The former Lady Diana Frances Spencer was born on July 1, 1961. At the time of her birth, her parents were known as Lord and Lady Althorp. Her father was a former captain in the Royal Scots Greys and was equerry to the late King George VI and subsequently Queen Elizabeth II. 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.
Diana was the third of four children -- two older sisters and a younger brother, Charles Viscount Althorp, who eventually became the Ninth Earl 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.
Prince Charles and fiancée Diana Spencer on vacation at the Balmoral Estate
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 family worked to rid itself of controversy that had plagued it for generations. It is widely believed that the monarch thrust a great deal of pressure on Prince Charles and his new bride, which ultimately led to the dissolution of their marriage.
The world's most iconic couple on the steps of Buckingham Palace on their wedding day, July 29, 1981
Diana was the first Englishwoman to marry an heir to the throne in more than 300 years. They wed in the glare of 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 September 15, 1984. The two are now the second and third in line for the thrown, respectively, behind their father.
Lady Di caught negative attention for her painfully thin frame at this public engagement in December 1982. Taken just months after giving birth to her first son, Prince William, this photo was one of the first to call attention to the Princess's diminishing waistline. She would later admit to her struggles with an eating disorder, a battle she would need to overcome later in life.
Prince Charles, Princess Diana and Princes William and Harry pose for a family portrait at Kensington Palace in 1984
Diana may have had her obvious 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.
President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy watch as Princess Diana cuts a rug with John Travolta at a White House benefit dinner
Diana's international charitable efforts brought her to the United States capital several times as she worked to shine a spotlight on victims of AIDS, poverty and landmines.
The Prince and Princess take a family bike ride in the Scilly Isles in 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.
When she wasn't jet-setting around the world for various fundraisers and humanitarian trips, Princess Diana was hard at work as "mummy" to her sons, 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.
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.
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 landmine victims. In 1991, she visited a hostel for abandoned children in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana look particularly distant during a visit to Korea and Hong Kong in November 1992. A month later, the English Prime Minister would announce the official separation of the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Diana takes a moment to rest and pose outside of the Taj Mahal in India after a visit to Mother Teresa's Hospice for the Sick and 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.
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 Panorama 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.
Diana worked to de-mine regions of Southern Angola in January 1997. 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 landmines. Her contributions were noted in Robin Cook's speech when he brought the second reading of the landmine bill to the House in 1998.
Diana spoke of the personal connections she made with every individual, young and old, 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.
After visiting Mother Teresa's Hospice for the Sick and Dying in India in February 1992, Diana traveled to Rome and New York where she reconnected with the Catholic saint and formed a strong bond based on their charitable efforts. They often collaborated on their many charitable projects.
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 landmine. The Fund currently set up in her name also works to change legislation and policy to meet international standards on children's rights.
Princess Diana is pictured here with boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Paris just before they were killed in a tragic car crash on August 31, 1997. Diana's death resonated around the world as the royal family remembered a life based on immense humanitarian efforts. Her funeral was held on September 6 at Westminster, London, before she was laid to rest on a small island in a lake on the Althorp estate, her family's ancestral home.
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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