Before there was Kate Middleton, there was Diana Spencer. She was beautiful, kind, courageous, and loved by all. Although her title was originally "Lady" and "Princess" was only acquired through marriage, she was and always will be the princess of our hearts. Even now, decades later, she is still missed by many and serves to this day as a style icon. Timeless elegance: Lady Di.
Because she was the most photographed woman of the '80s and '90s, she certainly has a lot of iconic images of herself floating around the internet. Perhaps the most thought of pictures of Lady Diana are of her in her fairytale wedding dress back in 1981. Or maybe the many images of her doing good deeds come to mind, such as meeting with Mother Teresa or walking through a land mine field with no protection. Even photos of her in her many, many evening gowns or fashionable outfits, serving as a style icon for the entire world. Surely these images and more easily pop into one's head when thinking about the gorgeous and mesmerizing Princess Diana.
But what about the Diana before she became royalty? Or what about the most private Diana - the one only friends, family, and loved ones knew of? Are there any photos of this Diana? Or are these images too private and protected from commoner eyes?
Luckily, we were able to discover very rare, very elusive photos of Lady Diana. If you're a Diana fan like the rest of us, you'll want to scroll through these photos - trust us!
15 Newborn Diana Spencer
Doesn't this image look a bit familiar? No, it's not Kate Middleton and Prince William with Prince George or Princess Charlotte. Nor is it Diana Spencer and Prince Charles with Prince William or Prince Harry. Nope, this is actually Baby Diana with her father John Spencer, Viscount Althorp, and the Honourable Frances Roche. Diana was born in Sandringham, UK on July 1st, 1961, and this photo was taken shortly thereafter.
What is perhaps most interesting about this photo is the fact that it exists. Cameras were a bit harder to acquire back in the early '60s (although not impossible), so it's not like everyone could pull out their phones and take a photo at will. Of course, the fact that Diana was born into nobility could have played a part in the birth of this photo, as the birth of a baby into a noble family would certainly be newsworthy.
14 Baby Diana Spencer
Aww...isn't she cute? It certainly feels weird to call a beloved royal "cute", but that is definitely a cute baby! At this age, Diana couldn't have possibly known what was in store for her future or where she had come from. With her family already being very close to the royal family, she was almost destined to become royalty herself! Both her grandmothers served the Queen Mother (Queen Elizabeth II's mother) and house Diana grew up in, the Park House, was being rented from none other than the Queen herself. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when Diana realized she had rented a house from her future mother-in-law!
But at this age, Diana couldn't know this. And at this point in time, the most that had happened to her was that she was baptised at St. Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham, with wealthy commoners as godparents on August 30th, 1961. Which is more notable than most accomplish in their first year of life!
13 Problems Early On
Although Lady Diana's wedding was certainly a fairytale that will stand the test of time, her early life did not begin this way. Diana's parents desperately wanted a son to carry on the family name (at this time, heirs were still patrilineal and therefore a son was required for this), so another daughter to add to their other two, Sarah and Jane, was quite a blow to them. They did have another son named John, but he died as an infant before Diana was born. After Diana's birth, her mother began frequenting fertility clinics to find out "what was wrong with her". We know now that the baby's sex is determined by the father, so this is quite unfortunate for Diana's mother.
Eventually, their dreams came true, and Diana's brother Charles was born soon after; unfortunately for them, the strain of desiring a male heir took its toll on the Spencers' marriage, setting them on the path to divorce.
12 Diana Spencer As A Toddler
As a child, Diana was afforded privileges that many simply did not have. Living in Sandringham on rented property from the Queen meant that the family was clearly well off, and that means that she was most likely not wanting for anything growing up. Although she was a happy child, she was usually described as shy. This is a quality that she would carry with her throughout her life and was, in fact, something that the media first latched onto when she was first courting Prince Charles.
It is of note that, at this point in time, Queen Elizabeth II would have celebrated her ten year reign already, as she ascended to the throne in 1952 at age 25. Prince Charles had been born 4 years prior to that in 1948, so when Princess Diana was a toddler, her future husband was already a preteen. Interesting!
