Princess Diana was a trailblazer, activist, style icon, and one of the most influential people of the 20th century. Although she lived much of her life in the spotlight, under oppressive scrutiny, there’s much you probably don’t know about the beloved late royal. From her favorite fashion designer to her pre-royal working life, her taste in music to her parenting style, here are 30 things to remember about the People’s Princess.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.
Diana’s parents, Frances Shand Kydd and Edward John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer, divorced when she was just seven years old. Diana’s parents had a tumultuous relationship, and she cited cheating and physical abuse as some of the reasons for their separation.
Diana’s maternal grandmother, Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy, was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. This meant she acted as a personal assistant and a companion. She was a close friend to the Queen and organized many of her parties.
Diana’s ballet teacher Anne Allan opened up about her time with the princess in 2017, saying “she had dance in her soul. I realized the pure enjoyment that it gave her. She loved the freeness of being able to move and dance… I could see it helped to alleviate her emotional life.”
Diana became Lady Diana Spencer in 1975, after her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer. “Lady Di” became her nickname, even after she got the title of Princess of Wales when she married Prince Charles.
Diana met her future husband through her older sister, Sarah. Prince Charles and Sarah had a fling in in the late ’70s, which is how Diana first met the prince. “I introduced them. I’m Cupid,” Sarah said.
Sarah and Diana were very close and often traveled together until the end of Diana’s life. Diana said that Sarah was “the only person I know I can trust.”
Diana and Charles were actually distantly related. They were 16th cousins once removed, both descendants of Tudor King Henry VII.
Prince William is also related to his wife Kate Middleton. They are 12th cousins once removed, related through Sir Thomas Leighton. Leighton is Prince William’s 12th generation great-grandfather, and Kate’s 11th.
Before they were engaged in 1981, Charles and Diana had only met about a dozen times.
Diana’s ivory taffeta wedding dress was made by husband-and-wife design team David and Elizabeth Emanuel.
Diana broke barriers (and started a tradition) when she omitted the tradition of saying she would “obey” her husband in her vows from the Book of Common Prayer.
It was royal tradition for heirs to the throne to be born at home. However, Prince William was the first future monarch born in a hospital, as Diana gave birth to both William and Harry at the Lido Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital.
Diana was no ordinary royal mom. She was determined to raise Prince William and Prince Harry as “normally” as possible.
“She made sure that they experienced things like going to the cinema, queuing up to buy a McDonald’s, going to amusement parks, those sorts of things that were experiences that they could share with their friends,” said Patrick Jephson, Princess Diana’s chief of staff for six years.
On wearing a white halter dress designed by Walker in 1996, Diana wrote to the designer, “I was so proud and felt very confident to stride out there and deliver my first speech since the divorce. The compliments about your design and expertise would have made your ears burn.”
Diana was famous for writing thank you cards to anyone that gave her a gift. She reportedly wrotethank you notes to the thousands of people who brought gifts to Prince William after he was born. Today, some of her handwritten letters have been auctioned off for anywhere from $2,000 to $2o,000, depending on the content and uniqueness of the note.
Diana made history in April 1987 when she was photographed shaking an HIV patient’s hand without wearing gloves. The photo helped spread the message of HIV awareness and educate the public’s perception of the illness. That day, the Princess opened the UK’s first HIV/Aids unit at London Middlesex Hospital that specifically treated patients infected with the virus.
With cameras following her everywhere, Diana had to be careful of what was photographed. She used her small clutch bags as a guard for her cleavage, to make sure cameras didn’t catch a glimpse down her top.
Most photos of Diana getting out of a car to enter an event show her using her clutch as a shield. Designer Anya Hindmarch, who worked with Diana often, said, “we used to laugh when we designed what she called her ‘cleavage bags,’ little satin clutches which she would cover her cleavage with when she stepped out of cars.”
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After Diana’s messy public divorce caused a tabloid craze, she decided to record her thoughts on tape to tell her side of the story. She starting documenting them in May 1991, and had a friend deliver them to British journalist Andrew Morton, who had been reporting on the royals for years.
“The Princess was talking about her unhappiness, her sense of betrayal, her suicide attempts—and two things I’d never previously heard of: an eating disorder called bulimia nervosa and a woman called Camilla,” Morton said about the tapes. In 1992, Andrew Morton wrote Diana: Her True Story—In Her Own Words based on the tapes he had received from Diana. The book was a bestseller, and forever changed the narrative about the princess.
Barry Mannakee was with the police in the Royal Protection Squad before becoming Diana’s bodyguard in 1985. After a year on her service, Mannakee was transferred off of royal duties because of an “unusually close relationship between the pair.”
In a tape from a therapy session, Diana said that she was “deeply in love” and was “quite happy to give all this up and to just go off and live with him.” While she does not directly name Mannakee, it is widely believed she walk talking about to him. Mannakee died in a motorcycle crash in 1987, and there are many theories that his death was not an accident.
The ring now belongs to Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. Prince William proposed to Kate with the ring in 2010 and viewed it as a perpetual symbol of his mother’s presence. “Obviously she’s not going to be around to share all the fun and excitement, so this is my way of sort of keeping her close to it all,” Prince William said.
Just a few months before she passed away, Diana held a Christie’s auction of 79 of her most iconic dresses to raise money for AIDS and cancer charities. One of the most well-known dresses sold was the “Travolta dress,” a velvet blue gown that Princess Diana wore at a gala at the White House, where she danced with John Travolta.
After divorcing Prince Charles in 1996, Diana’s title of “her royal highness” was removed from her name. But Queen Elizabeth II was not the one insisting—Charles was. According to the terms of their divorce, “she is to give up her right to be Queen of England and to be called ‘Her Royal Highness,'” according to the New York Times. The newspaper also reported, “Queen Elizabeth II was reported to have been ready to allow Diana to retain the honorific, but Prince Charles was said to be adamant that she give it up.”
Diana called her eldest son William “wombat” starting from the time he was just two years old. After a trip to Australia where they saw the cute native creature, Diana began lovingly referring to the young prince as “wombat.” In a 2007 interview, Prince William said “When we went to Australia with our parents, and the wombat, you know, that’s the local animal. So I just basically got called that. Not because I look like a wombat. Or maybe I do.”
Diana invited supermodel Cindy Crawford over for tea, mostly to please Prince Harry and Prince William who were very interested teenage boys at the time. Crawford shared a throwback photo on Instagramon the anniversary of Diana’s death in 2017. “She asked if the next time I was in London I would come by for tea—I think Prince William was just starting to notice models and she thought it would be a cute surprise for him and Prince Harry,” Crawford wrote. “I was nervous and didn’t know what to wear, but remember as soon as she came into the room and we started talking, it was like talking to a girlfriend. She was a class act and showed us all what a modern day princess should be.”