Diana Frances Spencer was born on July 1, 1961. She was the third daughter of Frances Roche and Lord Althorp (also known as the Viscountess and Viscount Althorp). Her family descended from the Stuart kings Charles II and James II. Her grandmother had been a lady-in waiting to Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. She had two older sisters, Sarah and Jane and a younger brother Charles. As a child, Diana lived a life of luxury, living in a ten-room mansion on the queen's country estate in Sandringham, Norfolk. Her future husband, Charles, Prince of Wales, lived next door. Charles, however, was twelve years older than Diana, so she was more acquainted with his younger brothers, Princes Andrew and Edward.
Though luxurious, Diana's childhood held disappointments and sadness. Her parents divorced in 1969, and each remarried. After a bitter struggle, her father won custody of the children and moved them to the Spencer home at Althorp, a 14,000-acre estate located seventy-five miles north of London. Her father later became the eighth Earl of Spencer (making Diana's title Lady Diana Spencer).
Charles and Diana's lives crossed again in 1977. She was then sixteen, and he twenty-eight. To an interviewer, Diana explained, "'Charles came to stay at my sister's house for a shoot.. We met in a field'" (CNN.com "Royals, Part 2" 2002). In 1979, nurturing her love for children, Diana moved to London and found work as a nanny and, then, as a kindergarten teacher. In the summer of 1980, Prince Charles called her, asking for a date. Six months later, after a fairytale romance, Charles asked Diana to marry him. Diana was the first English woman in 300 years to become a Princess by marriage. As millions watched worldwide on television, Diana and Charles married in St. Paul's Cathedral on July 29, 1981.
The world fell in love with Diana. "'Everybody had gone completely Diana mad. It was amazing the sort of mania about her,' says royal photographer, Jayne Dincher" (Ibid.). The fairytale continued when, less than a year after the wedding, the heir to the throne was born on June 21, 1982, named William Arthur Philip Louis. Then, two years later, Diana gave birth to their second son, Henry Charles Albert David.
In 1986, the fairytale began to turn into a nightmare as the royal couple began having marital problems. There were rumors of an affair between Prince Charles and his old girlfriend, Camille Parker Bowles. Diana suffered from an eating disorder and depression. Instead of giving in to the depression, Diana turned toward philanthropy to make her life meaningful. She used her fame and the media to her advantage, raising money for dozens of causes, including treatment and research for cancer, the homeless, leprosy, and the English National Ballot. She was especially "passionate about children and AIDS charities. 'The image of her holding hands with someone with HIV/AIDS.shattered the stigma, prejudice and fear that surrounded HIV/AIDS in the early days' says Andrew Parkis of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund" (Ibid.). Diana became a powerful philanthropic force.
On Aug 28, 1996, her divorce from Prince Charles was final. Her Royal Highness Princess Diana became Diana Princess of Wales. As an outcast of the Windsor dynasty, she began to concentrate on the six charities closest to her heart, Centerpoint, a London group that aids homeless youth, the Leprosy Mission, various cancer benefits, AIDS and the International Red Cross (on land mine issues). Freed from her royal ties, Diana was willing to take on a more political cause, to bring about a ban on global land mines and provide funds for those injured by them.
At perhaps the height of her philanthropic work, on Sunday, August 31, 1997, Diana, was killed in a car accident in Paris following a high-speed auto race with paparazzi photographers. She was thirty-six years old. The world mourned the loss of one of the most famous women in the past sixteen years. Elizabeth Dole, American...
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Kim Hubbard et al. "Special Report: Princess Diana, 1961-1997: Touched by Diana," Time.com (2 February 1998). [cited 26 April 2003]. Available from http://www.time.com/time/daily/special/diana/
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Pieler, George. "Face of Charity: The Philanthropic Legacy of Princess Diana," Philanthropy Magazine (Winter 1998). The Philanthropy Roundtable. [cited 26 April 2003]. Available from http://philanthropyroundtable.org/magazines/1998/winter/pieler.html .
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