11 Diana's Growing Up!
Diana's parents being of nobility afforded the future princess plenty of perks. For example, the house she grew up in, Park House, could be found in Sandringham, which is property owned by the Queen. Queen Elizabeth II rented out Park House to the Spencers, and the royal family often visited their other property while on vacation. The houses were close enough together that Diana and her siblings had access to the royal family - even going as far as playing with Princes Andrew and Edward as children!
But wait - she played with Princes Andrew and Edward, but not Charles? Well...no. She wouldn't have. Keep in mind that Prince Charles and Lady Diana had an age difference of 13 years, so it's not likely that a teenager would like to play "baby games" with his brothers and the neighboring children. Still, it's fascinating that their destinies had crossed so early on!
10 Trouble at Home
Although Diana had been born into a life of relative luxury and wealth, there was trouble brewing at home. Diana’s mother had long been blamed for the Spencers’ difficulty in producing a male heir – a child highly desired by the nobility class so that they may carry on the family name. We have since learned that it is actually the father that determines the baby’s sex, so this was a quite unfortunate situation for Diana’s mother.
The stress of the importance of producing a male heir took its toll on the Spencers’ marriage, and when Diana was seven years old, her mother and father divorced. Her mother soon fell in love with Peter Shand Kydd and married him in 1969. Her father began a relationship with Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, the only daughter of Alexander McCorquodale and Dame Barbara Cartland in 1972 and would go on to marry her four years later.
9 School Age
Like many children of Diana’s social strata, Diana began her education by being informally tutored by her governess, Gertrude Allen. This would continue until she reached school age, at which she would begin attending school with other children. She began her formal education at Silfield Private School in Gayton, Norfolk after she was deemed old enough, and at age nine she began attending Riddlesworth Hall School, an all-girls boarding school near Diss.
It was during this time that she began to shine in her specific interests of dance, especially ballet and tap dance. Her brother Charles remarked that she was quite shy at this age, but nevertheless enjoyed activities such as swimming and diving, in which she excelled. She also showed great talent for music and became an accomplished pianist. Clearly, she already had the pedigree and interests of a future princess!
8 Older and Wiser
Diana may have attended some of the finest educational institutions money and nobility could buy, but she was not academically inclined. Even though she excelled in tap dance, ballet, piano, diving, and swimming, she did not particularly shine when it came to her school work. It is reported that she failed her O-Levels, or the lower of the two main levels of standardized examinations in secondary schools in the UK and Scotland, not once, but twice. Ouch.
But Diana probably had bigger, more important things to worry about, such as her father’s inheritance of the title “Earl of Spencer”. This was an important move for the entire family, as they had to pack up their belongings and relocate from Park House to Althorp, the Spencer seat in Northampton. It was at this time that Diana received the title “Lady Diana”.
7 Entering Young Adulthood
In 1973, Diana joined her sisters at West Heath Girls' School in Sevenoaks, Kent. It was during this time that she would take and fail her O-Levels twice, as well as during this time that she inherited the title “Lady Diana”. She would continue her formal education at West Heath until the age of 16, by when she would move on to bigger and better things.
All was not lost on Diana during her time in academia; true to the Diana that the world had come to know and love, she would find her value in giving back to the community while at West Heath. Her outstanding community spirit was recognized with an award from the educational institution, providing the world with a small taste of what was yet to come from the now young, beautiful, and deeply caring woman.
6 Relationships with Family and Meeting Prince Charles
We know that Lady Diana (far right) met Prince Charles and would ultimately marry him in a classic fairytale wedding, but it is not as well known that Lady Sarah, Diana’s older sister, was actually Prince Charles’ ex-girlfriend – in fact, Diana and Prince Charles first met under these unassuming circumstances, never thinking that their destinies would soon be crossed in a more intimate manner.
As it would turn out, Prince Charles and Lady Sarah Spencer were courting and all seemed to be fine…until one fateful day when some interviewers caught up with Lady Sarah. She would regale them with tales of her anorexia nervosa and her thousands of boyfriends, and was even quoted saying that she would marry him “if he were the dustman or the King of England”.
When she showed this particular interview to Prince Charles, he allegedly flew into a fury, saying she had done something “incredibly stupid”. They would break up soon thereafter.
