While the royal family provides regular scoops that media outlets gladly repackage for mass public consumption, some episodes manage to gather too much public attention, and not the right kind of it. The fiasco that was Princess Diana & Prince Charles’s relationship is a classic case in point here.
With the right blend of poise and spunk, Lady Spencer Diana became the darling of the public soon after her initiation as a public figure when Prince Charles started courting her. In fact, she was such a crowd puller, the term Dianamania’ was coined for people’s obsession with her.
So, it comes as no surprise that when the news of Camilla Parker breaking up her marriage reached the public, there was outrage. People no longer cared that Charles was the original royal; for them, Diana was the victim and Camilla the homewrecker. Even William wasn’t faring too well in the public eye.
Diana and William certainly kept the press busy right from the get-go. William’s days of courting the blue-eyed beauty started something of a media frenzy, which only got more and more out of control with their wedding, separation, and her untimely death. Let’s go over Diana’s journey from a commoner to a royal and all that happened in between.
More than two decades ago, in the winter of 1977, Prince Charles met Diana Spencer. In hindsight, the circumstances of their meeting were out of the ordinary, to say the least. On the fated day, Charles visited Diana’s home to meet her sister Sarah. The two were dating at the time, and Diana was only 16. Sarah and William had been spotted together several times, and Sarah was even invited to Balmoral by the Queen.
The biography Diana by Sarah Bradford mentions Charles enjoyed 16-year-old Diana’s teenage jolliness when he first saw her at her home, Althorp. They even danced together, after which Charles asked her to show him around Althorp’s renowned picture gallery, but before she could oblige, Sarah was back and asked her to make herself scarce.
The one-time encounter had a lasting impression on Diana, especially as she was chubby with no makeup on, and yet, he had taken an interest. She found him immensely charming, which wasn’t very surprising, seeing as she was a 16-year-old who and he a charming prince. Diana’s friends recollect her infatuation with Charles since she often gushed about their encounter.
The year 1978 was when Diana and Charles were fated to meet again at a dance held at the Buckingham Palace in honour of Charles’s 30th birthday. At this time, Diana had moved to London, and soon, she found herself in social events that made her cross paths with Charles frequently. It was finally in July 1980, that the two got closer.
Diana and Charles were guests at Prince Phillips’ friend’s place in Petworth when apparently Diana spoke to Charles of his late friend Lord Mountbatten’s funeral. She said to Charles that the sight of him walking up to the aisle was the most tragic thing’ she had ever seen and that he was lonely and needed someone to look after him. Her concern seemed to have softened the prince’s heart for it was soon after that he started courting her.
The press, of course, caught wind of the new romance and couldn’t resist pushing for more details. In September 1980, Diana visited Balmoral, where Charles taught her how to fish. The paparazzi lapped the story up, now considering Diana as possibly future queen and not just a passing fancy.
Media attention had reached a point where Diana was unable to step out of her home, even to go to her place of work, a kindergarten. One such day, photographers hounded her for a picture, and Diana relented, on the condition they would then let her be afterwards.
The picture went on to become of her most iconic shots. In the frame, Diana stands against a backdrop of greenery, with the sun behind her – the light shining through her cotton skirt illuminating a silhouette of her legs. The unfortunate shot was everywhere for everyone to see, and Diana soon realized the cost of a high-profile life.
Charles, on the other hand, is said to have been amused. He even complimented her, saying he knew her legs were good, but he had no idea they were that spectacular. Given the hoopla around their romance, Prince Phillip wrote to Charles to either propose to Diana or end things so as to spare her reputation, and Charles apparently construed this as an order.
In January 1981, Charles proposed to Diana at Windsor Castle, expecting her to take her time with the decision since there would be many expectations of her once she joined the royal family, but Diana surprised him by instantly accepting. Their engagement was announced in February. At the time, when the to-be couple was asked if they were in love, Diana said yes,’ but Charles laughed it off by adding “whatever in love’ means.”
The two were set to tie the knot in July, but Diana soon realized there was more to Charles’s personal life than she had known. Weeks before the wedding, she found a bracelet with the initials and intertwined. The initials stood for Girl Friday,’ as per Charles, but Diana believed they stood for Fred’ and Gladys,’ Charles and Camilla’s pet names for each other. Either way, there was trouble in paradise; the bracelet was intended for Camilla Parker Bowles.
