Snap, click followed by dozens of flashing lights. Diana Spencer got out of her vehicle to go to one of her many charity organizations. Everyday Lady Spencer had to deal with the public. Lady Diana Francis Spencer led a privileged background. She was born on July 1, 1961. She was supposed to be a boy. But boy were her parents in for a surprise. Diana grew up at Park House in Norfolk. In 1967, When Diana was six, her parents separated. Eventually they were divorced and both of them went on to marry again. Diana and the other children found this very difficult. They saw their mother, but continued to live with their father. A series of nannies took care of them when they were not at boarding school.
From the age of six, Diana went to Riddlesworth Hall in Norfolk and then to West Heath in Kent. But eight years later she left West Heath School without graduating. During the next three years the, Spencer family’s wealth proved very useful. Diana was given her own apartment in London, where she lived with two close friends. She did not have to earn her living, so she took whatever jobs appealed to her. This shows that she was not afraid to get her hands dirty doing something for someone else. She worked as a nanny and also helped the teachers at the Young England Kindergarten School.
By the age of 19, Diana was a tall, shy, likable young woman. Like most people her age, she enjoyed dancing, partying, and watching television. Her family and friends called jokingly called her “Duchess” or “Duch,” but unlike some privileged young people she did not seem snobbish or proud.
She had plenty of friends who were boys, but until she was almost 20, she had not had a steady boyfriend. That was about to change. In November 1977, Diana went to a weekend party in a country house. One of the people there was Charles Windsor, the Prince of Wales and heir to the throne. Diana had known the Prince as a child, but not very well, he was 12 years older than she, and lately Diana had thought of him only as her sister Sarah’s friend.
That weekend, Charles noticed Diana. Later he remembered her as “a very jolly, amusing, and attractive 16 year old, full of fun.” As time passed, they got to know each other better. In mid-1980 rumors began to spread that Charles and Diana were about to get engaged. So many media reporters pestered Diana to know the truth. On February 24, 1981, the world was let in on the secret. It was announced that Charles, now 31, and Diana, 19, were to marry.
After the announcement, Diana moved out of her apartment. First she moved to Clarence House, the Queen Mother’s London home, then into Buckingham Palace. There she was better protected from the media who hounded her day in and day out.
The wedding was planned for July 29, 1981. Massive preparations had to be made for this huge public event. Diana also had to prepare herself for becoming the Princess of Wales in 71 years. After July 29, she would be the third most important woman in Great Britain, after only the Queen and the Queen Mother. How was the former kindergarten helper going to cope? What, exactly, would she be expected to do?
First and foremost, she would have to give birth to a male heir for Prince Charles, a son who would one day become King himself. She would also have to accompany Charles on his various appearances in Britain and overseas. Sometimes she would have to appear on her own, and serve as the patron or president of organizations.
In addition to her public duties, Diana would have to deal with men and women from the media. The British royal family already fascinated millions. As its newest and prettiest member, Diana would be sure to attract a lot of attention, at least until people got used to her. As her wedding approached, Diana began almost visibly to shrink under the pressures. On July 29, the great day arrived; she disappointed no one as she walked up the long aisle of St. Pauls Cathedral on the arm of her father. A congregation of 2,500 people watched Diana marry Charles. A further 750 million shared in the event on television. The fairy tale continued as the newlyweds enjoyed a long honeymoon, which included a Mediterranean cruise on the royal yacht Britannia. Then Charles and Diana took up residence in their two new homes; Kensington palace in London and Highgrove House in Gloucester.
Charles and Diana’s first royal engagement was a three-day, 435-mile tour of Wales. This is when the public first to reacts to Diana. If Charles walked on one side of the street during a walkabout, the crowds would groan because his fairly-tale princess was too far away on the other. This was the beginning. Similar scenes would soon be repeated all over the world. Diana had always been quite shy with strangers. Now it was her job to appear before large crowds of them. She was also expected to talk briefly worth some of them, to ask questions, and to make comments. This did not come naturally to her. But people were charmed by the obvious efforts she was making, and the media’s interest in her grew. The attention became greater than it had been before the wedding.
