switzerland.


In 1980, at the age of 19 she caught the eye of the Prince of Wales, Charles, who invited her to a polo match. A romance began and he proposed to her in February of 1981. The wedding took place at St Paul's Cathedral in London on July 29, 1981, in front of a massive global television audience. Diana Spencer was the first Englishwoman to marry an heir to the throne since 1659 when Lady Anne Hyde married the future James II of England.

Diana gave birth to two children, Prince William Arthur Philip Louis in 1982 and Prince Henry Charles David Albert in 1984. During the mid-to-late 1980s she became well known for her support of charity projects, and is given considerable credit for her campaigning against the use of landmines and diminishing the stigma associated with AIDS.

In the early 1990s, her marriage to Charles fell apart, an event sensationalised by the world media. Although the couple separated in 1992, the divorce was not finalised until August 1996.

Death and legacy

Material commemorating Diana, fly-posted onto the Flame of Liberty, above the entrance to the Paris tunnel in which she died. Picture taken in July 2001.

August 31, 1997 Diana was killed in a car accident in the Alma Tunnel, Paris, along with her romantic companion Dodi Al-Fayed and chauffer Henri Paul. Al-Fayed's bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones was in the car and survived.

Although the media alleged conspiracy, most accept that her death was a genuine accident brought on by an intoxicated chauffeur attempting to elude the paparazzi at high speed.

Her funeral at Westminster Abbey on September 6 drew an estimated 3 million mourners and worldwide television coverage.

Her death was greeted with extraordinary public grief, and her funeral procession was attended by an estimated 3 million people.[1] Mourners cast flowers at the funeral procession for almost the entire length of the journey. Queen Elizabeth II made a notable change from standard royal protocol by bowing as the procession passed.

She is buried at Althorp in the United Kingdom on an island in the middle of a lake on her brother's estate. A visitors' centre allows visitors to see an exhibition about her and walk around the lake.

After her death people remain interested in Diana's life. Numerous manufacturers of collectibles continue to produce Diana merchandise. Some suggested making Diana a saint, stirring much controversy.

As a temporary memroial, the public co-opted the Flamme de Liberté (Flame of Liberty), a monument near the Alma Tunnel and related to the French donation of the Statue of Liberty to the United States. The messages of condolence have since been removed and its use as a Diana memorial has discontinued.

Diana was ranked third in the (2002) 100 Greatest Britons poll sponsored by the BBC and voted for by the public.

In 2003, Marvel Comics was to publish a five-part series entitled Di Another Day featuring a resurrected Princess Diana as a mutant with super powers as part of Peter Milligan's X-Statix title. Amidst considerable (and predictable) outcry, the idea was quickly dropped.

See also: Burrell affair, Spencer family, British Royal Family

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