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Princess Diana's Life Was Truly Amazing & There Are Photos to Prove It

Katarina Kovacevic is a freelance travel writer specializing in hotels and resorts. She's the author of The Food Lovers' Guide to Phoenix & Scottsdale and founder/editor of Style Jaunt, a blog about fashionable travel. Her work has appea...

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Gone too soon

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Gone too soon

It's hard to believe this year marks the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death — and we can't help but wonder what could have been if she hadn't died back in 1997.

NBC's Dateline airs a special this Friday about the life and death of Diana, and we're taking a look back at her lifetime in photos in preparation. 

 

Originally published September 2009. Updated May 2017.

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1968

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1968

According to sources, Diana's parents expected her to be a boy and were so intent on producing a male heir that more than a week passed before she even received a name.

Here, Diana Spencer enjoys a summer day in 1968.

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Lady Diana and her little brother

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Lady Diana and her little brother

Diana was the third of four children — two older sisters and a younger brother, Charles, Viscount Althorp, who became the ninth Earl Spencer in 1992.

The children spent most of their formative years on the queen's estate at Sandringham before moving to the family home of Althorp in Northamptonshire. Diana eventually became a kindergarten teacher in central London after attending Riddlesworth Hall and West Heath School in Kent.

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1980

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1980

Diana's entrance into the royal family was believed to be a strategic move to revitalize a family line that had been destroyed by scandal and irresponsibility. Led by Queen Elizabeth, the royal family worked to rid itself of controversy that had plagued it for generations (like Princess Margaret's affair with a divorced man and Edward VII's abdication of the throne). It is widely believed that the monarch thrust a great deal of pressure onto Prince Charles and his new bride, which ultimately led to the dissolution of their marriage.

Here, the two pose for cameras on vacation at Balmoral, one of the royal family's estates, while they were engaged.

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1981

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1981

Diana was the first Englishwoman to marry an heir to the throne in more than 300 years.

They wed in the glare of a worldwide spotlight, and photos of the princess in her famous gown have stood the test of time. Prince William Arthur Phillip was born barely a year later on June 21, 1982; Prince Harry followed on Sept. 15, 1984. The two are now the second and third in line for the throne, respectively, behind their father.

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1982

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1982

Diana began catching negative attention for her painfully thin frame in late December 1982.

She would later admit to her struggles with an eating disorder, a battle she would need to overcome later in life.

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1984

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1984

Diana may have had her critics, but no one questioned her love and dedication to her sons.

After her untimely death in August 1997, William and Harry worked to continue Diana's charitable legacy with the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. The independent grant-giving organization was established just a month after her passing with donations from people around the world and continues her work in the United Kingdom and overseas.

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1985

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1985

Diana's international charitable efforts brought her to Washington, D.C., several times as she worked to shine a spotlight on victims of AIDS, poverty and land mines.

Here, Lady Di cuts a rug with John Travolta at a White House benefit dinner as President Ronald Reagan and first lady Nancy Regan look on.

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1989

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1989

In 1989, Diana visited sufferers of leprosy in an Indonesian clinic and spent time at an AIDS pediatric unit at Harlem Hospital, where she was photographed holding a baby with AIDS.

The image at first caused uproar in the international community but eventually served as a barrier-breaker, showing that contact with AIDS sufferers doesn't pose as big of a threat as people previously thought.

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1989

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1989

Princess Diana and her mother, Frances Shand Kydd, attend a wedding in September 1989.

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1990

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1990

When she wasn't jet-setting around the world for various fundraisers and humanitarian trips, Princess Diana was hard at work as "mummy" to William and Harry.

Here she is photographed taking the boys into Wetherby School in Notting Hill Gate, West London, for the start of the new school year in April 1990.

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Princess Di and her boys

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Princess Di and her boys

William and Harry joined their mother on her international jaunts from an early age, taking in the sights and sounds of cultures and people around the world.

Diana believed that exposing them to new situations early on would prove beneficial as they grew older. In this image, the three enjoy a ferry ride at Niagara Falls.

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1991

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1991

Diana threw all of her energy into her charity work as her marriage began to crumble.

The Princess of Wales was involved particularly with organizations offering support to AIDS and land mine victims. In 1991, she visited a hostel for abandoned children in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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October 1991

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October 1991

Diana is kissed on the hand by a patient during a visit to Lahore, Pakistan, in October 1991.

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1992

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1992

Diana accompanies the Queen Mother — along with Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth ll and Prince Harry — outside Clarence House on her 92nd birthday on Aug. 4, 1992.

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1992

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1992

Prince Charles and Princess Diana's marriage was broken, and they became obviously distant during public appearances.

The English Prime Minister announced the official separation of the Prince and Princess of Wales in December 1992.

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Princess Diana in India

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Princess Diana in India

Not long after her divorce, Diana traveled to India for a visit to Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying in Calcutta.

During her time in the hospital, Diana visited every one of the 50 patients who were close to death. On a similar trip to Royal Brompton Hospital in London, she spent up to four hours at a time with patients, holding their hands and talking to them.

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Comforting the dying

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Comforting the dying

Diana talks to a dying patient as she visits Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying in Calcutta during a visit to India on Feb. 15, 1992.

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1995

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1995

In November 1995, Lady Di went on-air with Martin Bashir to discuss her life, humanitarian efforts and dissolved marriage. A record 23 million viewers watched the interview where she admitted that "there were three of us in the marriage, so it was a bit crowded."

It is no secret now that Prince Charles' real love — even during his marriage to Diana — was his current wife, Camilla.

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1996

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1996

Princess Diana holds two young patients on her knees during her visit to Imran Khan's cancer hospital in Lahore, Pakistan, in April 1996.

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1997

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1997

Diana worked to de-mine regions of Southern Angola in January 1997, just six months before her death.

Her personal support is said to have been a significant factor in encouraging Britain and other countries to support the Ottawa Treaty, a bid to introduce a ban on the use of anti-personnel land mines. Her contributions were noted in Robin Cook's speech when he brought the second reading of the land mine bill to the House in 1998.

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Princess Diana, the humanitarian

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Princess Diana, the humanitarian

Diana spoke of the personal connections she made with every individual, young and old, with whom she visited during her globetrotting days. In this image, she does her best to comfort a baby at a Red Cross Health Center in Luanda.

The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund has donated millions of dollars to sub-Saharan countries since 2001 to help fight the AIDS epidemic.

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1997

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1997

Diana returned to Angola several times after her first visit and is pictured here in 1997 with a girl who lost her leg to a land mine.

The fund currently set up in her name also works to change legislation and policy to meet international standards on children's rights.

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June 1997

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June 1997

Diana and Mother Teresa formed a tight bond after Diana visited Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying in India in 1992, and they often collaborated on charitable projects.

Here, they visit in the Bronx in June 1997. Two months later, Diana would be dead.

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The death of Diana

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The death of Diana

Princess Diana and her boyfriend, Dodi Al Fayed, were killed in a tragic car crash on Aug. 31, 1997.

Diana's death resonated around the world as the royal family remembered a life lived in support of immense humanitarian efforts. Her funeral was held on Sept. 6, 1997, at Westminster, London. She was laid to rest on a small island in a lake on the Althorp estate, her family's ancestral home.

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The People's Princess

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The People's Princess

Princess Diana was known as an independent thinker and ruffled royal feathers from the first day she stepped into the international limelight. She was known as a champion of the underdog who used her celebrity to shine the spotlight on major issues that affected the world.

Though she struggled with her own personal demons throughout much of her life, Diana is known as a relatable figure who rose above her own problems to offer care and support to the less fortunate.

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