All Princess Diana ever wanted

2018-08-31 08:50
 
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She was incredibly magnetic, charismatic and lived a full life – before it was tragically cut short. She was touted as one of the most iconic figures of our age, but she also struggled with depression, insecurities and a yearning for a normal family life for herself and her children – a life with a husband who was loving and present.

As we reach the 21st anniversary of the tragic death of Diana, Princess of Wales, on the 31st of August, we remember the difficult life and troubled times of the People’s Princess.

Diana, child of a broken home

Diana Frances Spencer, born on the 1st of July 1961, was one of five children of Edward John Viscount Althorp (son of the seventh Earl Spencer) and Frances Ruth Burke Roche (later to be known as The Honourable Frances Shand Kydd). Their marriage, unfortunately, didn’t last very long, and Diana’s parents divorced when she was seven years old. Despite the messy separation and custody battles, Diana had a relatively happy childhood. That is, until Diana’s father married Raine, the daughter of the famous romantic novelist Barbara Cartland.

Described as a steely socialite, Raine was a “barbed-wire powder puff” who managed to both dazzle and appall everyone she met. One-time Tatler editor Geordie Greig once said of Raine, “Was she a pantomime dame? Was she a force for good? Was she the evil stepmother? ... She was all of those things. What she wasn’t, was dull.”

The 2017 documentary, Princess Diana’s ‘Wicked’ Stepmother, which is available to stream on Showmax, revealed that there was no love lost between Diana and her stepmother, who was once quoted as saying “Diana never read a book in her life” and that she “had nothing to talk about beyond Duran Duran”. 

Diana’s chance at a fairytale?

At age 16 in 1977, Diana seemed to finally be living the fairytale. Rescued from the wicked stepmother, she met her prince (who was dating her older sister at the time). By 1981, Charles had proposed to Diana (she said yes, of course). She left her job as a nursery school assistant just after she turned 20 years old, and married the Prince of Wales at St Paul’s Cathedral in a wedding that was watched by over a billion spectators and viewers around the world.

Diana was terribly unprepared for what lay ahead, but with a social climbing stepmother nicknamed “Acid Raine”, did she ever really stand a chance at finding happiness?  

The world continued to watch as the couple became a young family, as Diana gave birth to Prince William in 1982 and then two years later to Prince Harry. And then we continued watching as the fairytale crumbled and shattered in 1992, when Charles and Diana’s separation was announced.

Like an unfolding soap opera, Diana, on the verge of taking her own life, leaked the intimate details of her dysfunctional marriage via tapes she recorded. These details were then published in a book in 1992 by the journalist Andrew Morton called Diana: Her True Story. In 1994, Prince Charles finally revealed he had been having an affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles. Diana retaliated by going public with her own affair with James Hewitt.

Reaching out to her “wicked stepmother”

While the tumultuous relationship between Diana, her siblings and Raine are explored in the documentary Princess Diana’s ‘Wicked’ Stepmother, it also shows how, when Diana’s marriage collapsed, and she was cast adrift by the royal family, she turned to her stepmother.

Raine came from humble beginnings and went on to become Debutante of the Year, a high society hostess, a politician and a no-nonsense businesswoman. Despite her and Diana’s differences, she was one of the greatest mistresses of self-reinvention that Diana could have known, which was what she herself so desperately needed. After all, as Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes wryly notes in the documentary: "Nobody gets to be a countess three times by accident.” They reconciled, and Raine appeared to steer her through choppy royal waters until Diana was killed in 1997.

A chance for her sons

Both Prince William and Prince Harry are seemingly happily married now. Prince William, married to university sweetheart Kate Middleton, has three children, and Prince Harry recently wed former Suits actress Meghan Markle. There is a sense of hope that their marriages – without the pressures and interference of family – might turn out to be exactly what their mother Diana dreamed of.  

For more about the beloved Princess Di’s life, stream the Princess Diana’s ‘Wicked’ Stepmother on Showmax right now.


This post is sponsored by Showmax produced by Brandstudio24 for Channel24.

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