On July 29, 1981, Lady Diana Spencer married Prince Charles at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Born Diana Frances Spencer on July 1, 1961 to British nobility, she became known as Lady Diana Spencer when her father inherited the title Earl Spencer in 1975. When her engagement to Prince Charles was announced on February 24, 1981, she soon became one of the most famous women on the planet. Over 750 million people around the world tuned in to watch their fairytale wedding.
Dubbed the People’s Princess, Diana would modernize the legendarily staid monarchy. As the first Englishwoman in 300 years to become the spouse to an heir apparent, Princess Diana was also the first royal bride to have been gainfully employed (as a kindergarten teacher) before getting engaged. Formally known as Her Royal Highness Diana, Princess of Wales, she proved unencumbered by the formalities of her role, using the relentless spotlight that followed her to promote causes particularly important to her, including support for AIDS patients and the dangers of landmines. She also famously broke with the longstanding convention about disclosing private details of royal life by revealing her struggles with bulimia and depression to the public.
The fashion-forward, beloved Princess became the most famous person in the world. Although they had two children together, Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles did not end happily ever after. After years of estrangement and infidelity, they were divorced in 1996.
On August 31, 1997, Princess Diana died in a car crash in a Paris tunnel. Diana’s death captivated the world. Over three million mourners arrived at her funeral on September 6 at London’s Westminster Abbey. An estimated 2.5 billion people around the world watched on television.
Controversy surrounded Diana’s death. Many placed blame on the hoards of paparazzi trailing her car. Some speculated it was a “royal conspiracy.” An investigation of the accident later found her driver, who also perished, was intoxicated that night.
To this day, Princess Diana remains a fashion icon and a worldwide symbol of love and compassion. Her sons, Princes William and Harry, carry on her legacy by working for the many charities that were near and dear to their late mother’s heart.