20 Least Known Facts About Diana, Princess of Wales

Diana, Princess of Wales

July 1, 2020 would have been the 59th birthday of the people's princess, Diana, Princess of Wales. It's surreal to think that it's been almost 23 years since that car accident in Paris, France took her life and smile.

But her memory lives on.

To commemorate her birthday, let's travel back in time and discover some facts in her life or surprising information associated to her that we barely knew.

Despite being in the limelight for so long, there are still other things about the Princess of Wales that we didn't know. Here are some.

1. Park House, Sandringham

Diana was born on July 1, 1961 at Park House, a stately home owned by the British sovereign in Sandringham estate.

It is located just a few miles away from Sandringham House, the British royal family's Norfolk retreat where they traditionally spend Christmas.

Park House, Diana's childhood home

Park House is a massive 10-bedroom home originally built for the future King Edward VII as a spare venue to house guests because Sandringham house is too small for large gatherings.

King George V leased Park House to his good friend, Edmund Roche, the 4th Baron Fermoy, who was Diana's maternal grandfather.  Diana's mother, Frances, was born there in 1938.

When Frances married Viscount Althorp, John Spencer, Lord Fermoy transferred the lease to the couple.

The Spencer family lived there until 1975 when Lord Spencer inherited Althorp estate from his father and became the 8th Earl Spencer of Althorp.

After it was vacated, Queen Elizabeth II offered it to Leonard Cheshire Disability, a charity for the disabled to which she is a patron. It was renovated and converted into a hotel for disabled people and began its operation in 1987.

2. Her title at birth was "The Honourable"

At birth, Diana earned a courtesy title of The Honourable, a title usually given to children of British Baron, Viscount and younger sons of British Earls.

Her father was still a Viscount when she was born in 1961, thus, his children were called "The Honourable. Diana's mother was also titled The Honourable because she was a daughter of a Baron.

Diana as a toddler

3. A very public custody battle

Diana got her first heartache in 1967 when her parents separated and eventually divorced. And in 1967, she and her younger brother, Charles, were subjected to a very public custody battle in court by her parents.

The custody was awarded to her father because he was the titled parent and because her maternal grandmother turned against her mother and sided with her father.

Diana preparing for boarding school

4. Childhood guilt for being born a girl

Her father wanted desperately to have a boy after two daughters to pass his title and inheritance, when Diana was born, a slight disappointment swept through the Spencer household. In later years, Diana would say "I was supposed to be the boy".

Diana at 6
Diana in uniform at 7 with a classmate

When she became adult, she had not gotten over the childhood guilt of being born a girl which she thought one of the reasons that led to her parents' separation and divorce.

This guilt coupled with  a bizarre courtship with the Prince of Wales, gave her a very low self-esteem which resulted to a bulimia, an eating disorder she suffered prior to the royal wedding which forced her to binge and purge several times in a day.

Diana with brother, Charles, now the 9th Earl of Althorp

5. She was nicknamed Duchess

Her stepfather, Peter Shand Kydd, called her Duchess, and she was nicknamed "Duch" by most of her friends, siblings and relatives.

Lady Sarah McCorquodale, her eldest sister and her closest, continued calling her "Duch" even after marrying Prince Charles and became Princess of Wales.

6. Became a Lady at 14 in 1975

In 1975, her grandfather, Albert Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer of Althorp, died. Her father inherited Lord Spencer's title and property and moved with his family to Althorp estate in Northamptonshire, England, leaving Park House behind.

By then, Earl Spencer had remarried to Raine McCorquodale, Countess of Dartmouth. While her mother married to Peter Shand Kydd.

The Jacobite mansion is the Spencer's stately home in Althorp

Around this time, Diana and her sisters assumed the courtesy title of "Lady" while her only brother became Viscount Althorp.

She was especially close to her older sister, Lady Sarah. They became lifetime friends and Lady Sarah became her unofficial lady-in-waiting in many of her foreign tours.

7. She went to a finishing school

In 1978, her father sent her to a prestigious finishing school in Switzerland where most children of aristocrats and royals also attended. The Institut Alpin de Videmanette in Rougemont, Switzerland.

She studied cultural and social subjects. But after one term, she badgered her father to bring her home because she was homesick.

Coleherne Court in London where Diana purchased a room

Upon her return, having detested Althorp because of her stepmother, Diana moved to London and bought a room in 60 Coleherne Court from the money she received as an 18th birthday gift from her mother.

