Diana, Princess of Wales

The Princess of Wales with her sons Princes William and Harry photographed at Wetherby School, London, 1990
© Camera Press/Stewart Mark

Childhood and teenage years
Marriage and family
Public role


The nation mourns the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, on Sunday, 31 August 1997 following a car accident in Paris, France. The vehicle in which the Princess was travelling was involved in a high-speed accident in the Place de l'Alma underpass in central Paris shortly before midnight on Saturday, 30 August. The Princess was taken to the La Pitie Salpetriere Hospital, where she underwent two hours of emergency surgery before being declared dead at 0300 BST. The Princess's companion, Mr Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the vehicle died in the accident, whilst a bodyguard was seriously injured.

The Princess's body was subsequently repatriated to Great Britain in the evening of Sunday, 31 August by a BAe 146 aircraft of the Royal Squadron. The Prince of Wales and the Princess's elder sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, accompanied the Princess's coffin on its return journey. Upon arrival at RAF Northolt, the coffin, draped with a Royal Standard, was removed from the aircraft and transferred to a waiting hearse by a bearer party from The Queen's Colour Squadron of the RAF. The Prime Minister was among those in the reception party.

From RAF Northolt the coffin was taken to a private mortuary in London. Shortly after midnight, it was moved to the Chapel Royal in St James's Palace, where it is lying privately until the funeral on Saturday, 6 September in Westminster Abbey.

Following the funeral, the coffin will be moved by road to the family estate at Althorp for a private interment.


Childhood and teenage years

Diana, Princess of Wales, formerly Lady Diana Frances Spencer, was born on 1 July 1961 at Park House near Sandringham, Norfolk. She was the youngest daughter of the then Viscount and Viscountess Althorp, now the late Earl Spencer and the Hon Mrs Shand-Kydd.

Together with her two elder sisters Jane and Sarah, and her younger brother Charles, the Princess was brought up at her father's house on The Queen's Estate at Sandringham and also at Althorp, the family home in the English Midlands. (The latter is a stately house which dates from 1508.) She was educated first at Riddlesworth Hall Preparatory School in Norfolk before going, in 1974, as a boarding pupil to West Heath School near Sevenoaks in Kent. The Princess's education was completed in 1978 at the Institut Alpin Videmanette, a finishing school in Rougemont, Switzerland. The following year she moved to a flat in Coleherne Court, London. For a while she looked after the child of an American couple, and she worked as a kindergarten teacher at the Young England School in Pimlico.


The Prince and Princess of Wales on their wedding day, 29 July 1981
© Camera Press/P Lichfield


Marriage and family

On 24 February 1981 it was officially announced that Lady Diana was to marry The Prince of Wales. They were married at St Paul's Cathedral on 29 July 1981 in a ceremony which drew a global television and radio audience estimated at around 1,000 million people, with a further 600,000 lining the route from Buckingham Palace to the Cathedral. She was the first Englishwoman to marry an heir to the throne for 300 years.

The Princess of Wales had two sons. Prince William was born on 21 June 1982 and Prince Harry on 15 September 1984, both at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, in London.

In December 1992 it was announced that The Prince and Princess of Wales had agreed to separate. They were divorced on 28 August 1996.

The Princess continued to be regarded as a member of the Royal family, and lived at Kensington Palace.


Diana, Princess of Wales receives a bouquet of flowers from a young patient, during her visit to Northwick Park Hospital, London, 1997
© PA News Photo Library


Public role

After marriage the Princess of Wales quickly became involved in the official duties of the Royal family. Her first tour was a three-day visit around Wales. In 1983 she accompanied The Prince of Wales on a tour of Australia and New Zealand. In a break with royal tradition, they took the infant Prince William with them. Prince William, with Prince Harry, again joined The Prince and Princess at the end of their tour to Italy in 1985. Other official visits overseas undertaken with The Prince included Australia, Brazil, India, South Korea, Canada, Nigeria, Cameroon, Indonesia, Spain, Portugal and Japan.

The Princess made her first official visit overseas on her own in September 1982 when she represented The Queen at the State funeral of Princess Grace of Monaco. She subsequently visited many countries including Norway, Germany, the United States, Pakistan, Switzerland, Hungary, Egypt, Belgium, France, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nepal, Angola and Bosnia.

She was, however, best known for her charitable work - notably publicising work on behalf of people with HIV/Aids. In the year before her death, the Princess was an active campaigner for a ban on the manufacture and use of land mines, visiting Angola and Bosnia as part of her campaign. In June 1997, the Princess addressed the Royal Geograpical Society conference on this issue. Her love of children was also readily apparent in her charitable work.

Although she resigned as Patron or President of some 100 charities with which she was associated before her divorce, she continued to be Patron of Centrepoint, the English National Ballet, the Leprosy Mission and the National Aids Trust, and was President of the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, and of the Royal Marsden Hospital.

The Princess had also held honorary ranks and appointments in various regiments of the Armed Services.

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