Princess Diana was undeniably one of the world’s most beloved royals. She quickly became a household name and was admired for her timeless beauty and ability to be down to earth and humble towards everyone she encountered. Diana made it apparent that she wasn’t above anyone else and treated everyone with equal respect regardless of their title, which is a quality she instilled in her sons Prince William and Prince Harry. Lady Diana’s tragic death recently hit it’s twenty-year anniversary and continues to be mourned deeply by the world. Despite the time that has passed, she still remains one of the most enamoring examples of effortless grace and compassion. Follow along for 23 facts you most likely did not know about the beloved Princess:
23. She was known for handwriting thank you cards
Diana was known for her handwritten thank you cards, which is a trait her daughter-in-law Meghan Markle shares. She reportedly wrote thousands of thank you cards, many to those who gave her gifts when Prince William was born. Today, a handwritten letter from Princess Diana have been auctioned off from anywhere between $2,000 to $20,000 depending on how unique the card was.
22. She had an affair with her bodyguard
While it’s public knowledge that Charles had an affair with Camilla, many may not be familiar with the fact that Diana had an affair of her own. Barry Mannakee became Diana’s bodyguard in 1985 but was transferred off after a year of duties because of an “unusually close relationship between the pair.”
21. ABBA was her favorite band
Diana was known for her love of the ’70s Swedish pop band ABBA, who is known for their hit songs Dancing Queen and Mamma Mia! The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge reportedly paid tribute to Diana by having ABBA music play at their 2011 wedding reception.
20. Catherine Walker was her favorite designer
Lady Diana was a fashion icon, with many favorite designers that she wore repeatedly during her time in the Royal spotlight. Of all the designers Diana wore, her absolute favorite was Catherine Walker who also became a dear friend to Diana. Walker designed many of Diana’s most memorable looks and is credited for largely attributing to Diana’s signature style.
19. She had only met Prince Charles 12 times before they got married
In today’s generation, it’s quite standard for a couple to date for years before they decide to take the next step to get married. Prince Charles and Lady Diana, however, were only together for approximately 12 separate times before making the quick decision to commit their lives to each other.
18. She wasn’t a strong student
Despite her prominent role in society as a Princess and her obvious intelligence, Diana surprisingly wasn’t that strong of a student in school. When she was sixteen, she failed two exams and her father insisted on enrolling her in a Swedish boarding school when he heard, but Diana refused.
17. Her parents divorced when she was seven
Princess Diana’s parents, Frances Shand Kydd and Edward John Spencer, divorced when she was just seven years old. The two had a difficult and tumultuous relationship where cheating and physical abuse have been cited as some of the reasons for their separation.
16. She was the fourth of five children
Diana came from quite a large family and was the fourth of five children. She had two sisters, Sarah and Jane, and a younger brother, Charles Spencer. Her older brother, John Spencer, died hours after his birth in January 1960, which was a year and a half before Diana was born.
15. Her favorite color was pink
Diana was the ultimate style icon, and loved a wide variety of brightly colored suits and dresses. Her favorite color, however, was the ultimate girly shade of pink which she wore for many occasions during her time as a royal.
14. She became engaged to Prince Charles at 19
While it may not have seemed young at the time, the fact that Princess Diana became engaged to Prince Charles at the age 19 is shocking! The Prince was 12 years her senior and was under increasing pressure to secure a bride. Reportedly Prince Phillip put the greatest pressure on Charles and said, “You have to do the right thing,” referring to him proposing to Diana.
13. Her favorite dessert was bread and butter pudding
Diana’s longtime personal chef, Darren McGrady, said that the Princess was known for entering the kitchen while he was cooking to chat. Whenever he was making his infamous bread and butter pudding dessert, which was Diana’s favorite, the Princess would snack on the rains off the top.
12. She was home schooled
During the era of Princess Diana it was common for upper-class children to be home schooled rather than attending a public school. Princess Diana followed this ritual and was home schooled by a tutor until she was 9 years old. After her parent’s divorce, she attended an elite preparatory school, Riddlesworth Hall, and eventually ended up at an exclusive boarding school in England. Despite her focus on academics, the Princess admitted that she truly thrived in creative situations.
11. Her sapphire engagement ring is now Kate Middleton’s
The 12-carat sapphire ring that Prince Charles proposed to Lady Diana with actually passed through the generations and is now the same ring that Duchess Kate Middleton wears. While the vast majority of royals opted for a custom design, Diana took the nontraditional route and selected her ring out of a Garrard jewelry collection catalog. This means that anyone with a deep enough pocket could purchase the exact same ring for the whopping price tag of £28,000 ($47,000), but it is now worth £300,000 ($500,000). The stunning ring features a blue sapphire surrounded by 14 solitaire diamonds and is set in white gold.