She had two flatmates who also became her lifelong friends.

8. Aunt by descent to Cressi Bonas and Isabella Calthorpe

Once upon a time, Diana's eldest son, Prince William, now the Duke of Cambridge, had only one woman in his mind set to marry.

He was head-over-heels in-love with a pretty British heiress and socialite, Isabella Calthorpe, daughter of John Anstruther-Goughe-Calthorpe, an aristocratic wealthy property developer son of Sir Robert Anstruther-Goughe-Calthorpe, 2nd Baronet Calthorpe of Elvetham Hall, and Lady Mary Curzon, a bank heiress and daughter of the 6th Earl of Howe, Lord Edward Curzon.

Isabella Calthorpe

Isabella and Prince William met in 2004, around the time William had a trial breakup with Kate Middleton, his classmate at St. Andrew's University. He left Kate and pursued Isabella.

According to several sources, he pursued Isabella endlessly, he was deeply smitten and wanted to bring things to the next level.  He tried very hard to woo her.

But Isabella turned him down because she wanted to pursue an acting and modeling career and having William as a boyfriend might complicate things and might be contradicted by the royal family. By then, an actress marrying a future British king was frowned upon.

Isabella had set her eyes to becoming a stage actress and a model so she turned down William. Brokenhearted, the prince went back to Kate that December.

In April 2007, William broke up with Kate Middleton again to sort out things for himself and whether it was really the kind of relationship he needed to pursue.

A royal insider revealed that the royal family doubted Ms.Middleton's suitability for a future consort and whether she can really endure a very public life since she had not exposed to working on public engagement and so far no clear career path of her own. No British king in history ever married a non-aristocratic commoner.

Prince William went back to pursuing the woman he had set his eyes for so long. Isabella Calthorpe belong to the prominent British aristocracy family, his father descended from the long lines of Baronet while her mother is a daughter of a British Earl like William's mother.

The royal family approved this match. However, the odd lies on Isabella. She was reluctant to become a royal girlfriend because of the pressure that comes along with it, something that might jeopardize her budding acting and modeling career.

William's hard effort did not pay off, so he halted his intention. By September that year, Kate Middleton moved to Anglesey in Wales to get nearer to Prince William where he was stationed at the RAF barracks, serving as a search-and-rescue operation pilot. They reconciled before December.

Isabella married Sam Branson in 2013. He is the heir to the Virgin Atlantic fortune being the son of Sir Richard Branson.

Cressida Bonas

Cressida Bonas dated Prince Harry from 2012 to 2014 and on the brink of reconciliation in 2016 when Meghan Markle suddenly popped up in the scene.

Cressida Bonas is a half-sister of Isabella Calthorpe and best friend of Princess Eugenie. Cressi and Isabella's mother is Lady Mary Curzon.

Cressie is currently engaged to another Harry 😃 Her fiance is Harry Wentworth-Stanley, a stepson of George Mountbatten, fourth Marquess of Milford-Haven, and a second cousin once-removed to Prince Charles.

So how they related to Princess Diana?

Lady Mary Curzon and Cressi Bonas

Lady Mary Curzon's father, the 6th Earl of Howe was Earl Spencer's fourth cousin through their common ancestor, George Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough.

Princess Diana and Lady Mary Curzon were fifth cousins through the Earl of Sunderland and Duke of Marlborough descents.

9. Pick Her Own Engagement ring

Unlike traditional engagement ring where a groom normally picks a custom-made ring for his fiancee, Prince Charles seemed unprepared when he proposed to Lady Diana in February 1981.

He did not have a ring in his pocket to mark the proposal. He just said he wanted to marry her, in which Diana gladly accepted. He apologized and promised to give her one in the coming days.

Announcement of engagement in 1981

The following day, Garrard, the Crown Jeweller, brought a box of rings for Diana to choose. She giggled and picked the largest one, a 12-carat oval-shaped Ceylon sapphire set in an 18-carat white gold band and surrounded with 14 solitaire diamonds.

It went on to become the most popular and iconic engagement ring in the world. Diana wore it everyday in her life even after her divorce to Prince Charles.

It went to Prince Harry following Diana's death in 1997 but gave it to his older brother when Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton in 2010. It's now being worn by the Duchess of Cambridge.