This interest grew when the royal couple announced that Princess Diana was pregnant. On June 21, 1982, ten days before her 21st birthday, Diana gave birth to a baby boy, William. “Thank goodness,” said the delighted Queen, “he hasn’t got ears like his father.” At once little William became the heir-apparent to the British throne.
On September 15, 1984, Diana gave birth to a second son. His name was Henry but Diana called him Harry. An important job now had been done. As the old saying goes, she had produced “an heir and a spare.”
Although Diana found it hard to live in the media spotlight, motherhood came more easily to her. She lavished love and attention on her sons as they grew up. Two such boys could never hope to lead normal lives. But Diana made sure they had fun at theme parks and pizza restaurants, along with the more solemn future public duties.
But behind the happy family smiles, all was not well. The stress of being Princess of Wales was making Diana ill. Often she looked painfully thin, and in later years she had not only suffered from postnatal depression but also from bulimia nervosa. In spite of her health problems, Diana had to carry out a lot of duties, which went with the job of being a member of the royal family.
Gradually Diana overcame her shyness to become an effective and sincere public speaker. She took a personal interest in whatever organization she was involved. When she became patron on the British Deaf Association, for instance, she learned sign language and frequently used in public. Thus she brought a very human touch to her work as a Princess.
The Princess made a huge impact on the world of fashion. Clothing made by British clothes designers became more popular after Diana wore them. And Diana never seemed to look less than perfect in a photograph; even she was snapped off duty. But behind that goddess like image, there was a real person- antis person felt her was far from perfect. “She was expected by the royal system to be in clothes horse and an obedient wife.”
In 1988 Diana reached a turning point in her life. She decided to seek medical help for her eating disorder. She began a new fitness regimen with the advice of a trainer. She helped AIDS organizations and kids with seriously disadvantaged, neglected or dying form diseases.
By the 1990’s, as traditions changed elsewhere in British life, the royal family began to look old-fashioned to some people. Others asked why there was a monarchy at all. Diana believed that the British royal family had to appear more up to date if they were to stay popular with the British people. But Prince Charles did not agree. There were rumors going around that Diana and Charles were having other disagreements too. In December 1992, there was a royal sensation. It was announced that the marriage of the Queen’s son was broken up, and that he and his wife were going to separate. The fairy tale was over. Charles and Diana had no immediate plans to divorce. They set up separate households at the Kensington Palace, and then continued to carry out their public duties alone.
The media soon turned negative toward Princess Diana. For a year Diana tried to withdraw from public life as much as possible to win some time and space for herself and her sons. The media was interested in her new male friends, and also in a female friend of Prince Charles, Camilla Parker-Bowles. On August 28, 1996, the royal couple made their divorce final.
During the 1990’s, public interest in Diana’s love life reached fever pitch. Millions of words were written and broadcasted about whom she might marry next. And hundreds of photographs were printed of the Princess off duty, in the company of various male friends. For years the paparazzi had been buzzing around world-famous celebrities, taking unwelcome photos, then selling them to the magazine that paid them the most. On Diana’s final journey, Paparazzi on motorcycles were following a car carrying the Princess in the early hours of the morning of August 31, 1997. She was spending the weekend in a Paris with a new friend, wealthy Dodi Al-Fayed. Their speeding car ran out of control in a tunnel. In the crash that followed the driver and Dodi died instantly, Diana died a couple of hours later and the bodyguard was the only one that lived. At the age of 36, she died in the hospital.
The relationship between the British people and its royal families has had many ups and downs. The current Queen, Elizabeth II, has remained personally popular, but her family has been widely criticized for behaving in an unsuitable way.
Princess Diana once said that she wanted “to do, not just to be.” Being just a figurehead was not enough for her. But it is difficult to know exactly what the British want their royal family to do. Suitable behavior means different people, as was clearly shown by the widely differing public responses to the career of Diana herself.
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