10 Fascinating Facts You Didn’t Know About Princess Diana
With August 31st marking the 23rd anniversary of Princess Diana's death, we're taking a look at some little-known facts about the People's Princess.
Ballet was one of Diana’s first loves
As a child in Norfolk, England, little Diana Spencer studied ballet and dreamed of taking the stage with the Royal Ballet. Unfortunately, her height held her back, as she eventually grew to nearly 5’11”. But her passion for dance remained even after she married Prince Charles in 1981. She was known for her generosity in supporting the English National Ballet, both as a private dancer and through fundraising efforts. In 1985, she surprised an audience, including the royal family, at the Royal Opera House with a three-minute contemporary dance performance with her friend and former Royal Ballet Principal Wayne Sleep. After her death, renowned ballet dancer and choreographer Peter Schaufuss developed a full-length ballet called Diana—The Princess.
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Lady Di wasn’t Charles’s first choice
In the late 1970s, Charles was heavy on the dating scene, spending time with ladies such as Lady Jane Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington’s daughter, and brewery heiress Sabrina Guinness. He even proposed to the granddaughter of his mentor Lord Louis Mountbatten (she said no). He was also spending time with Sarah Spencer, Diana’s sister. Through it all, he had one very ineligible bachelorette on his mind: Camilla Shand, who had married Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973. Low on options and under pressure to tie the knot, Charles turned to the Queen Mother—and to Camilla—for advice. Both agreed that Diana would be a good fit. Charles proposed in February 1981; Diana chose an engagement ring of 14 solitaire diamonds surrounding a 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire set in 18-carat white gold. Here’s why the engagement ring infuriated palace officials.
Nearly everyone in the world watched Princess Diana’s wedding
When Prince William and Kate Middleton got married in 2011, 300 million viewers tuned in. Sounds like a lot? Hardly. In 1981, when Diana married the Prince of Wales, a whopping 750 million people around the world watched—that’s six and a half times the number of people who watched the most-viewed Super Bowl.
There was one vow Diana didn’t make
Most royal brides, including Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret and Princess Anne adhered to the wedding vows as prescribed in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer dating from 1662 to “obey him and serve him, love, honour, and keep him, in sickness and in health.” But not princess Diana. She decided to omit “obey,” a choice echoed by her future daughter-in-law Kate Middleton.
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Diana pulled out all the stops for her wedding
When Diana appeared at St. Paul’s Cathedral on July 29, 1981, she was ensconced in an elaborate gown made of silk taffeta and antique lace, decorated with sequins, embroidery, and 10,000 pearls. Diana required several practice sessions to adjust to walking with the dress’s enormous 25-foot train, an appendage that barely fit into the glass coach in which she road with her father to the ceremony. Designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, the dress influenced wedding gowns for years after and is now owned by her sons and on display at the Althorp House in Northampton.
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Princess Diana was a popular cover model
Diana appeared on the cover of PEOPLE more than 50 times, Time eight times, Newsweek seven times, Vanity Fair five times, and at least once on Tatler, LIFE, Vogue, McCall’s, Good Housekeeping and others.
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She suffered from an eating disorder
In 1995, Princess Diana opened up about her struggles with bulimia in a BBC interview. According to Vogue, she explained that low self-esteem and stress from her split with Prince Charles contributed to it. Diana said, “I didn’t like myself, I was ashamed I couldn’t cope with the pressures. I had bulimia for a number of years, and that’s like a secret disease. It’s a repetitive pattern which is very destructive. It was my escape mechanism.”
Her sister dated Prince Charles first
A 1981 report from the Guardian details how Charles and Diana met. Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Diana’s older sister, had dated Prince Charles previously and was actually the one who introduced them. And the relations don’t stop there—they’re actually sixteenth cousins, their ties dating back to Henry VII.
Diana was once linked to over 100 charities, according to Time
Diana used her fame and royal status to bring attention to causes such as AIDS and HIV prevention and education, landmines, and homelessness. She even auctioned off several of her iconic dresses to raise over $5 million for AIDS and breast cancer charities.
Queen Elizabeth wasn’t always a fan of Diana
The stoic Queen Elizabeth initially found her son’s 20-year-old bride borderline insufferable. “She’s not like the rest of us,” the Queen told the editors of Fleet Street. “She’s very young.” When Diana pursued volunteer and fundraising opportunities with people suffering from HIV and AIDS, the Queen asked Diana if she couldn’t get involved with “something more pleasant.” That’s not to say the Queen didn’t ultimately come to appreciate Diana as a mother and a philanthropist, as she revealed in a letter she wrote after Diana’s death.
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