The truth about Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana’s relationship

This article was originally written in 2001 by Ingrid Seward and appeared in the August 2001 issue of Reader’s Digest.*

THE TRAGIC NEWS that Diana, Princess of Wales, had died in a Paris car crash came to us in August, four years ago. As Americans watched her funeral pageant at Westminster Abbey, it was easy to think of her only as a princess, someone completely unlike the rest of us.

But within the royal family Diana was an all-too human relative. She doted on her sons, William and Harry. She loved and fought with Prince Charles, her estranged husband. And she had a complicated relationship with the Queen, her mother-in-law, alternately viewing her as a substitute mom and a meddling old woman who was out to get her. In The Queen and Di, British author Ingrid Seward, who has covered the royal family for 18 years, draws on knowledge from her own sources to show how Diana and the Queen were close to being each other ‘s salvation. When the Princess held a sick orphan or wore a stunning gown, she warmed the otherwise cold and at times even weird public image of the royal family. The Queen, meanwhile, offered Diana a chance to find the home life she had been missing—Diana’s own mother had left home, and a broken marriage, when Diana was only six. But the Princess’s psychological problems, and the Queen’s rigid sense of protocol and propriety, ultimately undermined their relationship.

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Princess Diana secrets
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Princess Diana secrets

Ballet was one of her first loves

As a child in Norfalk, England, little Diana Spencer studied ballet and dreamed of taking the stage with the Royal Ballet. Unfortunately, her height held her back, as she eventually grew to nearly 5’11”. But her passion for dance remained even after she married Prince Charles in 1981. She was known for her generosity in supporting the English National Ballet, both as a private dancer and through fundraising efforts. In 1985, she surprised an audience, including the royal family, at the Royal Opera House with a three-minute contemporary dance performance with her friend and former Royal Ballet Principal Wayne Sleep. After her death, renowned ballet dancer and choreographer Peter Schaufuss developed a full-length ballet called Diana—The Princess. These are the secrets about Princess Diana that no one knew about until after her death.

Lady Di wasn’t Charles’s first choice

In the late 1970s, Charles was heavy on the dating scene, spending time with ladies such as Lady Jane Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington’s daughter, and brewery heiress Sabrina Guinness. He even proposed to the granddaughter of his mentor Lord Louis Mountbatten (she said no). He was also spending time with Sarah Spencer, Diana’s sister. Through it all, he had one very ineligible bachelorette on his mind: Camilla Shand, who had married Andrew Parker Bowles in 1973. Low on options and under pressure to tie the knot, Charles turned to the Queen Mother—and to Camilla—for advice. Both agreed that Diana would be a good fit. Charles proposed in February 1981; Diana chose an engagement ring of 14 solitaire diamonds surrounding a 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire set in 18-carat white gold.

Nearly everyone in the world watched Diana’s wedding 

When Prince William and Kate Middleton got married in 2011, 300 million viewers tuned in. Sounds like a lot? Hardly. In 1981, when Diana married the Prince of Wales, a whopping 750 million people around the world watched—that’s six and a half times the number of people who watched the most-viewed Super Bowl. Check out these rarely seen photos of Princess Diana.

There was one vow Diana didn’t make

Most royal brides, including Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret, and Princess Anne adhered to the wedding vows as prescribed in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer dating from 1662 to “obey him and serve him, love, honor, and keep him, in sickness and in health.” But not princess Diana. She decided to omit “obey,” a choice echoed by her future daughter-in-law Kate Middleton.

Diana pulled out all the stops for her wedding

When Diana appeared at St. Paul’s Cathedral on July 29, 1981, she was ensconced in an elaborate gown made of silk taffeta and antique lace, decorated with sequins, embroidery, and 10,000 pearls. Diana required several practice sessions to adjust to walking with the dress’s enormous 25-foot train, an appendage that barely fit into the glass coach in which she road with her father to the ceremony. Designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, the dress influenced wedding gowns for years after and is now owned by her sons and on display at the Althorp House in Northampton. These are the most inspiring quotes from the Princess.

Diana was a popular cover model 

Diana appeared on the cover of PEOPLE more than 50 times, Time eight times, Newsweek seven times, Vanity Fair five times, and at least once on TatlerLIFEVogueMcCall’sGoodHousekeeping, and others.

Queen Elizabeth wasn’t a fan of Diana’s 

The notoriously icy Queen Mother found her son’s 20-year-old bride borderline insufferable. “She’s not like the rest of us,” the Queen told the editors of Fleet Street. “She’s very young.” When Diana pursued volunteer and fundraising opportunities with people suffering from HIV and AIDS, the Queen asked Diana if she couldn’t get involved with “something more pleasant.” And while the meaning is disputed, the Queen is reported to have said at the news of Diana’s death that “someone must have greased the brakes.” This is how Princess Diana really spent the final weeks of her life.

She suffered from an eating disorder 

In 1995, Princess Diana opened up about her struggles with bulimia in a BBC interview. According to Vogue, she explained that low self-esteem and stress from her split with Prince Charles contributed to it. Diana said, “I didn’t like myself, I was ashamed I couldn’t cope with the pressures. I had bulimia for a number of years, and that’s like a secret disease. It’s a repetitive pattern which is very destructive. It was my escape mechanism.”

