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Today Marks Anniversary of Tragic Death of Diana, Princess of Wales

Charity work continues in her name

  • Princess Diana video montage
  • The Princess of Wales at The Leonardo Prize
  • The Prince & Diana, and Nancy & Ronald Reagan
  • John Travolta & Diana dancing at the White House
  • The Prince & Diana after the wedding of Prince Andrew & Sara
  • The first of two memorials to Diana & Dodi Al-Fayed in Harrods
  • The Lake at Althorp with the Diana memorial beyond
  • Enterance to Alma tunnel, where the fatal car-crash happened
View Full Gallery »

August 31st, 2011 marks the 14th anniversary of the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales.

During the latter part of her much publicized life, Lady Diana was portrayed as a ‘fairytale princess’. To many Americans who picked up bits and pieces of the royal happenings, this suggested a Cinderella story of sorts. The kind of epic tale where a handsome prince discovers his true love among the lowly common stock and delivers her into a life of indulgence.

How little we understand of British Royalty.

There are numerous requirements that royalty are forced to consider (i.e., they will forfeit their right to the throne if they marry a Roman Catholic). Lady Diana, while indeed blessed in her fortune to rise to such prominence, did have the benefit of proper lineage.

Diana Spencer was born on the 1st of July, 1961. While not royalty at birth, her family name is one of Great Britain’s oldest and has been closely allied with the royal family for over five hundred years. Her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975. It was at this time Diana received the title of Lady.

Diana’s first formal education was in a public school, but by the age of seven was attending an all-girls boarding school. Academics were not her strength but she did excel in music as an accomplished pianist.

While attending finishing school in Switzerland, Diana first met her future husband… as the boyfriend of her oldest sister, Sarah The Lady Elizabeth Sarah Lavinia Spencer. However, that relationship was seemingly derailed when Lady Elizabeth allegedly spoke to a couple of reporters, giving access to much of her personal life and royal connections. Prince Charles was unimpressed and the relationship dissolved soon after. 

However it did set the stage for a future romance when, a few years later, Lady Diana would find herself watching the young Prince play polo. As more trips and time spent together blossomed into a relationship, Lady Diana was well received by the sitting royal family. Her qualifying native English heritage, ‘proper’ Church of England faith, and probably much to the approval of Prince Charles, her lack of ‘past’ and ability to date a royal with discretion made her a suitable royal bride. At age twenty, Diana became Princess of Wales on July 29, 1981.

The union produced two children, Prince William (born November 5, 1981) and Prince Harry (born September 15, 1984). 

As Princess, Diana was known and respected for her charity work. She was highly visible for her support of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. This campaign went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.

The fairytale, as we all know, did not last. The breakdown centered around affairs by both the Prince and the Princess, with each blaming the other for the demise of the marriage. Exposed in 1992 with the publication of “Diana: Her True Story”, the scandals only continued with leaked telephone conversations of intimate exchanges from both Diana and Prince Charles with their respective affairs. Multiple accusations, and an interview on the BBC current affairs show Panorama in which Diana spoke unfavorably of Prince Charles, led to the Queen herself asking for the ‘early divorce’ of Charles and Diana in December of 1995.

The divorce was finalized on August 28th, 1996.

While no longer recognized as Her Royal Highness, her title of Diana, Princess of Wales was publicly announced. She was still a member of the royal family, as she was mother to the second- and third-in-line to the throne. 

For most of the following two years after the divorce, Diana dated a respected heart surgeon from Pakistan named Hasnat Khan. An intensely private man, the relationship was kept a secret, which forced Diana to lie to members of the press when questioned. The relationship reportedly ended in June of 1997 due to religious and family differences.

Within a month, Diana began dating Dodi Al-Fayed, an Egyptian film producer. He reportedly purchased a multi-million dollar yacht on which to entertain the Princess and her sons.

She continued her campaign to raise awareness of landmines, especially the injuries they cause children, throughout this period. In August of 1997, just days before her death, she visited Bosnia with representatives of the Landmine Survivors Network. She is credited with being a major influence on the Ottawa Treaty, which is responsible for creating an international ban on the use of landmines. 

On August 31, 1997, while being pursued by paparazzi, Diana, Princess of Wales was fatally injured in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris, France. The crash also claimed the lives of Dodi Al-Fayed and their driver, Henri Paul. 

In addition to her high profile work with landmines, Princess Diana did much to raise awareness of AIDS. She was one of the first high profile people to be pictured touching those afflicted with AIDS and did much to change people’s opinions and attitudes towards the disease.

Although taken much too early, her legacy lives on through her children and the charity work she accomplished and continues to inspire in others.

The Princess Diana Memorial Fund and their continued humanitarian efforts can be found at theworkcontinues.org