Lady Sarah and Lady Diana remained close despite the unusual connection between the two of them, Diana being one of the few people that Sarah would immeasurably trust.
5 Adulthood and Odd Jobs
In 1978, Lady Diana would enroll in the prestigious Institut Alpin Videmanette, a finishing school in Rougemont, Switzerland, only to leave one term later. She would return back to London and live in her mother’s flat with two of her schoolmates. During this time, she would attend a cooking class, but it was reported that she never utilized those skills she learned to cook for her roommates.
During this time, she would take on a number of low-paying odd jobs. She found employment as a dance instructor, an assistant playgroup preschool teacher, cleaning worker, party hostess, a nanny for an American family, and an assistant nursery school teacher. In 1979, at the age of 18, her mother bought her a flat all of her own, which she shared with three friends.
During this time, she would meet Prince Charles, and their romance would begin to blossom soon.
4 Courting Prince Charles
When Diana first officially met Prince Charles, he was courting her older sister, Lady Sarah Spencer. This was back in 1977, before Diana had enrolled in Rougemont, Switzerland’s Institut Alpin Videmanette. It wouldn’t be until three years later, in the summer of 1980, when Diana would attend a polo match in which Prince Charles was playing that she would catch his eye. They began seeing each other in a romantic fashion soon thereafter, as he invited her for a sailing weekend to Cowes aboard the royal yacht Britannia.
Things became more serious when Prince Charles invited Lady Diana to spend a weekend in November with him and the Royal family in Balmoral, the Scottish ancestral home of the Royals. There, she met the Queen and other royal family members, and was very well received by the reigning queen. They continued their courtship until February 1981 when Prince Charles proposed and Lady Diana accepted.
3 The Wedding Of The Century
On the 29th of July, 1981 – just twenty-eight days after Lady Diana’s twentieth birthday – Lady Diana and Prince Charles were wed in Westminster Abbey, the ancient chapel where members of the royal family are traditionally joined in holy matrimony. Lady Diana stole the show with her incredibly beautiful wedding dress, which was valued at £9,000 ($29,241.69 adjusted for inflation) and featured a 25-foot train. It was one of the most closely guarded fashion secrets of all time and quickly became one of the most famous dresses in the entire world.
The wedding itself was highly anticipated and well received by citizens of the UK and beyond. 600,000 people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the couple en route to the ceremony, and over 750 million people watched from the comforts of their own home, as the entire event was televised for all to see.
2 Embracing Motherhood
Following their fairytale wedding, Princess Diana and Prince Charles would have two sons together, Princes William Arthur Philip Louis and Henry Charles Albert David. As Diana did not grow up in a royal family, she was perhaps not accustomed to royal life and was therefore not willing to immediately bend to the seemingly stiff and rigid ways. She would forego the typical recommendations to use a royal nanny, would dictate what the young princes would wear, who they would play with, which schools they would go to, and would even plan her schedule around their timetables. Whenever possible, she would try to pick them up from school and see them as often as she could, even taking them on royal trips not usually meant for children.
This show of affection was not lost on the media and public – in fact, she was usually applauded for her hands-on efforts to raise her royal sons.
1 Diana's Lasting Legacy
Diana took on the role of Princess dutifully, even though it was perhaps overwhelming for her at times. She once confided in the then-Premier of Newfoundland, Brian Peckford, in 1983: "I am finding it very difficult to cope with the pressures of being Princess of Wales, but I am learning to cope with it." This would only be the tip of the iceberg for her and she would grow to be more overwhelmed by public life in the years to come. This was perhaps due to her jam-packed schedule, as illustrated by her numerous events (she had 191 official engagements in 1988 and 397 in 1991).
Still, her work was virtuous and greatly needed. She focused on reducing world hunger, world illness, world peace, and helping all in need. Stephen Lee, director of the UK Institute of Charity Fundraising Managers, is even quoted as saying "Her overall effect on charity is probably more significant than any other person's in the 20th century. It is this legacy that we remember her for, and it is this legacy that will always remain with us in our hearts; our memory of the people’s princess, Diana.
Sources: Vanityfair.com, vogue.com, biography.com