Remembering Diana, Princess of Wales in What Could Have Been Her 61st Birthday

Today, July 1, 2022, would have been the 61st birthday of Diana, Princess of Wales. It's surreal to think that it's been almost 25 years since the car accident in Paris, France, that took her smile. And life. But her memory lives on.

Princess Diana fashion
Diana, Princess of Wales 

To commemorate her 61st birthday today, let's travel back in time and discover some facts in her life, or surprising information associated with her that we barely knew.

Despite being in the limelight for so long, there are still other things about the late 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 Queen in Sandringham estate, Norfolk.

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

Princess Diana's childhood home Park House
Park House, Diana's childhood home © Getty Images

Park House is a massive 10-bedroom home originally built for the future King Edward VII in the 19th century as a spare venue to house guests because Sandringham's house was too small for large gatherings.

Princess Diana's childhood home Park House
Park House, Diana's childhood home © Getty Images

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 John Spencer, Viscount Althorp, Lord Fermoy transferred the lease to the couple. The Spencer family lived there until 1975 when Lord Spencer became the 8th Earl Spencer of Althorp and moved to the Althorp estate.

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 style 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 styled "The Honourable". Diana's mother was also titled The Honourable as a daughter of a Baron.

Princess Diana as a child
Diana as a toddler

3. A very public custody battle

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

Princess Diana as a teenager
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". A pang of guilt she had carried throughout her life.

Princess Diana as a child
Diana at 6 ©Spencer family album

When she became an adult, she had not gotten over her childhood guilt of being born a girl which she thought was one of the reasons why her parents separated and eventually divorced.

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

Princess Diana and her brother Charles
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 sibling, continued calling her "Duch" even after becoming the Princess of Wales.

Diana Princess of Wales birthday
The young Lady Diana Spencer ©Getty Images

6. Became "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 Peter Shand Kydd.

Althorp House Diana's childhood home
Althorp House Althorp House ©Charles Spencer IG

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

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.

Princess Diana's apartment Coleherne Court
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 became her lifelong friends.

8. Aunt by descent to Cressi Bonas and Isabella Calthorpe

Princess Diana's eldest son, Prince William, was once head-over-heels in-love with a pretty British aristocrat, 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.

Prince William former love Isabella Calthorpe
Isabella Calthorpe

Isabella and Prince William met in 2004, around the time William had a first trial breakup with Kate Middleton. He left Kate and pursued Isabella.

According to the British media, Prince William 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 was not prepared with a life of a royal girlfriend under public pressure, and because she wanted to pursue a modeling career, and having William as a boyfriend might complicate things.

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.

Prince William went back in pursuing Isabella, h
owever, she was reluctant to become a royal girlfriend, afraid of the scrutiny that came along with a very public relationship.

By September that year (2007), he reconciled with Kate Middleton. By then, she had moved to Anglesey in Wales where William 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.

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.

9. She picked her own engagement ring

Unlike traditional engagement where a groom normally picks a custom-made ring for his future bride, Prince Charles did not have a ring in his pocket when he proposed to Lady Diana Spencer in February 1981.

He just popped the question, and then apologized to Diana for having no ring. Diana gladly accepted. And Prince Charles promised to give her one in the coming days.

Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles engagement
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, an oval-shaped Ceylon sapphire set in an 18-carat white gold band and surrounded with 14 solitaire diamonds.

Diana Princess of Wales young Diana
The young Princess of Wales, Diana

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 was taken by 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 of the century 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. 

wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales
The Prince and Princess of Wales following the ceremony

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

She was also one of the fewest royal brides who did not wear a tiara from the royal family's jewelry vault. She chose to wear her family heirloom, the Spencer tiara because it was lighter than the Queen's loaned tiara, the Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara. 

Diana Princess of Wales wearing Queen Mary's Lovers Knot tiara
The Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara

The Queen Mary's Lover's Knot Tiara, however, became one of Princess Diana's favorite head sparklers during her tenure as Princess of Wales. When her divorce to Prince Charles became final in 1996, the tiara was returned to the Queen.

11. Distant cousin to British Prime Minister, 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.

Sir Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Spencer-Churchill

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.

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, the former personal chef of the Queen, who moved to the household of the Prince and Princess of Wales as a chef, revealed in his test kitchen video that one of Princess Diana's favorite dishes was the extra creamy bread pudding.

Princess Diana's favorite dish
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, according to McGrady. He also revealed that the princess loved everything about creamy dishes.

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 with 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 at 5'10, considered too tall for a ballerina.

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

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 pieces 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's book "A Royal Duty", Prince William took the gold Cartier watch because the piece was very special to his mother. While Prince Harry took her engagement ring.

Diana Princess of Wales engagement ring

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.

The Garden House in Althorp

She had nowhere particular to go on the weekend, so she eyed the Garden House in Althorp, as her weekend retreat. It's a beautiful country retreat house with a lovely Victorian garden and serpentine park surrounded by a relaxing atmosphere.

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 until her death.

18. Strong Message Against Landmine

The Princess of Wales became a passionate campaigner against landmines. A 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 in Angola

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

Princess Diana's grave in althorp
final resting place of Diana in Althorp
Princess Diana's grave in althorp

Ironically, it was not far from the Garden House where 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 the relationship between the Princess of Wales and her former sister-in-law, Sarah, Duchess of York had been complicated, contrary to popular belief that they had a fallout and were not on speaking terms months before her death, they actually mended.

Princess Diana and Sarah Duchess of York
Duchess of York and Princess of Wales
Princess Diana and Sarah Duchess of York

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 closest 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 before Diana's death in 1997.

Princess Diana and Sarah Duchess of York
Diana and Fergie attended Trooping the Colours

Remembering her warmth and influence

The late Princess of Wales 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, and warmth. 

Diana Princess of Wales

Today, almost 25 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 how she managed her life to rise above adversities that made her so inspiring to those who felt useless and hopeless.

Diana Princess of Wales 61st birthday
Diana, Princess of Wales

She died so young, so full of promise.

On the occasion of her supposed 61st birthday, may she continue to be remembered, and may her memories continue to inspire the world for the years to come.

Happy birthday to the People's Princess, wherever you are. May you find everlasting happiness and the peace of mind you truly deserved. 

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