10. Longest Bridal Train

The wedding took place on July 29, 1981 at St. Paul's Cathedral in London with an estimated 60,000 spectators lined in the street to watch the wedding route. an estimated 750 million viewers watched the ceremony on television. It was dubbed the wedding of the century.

Wedding day

Diana wore a fairytale-like wedding dress, an ivory silk tafetta with a 25-foot train. Her train to date, is the longest train ever worn by a bride.

She was also one of the fewest royal brides who did not wear a tiara loaned by the Queen. She chose to wear a Spencer tiara, which had been in the Spencer's family for many generation. 

Wearing a Cambridge Lover's Knot's tiara

The Queen, however, gave her the Cambridge Lover's Knot tiara as a wedding gift. It previously belonged to Queen Mary and passed to the Queen in 1953.

When she died, it went back to Her Majesty's jewelry collection.

The Prince and Princess of Wales during happier days

11. Distant cousin to British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Spencer-Churchill

How could this ever happened? Well, here's a story.  Quite long, but worth reading.

Sir Winston Spencer-Churchill

The first Earl Spencer of Althorp, John Spencer (1734-1783), was the grandson of Charles Spencer, 3rd Earl of Sunderland and Lady Anne Churchill, daughter of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. She had an older sister, Lady Henrietta.

So, meaning John Spencer, 1st Earl Spencer of Althorp, where Diana's father directly descended, was the first cousin of Charles Spencer, 4th Earl of Sunderland and 3rd Duke of Marlborough, where Winston Churchill directly descended.

Let's explain further.

The Dukedom of Marlborough has a special remainder to daughters permitted by an Act of Parliament in 1706. Meaning, it can be inherited by a daughter of a Duke.

Having no surviving son, John Churchill, passed his title to his elder daughter, Henrietta.

All Lady Henrietta's sons predeceased her so after her death, the title of Duke of Marlborough was passed to her nephew, Charles Spencer, son of Lady Anne.

Since then all Dukes of Marlborough also carried the title of Earl of Sunderland.

It was Charles's grandson, George, the 5th Duke of Marlborough, who coined the surname Spencer-Churchill, which became the official surname of all descendants of the Duke of Marlborough.

Sir Winston Spencer-Churchill, the wartime Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, belonged to this family tree. He was George's great-great grandson.

So how John Spencer became Earl Spencer of Althorp when his father was only a younger son of the Earl of Sunderland?

Well, it was awarded to him by King George III.

John Spencer became a prominent British politician of his time and on November 1, 1765, George III created him Viscount Althorp and Earl Spencer.

He largely expanded Althorp estate using the inheritance bequeathed to him by his wealthy maternal grandmother, Lady Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough.

John Spencer's eldest daughter was the famous Lady Georgina Spencer who married the Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish, the subject of the movie, The Duchess.

So, that's how the Earldom Spencer of Althorp  started and how the Dukedom of Marlborough was separated from the Spencer family.

12. Length of marriage same with her parents 

Quite astounding but did you know that the length of marriage of Diana to Charles was the same as that of her parents? Fifteen years. 

Viscount Althorp married The Honourable Frances Roche in 1954. They separated in 1967 and divorce was finalized in 1969.

The Prince of Wales married Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, separated in 1992 and divorce was finalized in 1996.
The family in 1995 before divorce
On Prince William's first day at Eton College

13. Favorite Dish, Bread Pudding

Darren McGrady, former personal chef of the Queen and Diana, Princess of Wales, revealed in his test kitchen video that one of the favorite dishes of Diana which he often cooked was the extra creamy bread pudding.

Creamy bread pudding, Diana's favorite

It's a complete meal with extra creaminess sprinkled with Almond nuts. Diana often requested it at breakfast time, McGrady revealed that the princess loved everything about creamy dish while her sons, Princes William and Harry indulged in Cottage Pie.

Bread pudding topped with Almond nuts

14. Coffee Lover

Unlike some members of the British royal family, especially the Queen, the late Princess of Wales had no penchant over tea.

She preferred coffee. Her former butler, Paul Burrell, in his book "A Royal Duty", revealed that Diana loved coffee which he always prepared every morning. 

15. She wanted to become a ballerina

Diana wished to become a ballerina, she studied ballet in her younger days. But she grew tall and reached the scale of 5'10, considered too tall for a ballerina.