Charles’s longstanding romance with Camila would eventually lead to the demise of his marriage with Diana. By the end of their time together, Diana and Charles resented one another immensely, but with the Queen’s guidance, they decided to separate instead of filing for a divorce. However, one of Diana’s decisions made the Queen change her mind. Continue watching to know what it was.
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Charles and Diana were wed on July 29, 1980, in a ceremony that was called the wedding of the century,’ with 750 million viewers. But all was not as it seemed. Royal author Penny Juror claims Charles wept the night before his wedding, pleading Camilla not to marry Andrew. On the other hand, Diana continued to struggle with bulimia.
While the couple’s love life was not faring too well, Andrew faced a new problem. The shy, nervous, and ex-commoner Diana was a people’s favorite. She wooed crowds wherever she went, and her popularity soon surpassed his. If he made an appearance alone, he would hear, “We want Diana!” chants.
By 1982, Diana was pregnant with their first child, William. She fell down the stairs, but fortunately, she and the baby came out safe. Later, Diana claimed the fall was not an accident but one of her many suicide attempts. Prince William was born in June, and the couple was elated to welcome their first child. But happiness was elusive with Diana; she reportedly suffered from postpartum depression.
In 1983, the couple, along with baby William, went on a royal tour of Australia and New Zealand. Diana was heralded as a loving mother as this was the first time a baby royal was touring. Crowds went crazy for a glimpse of the princess as Charles was side-lined, left green with envy. Officers and others who accompanied the couple confirm the Dianamania’ was very real.
A year later, Prince Harry was born, but his birth led to much friction between the second-time parents. Apparently, Charles wanted a girl, and while Diana knew she was carrying a boy, she never told him. Later, at the time of Harry’s birth, she claimed Charles seemed disappointed, which was the beginning of the end of their marriage.
As Charles and Diana’s marriage hit the rocks, Camilla made an appearance again. In 1986, Charles and Camilla resumed their affair, following which Diana began an extramarital affair with her riding instructor Captain James Hewitt, which lasted five years. And so, Diana and Charles led separate love lives.
In 1989, Diana decided to confront Camilla at a house party. She told Camilla she was aware of her relationship with Charles, adding that she wasn’t born yesterday.’ Diana even apologized for coming between the two but said she wouldn’t be taken for an idiot.
In the biography Diana: Her True Story, Diana openly spoke of Camilla as the third wheel in their marriage. She also shared her struggle with bulimia and depression and the suicide attempts that followed.
While the couple’s problems were a public matter by this point, things turned south when a newspaper caught hold of a recording of a conversation between Diana and a friend in August 1992, where she apparently calls life with Charles real torture.’ A few months later, the recording of a racy conversation between Charles and Camilla leaked out. The shipwreck that their marriage was could no longer be ignored.
By the end of 1992, Charles and Diana’s separation was announced in the House of Commons, but they didn’t file for a divorce. So, if Charles were to become the King back then, Diana would have been crowned the Queen. In a 1994 interview, Charles accepts he was unfaithful in his marriage to Diana, but he maintains this was only when the marriage had become irreparable.
In November 1995, BBC interviewed Diana about her marriage, and the royal family was in the dark about it. In the interview, Diana questions Charles’s competence as King and openly says their marriage was too crowded since there were three people in it. The following month, the Queen wrote to Diana asking her and Charles to file for divorce. The interview was a step too far for the Queen.
In July 1996, Charles and Diana finally got a divorce after long negotiations. Diana retained the Princess of Wales’ title but forfeit her designation as her royal highness.’ Apparently, the Queen was in favor of letting Diana have the designation but Charles wouldn’t budge.
On August 31, 1997, Princess Diana died of a car crash. Her partner Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul also lost their lives in the crash. The only survivor was her bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones. Diana’s sisters, along with Charles, flew to Paris to claim Diana’s body, and a televised funeral was held on September 6. Over 32 million people watched in the UK, along with countless others around the world.
As perhaps one of the rare royals to actually earn her title, Diana was a princess because the people considered her so. The beautiful royal managed to win millions, if not billions, of hearts in her very short life while assaying several roles – as a mother, wife, humanitarian, and public figure.
It’s possible Diana’s ultimate appeal was her ability to manage so many roles while being a royal rebel. She lived life on her terms rather than following a set of rules because of a title. No doubt, her penchant for flouting tradition made way for her sons and daughters-in-law to dare to stray from the path laid out for them, if not for much, then to just live a little.
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