10. Her sister dated Prince Charles first
Surprisingly, Lady Diana was not the only women from her family that Prince Charles dated! It was revealed that prior to his courtship and marriage to Diana, Charles actually dated her older sister, Lady Sarah Spencer! Diana met Prince Charles when she was 16 while they were at a family gathering. Diana allegedly always had a crush on Prince Charles and he quickly grew feelings for her too after they met. The two became engaged when Diana was 19 and Prince Charles was 31.
9. Her wedding dress was the longest in royal history
The wedding dress that Princess Diana wore on her wedding day was the longest in royal history and featured a heavy 25-foot silk train in addition to sequins, embroidery and 10,000 pearls. She hired David and Elizabeth Emanuel to craft the gown and the fittings were allegedly held in utmost secrecy which meant covering the windows of the shop from the prying public eye. The dress was so extravagant that Diana required multiple sessions leading up the wedding just to practice walking in it.
8. She auctioned 79 of her royal dresses for charity
Diana was a humanitarian and was an advocate for breast cancer and AIDs charities, among many others. Prince William proposed the idea that Diana auction her royal dresses for charity and she enthusiastically agreed. The auction was held at Christie’s New York and was sold for $5.7 million dollars after all 79 dresses were sold. The monumental event gave way to 1,100 participants and the highest bid reached $222,500 for the dress Diana wore to a White House dinner.
7. She refused to say “obey” in her wedding vows
Diana made it clear that she was no traditional bride and did not hesitate to stay true to her morals even if it meant dismantling royal expectations. She took offense to the typical wedding vows that included the condition that the woman must obey her husband, and she instead opted for the words “to love, comfort, honor and keep.” Her twist in tradition caused quite a bit of talk and controversy at the time, but it was clear that Diana was progressive and knew the direction the world was going even at the young age of 20. Kate Middleton followed suit and used the same vows when she married Prince William in 2011.
6. She was too tall to pursue ballet
One of Princess Diana’s biggest dreams was to be a ballerina, but unfortunately her height meant that this would not be possible. She danced consistently throughout her entire life, but a growth spurt causing her to shoot up to 5’10” meant she did not fulfill the classic ballerina frame requirement. Despite this, she continued to support the world of dance and attended fundraisers, visited dance schools and was in frequent attendance at many ballet shows. She was always a fortunate surprise to many dance-related fundraisers because her attendance often meant an increase of up to $75,000 in donations. Aside from her financial support, Princess Diana also offered personal support and often voiced her concern and gave assistance to dancers that were struggling with eating disorders.
5. She worked blue-collar jobs before becoming royal
Diana thought by no means that she was above anyone else and actually had her own fair share of blue-collar jobs before becoming established as a royal. Despite being born into an aristocracy, the royal still appreciated the value of hard work and was employed for years before becoming a Princess. After she completed finishing school in Sweden, the soon-to-be royal worked part-time as a cleaning woman and a babysitter. Diana eventually settled in a job as an assistant nursery school teacher at Young England Kindergarten before fully pursuing her life as a royal.
4. She wanted her children to have a normal upbringing
Before Princess Diana, most royal families were raised in a particular way which often consisted of nannies and a strictly elite world view. Diana wanted more for her sons William and Harry and insisted they were to be raised in as much normalcy as possible. This meant frequent visits to Disneyland and McDonalds and they were highly involved in much of her charity work. She picked out their clothing and personally took them to school as often as she was able to. Diana once stated, “I want them to have an understanding of people’s emotions, of people’s insecurities, of people’s distress, of their hopes and dreams.” It’s obvious that her unique mothering tactics paid off and both William and Harry prove to be honorable royal figures and young men.
3. She battled bulimia and depression
Often it would be assumed that living life as a Princess would come with no shortage of happiness and glamour, however, beneath the facade and after her death it became clear that this was not always the case for Diana. The Princess struggled with mental health issues much of her life and once revealed in an interview that her bulimia and depression began around the time she became engaged to Prince Charles. She also stated that Charles “put his hand on my waistline and said: ‘Oh, a bit chubby here, aren’t we?’ That triggered off something in me.”
2. Her burial location is a remote island
Princess Diana’s tragic death at the untimely age of 36 shook the world and is still a loss that weighs on everyone who adored her. Her funeral was broadcast on television for the entire world to mourn together and marked one of the most tragic royal losses in all of history. Diana’s funeral was held at Westminster Abbey and then proceeded to a private island. Diana was intended to be buried with her family on the Spencer family vault, but her brother made the decision to move Diana to a more remote location to allow the family the space they needed to mourn without being attacked by the media. The island sits in the middle of Oval Lake on the grounds of her family home in Althorp Park.
1. She didn’t get good grades in school
Diana’s charm, intelligence and charisma would seem a surefire recipe for academic success; however, multiple sources have revealed that this was not actually the case! The Princess struggled in school and chose to drop out after failing her O-level exams. She instead focused much of her attention on the creative aspects of life and thrived when it came to sports and athletic ability. Diana loved diving, swimming, and hockey and actually won quite a few sports competitions during her time as an athlete.