She still practiced dancing privately after that. One of her famous photograph was a dancing episode with John Travolta during a White House visit with Prince Charles in the early years of their marriage.

Diana's style was iconic

At Taj Mahal in India

16. Favorite Watch

Diana wore a gold cartier watch most of her life. A time piece given to her by her father, the Earl Spencer, on her 21st birthday. It was one of Diana's most-loved piece of jewelry.

In 1997, following the fatal crash, Prince William and Prince Harry were checking what to take from their mother's personal items.

According to Paul Burrell, Prince William asked for the gold cartier watch because the piece was  very special to his mother. While Prince Harry took her engagement ring.

In 2010, when Prince William planned to propose to Kate Middleton, Prince Harry gave him the engagement ring of their mother to let her presence felt in the special moment of his brother's life.

Princess Diana wore her engagement ring all her life

17. The Garden House in Althorp

In 1993, after the royal separation, Diana was no longer coming to Highgrove which she detested because she knew Camilla Parker-Bowles was the frequent visitor of Prince Charles.

She had nowhere particular to go comes weekend so eyed the Garden House, a Georgian cottage within the grounds of her family estate in Althorp.

It's a beautiful country retreat house with Victorian garden and serpentine park surrounded with a relaxing atmosphere.

The Garden House in Althorp

She wrote a letter to her brother, the 9th Earl Spencer, asking if she could move to the Garden House. Her brother initially approved and even offered to improve the area and install security for the protection of Diana and her sons.

Diana excitedly visited the house, bringing an interior designer to help her plan the renovation. However, days later, her brother changed his mind.

Diana was brokenhearted and did not speak to her brother since then.

18. Strong Message Against Landmine

The Princess of Wales became a passionate campaigner against landmine. Few months before the fatal crash, she traveled to Angola to visit a landmine area that had crippled so many children.

Meeting with victims of landmine

She sent a strong message to the world about the worst repercussions the landmine brought to people's lives, especially to children.

Her message had been heard and government leaders in affected countries in Africa had taken action against landmine.

19. The original burial location

Initially, her brother had no plan to bury her at Althorp, the original plan was at the Spencer family burial ground at a church in Great Brington in Norfolk where their father was buried.

However, due to threat of security Earl Spencer decided to bury her in the island garden within the family estate called the oval lake.

final resting place of Diana in Althorp

Ironically, it was not far from the Garden House which the Princess of Wales desperately wanted to live after the breakdown of her marriage.

Her brother denied her to acquire the Georgian cottage in 1993.

20. The real score between her and the Duchess of York

Although relationship between the Princess of Wales and her former sister-in-law, Sarah, Duchess of York had been complicated to the public, contrary to popular belief that they had a fall out and were not on speaking terms months before her death. It was not as accurate as that.

Duchess of York and Princess of Wales

In his book, A Royal Duty, Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell revealed that the Duchess of York remained close to Diana after their respective divorce from the royal brothers. Sarah became one of Diana's close friends toward the end of her life.

They had differences and misunderstanding at times but they retained the warmth and closeness they had established since 1981. They often had a quiet dinner or lunch together with other friends.

Trooping the Colours

Sarah and Diana became close prior to the former's marriage to Prince Andrew in 1986. And it was Diana who played a matchmaker to Sarah and Andrew's relationship.

Sarah was the only guest invited to Diana's 21st birthday at Kensinton Palace in 1982, days after giving birth to Prince William.

Sarah, known as Fergie, continuously honoring Diana's memory in numerous occasions until today, praising her strength, warm, compassion, uniqueness and generosity she left to the world.

The Princess of Wales and her sons, Princes Harry and William

Remembering her warmth and influence

Diana was simply irreplaceable, she had a unique brand of magic that made people admire and love her. She radiated in every room she entered. Her compassion transcended status and touched those who have lost hope.

She was glamorous and stunning without even trying. She captured the world's imagination with her unique charm, humor, style, beauty, strength, warmth. 

Today, almost 23 years since she passed away, still, her memories live on and continue to be celebrated and remembered.

More than a princess, Diana was a person every scorned woman can relate to but it's also on how she managed her life to rise above adversities that made her so inspiring to those who felt useless and hopeless.

On the occasion of her supposed 59th birthday, may she continue to be remembered, may her memories continue to inspire the world for the years to come.

Happy birthday Princess of Wales wherever you are. May you find an everlasting happiness and peace of mind you deserved. 

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