The U.K.’s Princess Diana died in a car accident in Paris 20 years ago this week at age 36. Here are some things you may not have known about “the People’s Princess.”
Marrying a Commoner
Royals don’t traditionally marry commoners, and Charles and Diana are no exception. When she was 14, her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer. That meant Diana Spencer was officially Lady Diana Spencer.
Prince Charles didn’t have to look too far to find Diana, however. Before they were romantically involved, Charles dated Diana’s older sister, Lady Sarah Spencer. Additionally, Diana knew the younger royal children already. Her family lived on an estate owned by Queen Elizabeth II, and her frequent playmates were Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. (Their brother, Prince Charles, was 12 years older than Diana.)
The “Spencer Special”
As a child, Diana’s dream career was to be a ballet dancer. But by the time she was a teenager, she stood 5’10″—too tall for dance. Instead, she became a diver at her posh boarding school, where she was so good a dive was named after her. The “Spencer Special” involved hitting the pool just so that the water barely rippled.
Diana the Teacher
When she was a young adult, Diana considered becoming a teacher. She even worked at Young England Kindergarten in London as an assistant teacher.
Charles and Diana didn’t exactly “date.” The process of betrothal was very formal. Diana had to call Charles “sir” and they only met around 10 times before he officially proposed to 19-year-old Diana.
An estimated 750 million people around the world watched the 1981 royal wedding on TV, including about 14 million in the U.S.
According to her personal chef, her favorite dessert was the British favorite bread pudding. She’d stroll into the kitchen at Buckingham Palace while it was being made and steal raisins off the top.
The Royals Split
The marriage didn’t work out, of course. When the royal couple split in 1996, Diana received a £17.5 million settlement and could keep using the title “Princess of Wales,” but couldn’t call herself “Royal Highness” anymore. She also had to give up any future claims to the English throne.
Candle in the Wind
Elton John and Bernie Taupin re-wrote John’s 1973 song “Candle in the Wind,” a eulogy for Marilyn Monroe, for Princess Diana, a close friend of the singer. Titled “Candle in the Wind 1997,” John performed it live—once—at Diana’s worldwide-televised funeral. A recording of that was released and within a few months became the second-best selling single ever. All proceeds were donated to charities Diana worked with during her lifetime.