Her sister dated Prince Charles first 

A 1981 report from The Guardian details how Charles and Diana met. Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Diana’s older sister, had dated Prince Charles previously and was actually the one who introduced them. And the relations don’t stop there—they’re actually sixteenth cousins, their ties dating back to Henry VII. 

She was committed to charity work

Diana was once linked to over 100 charities, according to Time, using her fame and royal status to bring attention to causes such as AIDS and HIV prevention and education, landmines, and homelessness. She even auctioned off several of her iconic dresses to raise over $5 million for AIDS and breast cancer charities. Next, read about what really happened between Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

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In her new book, Seward recounts the morning of August 31, when the Queen and Prince Charles heard about Diana’s accident. The Princess and her lover, Dodi Fayed, were trying to escape a crowd of paparazzi when their driver lost control in an underpass. Almost immediately, the news flashed to Balmoral, the Queen’s country home in Scotland.

The Queen was awakened in the early hours of the morning. Pulling on her old-fashioned dressing gown, she went into the corridor where she met Prince Charles. The news from Paris was that Dodi Fayed was dead, but Diana had survived. Soon the whole castle stirred from its slumber. Charles took incoming calls. The Queen ordered tea, which was brought from the kitchen and then ignored.

Their first concern was to discover how badly injured Diana was. Initially they were told that she had walked away from the accident virtually unscathed. Then another call came through. “Sir, I am very sorry to have to tell you that I’ve just had the Ambassador on the phone. The Princess died a short time ago.”

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Princess Diana and Prince Charles together
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Princess Diana and Prince Charles together
BALMORAL, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 06: Prince Charles With His Fiance Lady Diana Spencer During A Photocall Before Their Wedding While Staying At Craigowan Lodge On The Balmoral Estate (exact Day Date Not Certain) (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
BALMORAL - AUGUST 19: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a suit designed by Bill Pashley, pose for a photo on the banks of the river Dee in the grounds of Balmoral Castle during their honeymoon on August 19, 1981 in Balmoral, Scotland. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 29: On July 29, 1981, Lady Diana SPENCER (aged 19) married Prince CHARLES (aged 32) at Buckingham Palace. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 29: Prince Charles And Princess Diana On The Balcony Of Buckingham Palace On Their Wedding Day. The Princess Is Wearing A Wedding Dress Designed By David And Elizabeth Emanuel. The Prince Is Wearing Naval Dress Uniform. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
LONDRES, ROYAUME-UNI - 10 MARS: Lady Diana et le Prince Charles discutant avec la Princesse Grace de Monaco au Goldsmith's Hall, le 10 mars 1981 a Londres, Royaume-Uni. (Photo by Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Queen Elizabeth joins the Prince and Princess of Wales on a Buckingham Palace balcony following their London wedding. (Photo by � Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
The Prince and Princess of Wales arrive back at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland after their honeymoon, September 1981. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
The Prince and Princess of Wales at the Braemar Highland Games in Scotland, September 1981. She wears a tartan suit by Caroline Charles and a tam o'shanter hat. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
Prince Charles Prince Charles and the Princess of Wales (1961 - 1997, later Diana, Princess of Wales) at Caernarvon Castle during an official tour of Wales, 27th October 1981. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 22: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales leave St Mary's Hospital in Paddington with their baby son, Prince William (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Prince Charles and Princess Diana at Uluru, Northern Territory on 21 March 1983. . (Photo by Gerrit Fokkema/The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 04: The Prince And Princess Of Wales With The Queen Attending The Braemar Games In Scotalnd (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Melbourne, Australia: Princess Diana and the Prince of Wales share a joke with Australian comedian Paul Hogan at a gala performance in Melbourne, April 14th.
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles arrive for a state reception in Hobart, Tasmania, 30th March 1983. The princess is wearing the Spencer family tiara and a dress by Bruce Oldfield. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 28: The Prince And Princess Of Wales Attending A Charity Ball In Sydney During A Trip To Australia (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles leaving St Mary's Hospital, London with their new-born son Prince Harry, September 1984. The Princess is wearing a red coat by Jan van Velden. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles at an Italian naval base at La Spezia, 20th April 1985. Charles is wearing a naval Commander's uniform, while Diana is wearing a white coat dress by Catherine Walker. (Photo by Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
The Prince and Princess of Wales visit a church in Florence during their tour of Italy, April 1985. The Princess is wearing a suit by Jasper Conran. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
VATICAN - APRIL: Diana Princess of Wales with Prince Charles have an audience with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican, Rome, Italy in April 1985 during the Royal Tour of Italy.Diana wore a black lace dress designed by Catherine Walker. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles on a skiing holiday in Malbun, Liechtenstein, January 1985. The princess is wearing a Head ski suit. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
WINDSOR - JUNE 29: Princess Diana, Princess of Wales kisses Prince Charles, Prince of Wales as she presents him with an award following a charity polo match at Windsor Great Park on June 29, 1985 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 9, 1985: (FILE PHOTO) In this file photo issued October 31, 2005, Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales and Princess Diana, the Princess of Wales meet President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Mrs Nancy Reagan at the White House on November 9, 1985 during an official visit to America in Washington DC, USA. Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales is taking his new wife Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall on a visit to the United States which begins formally on November 1, 2005 (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, CANADA - MAY 03: The Prince And Princess Of Wales During A Visit To Vancouver, Canada. She Is Wearing A Suit Designed By Fashion Designer Bruce Oldfield (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
LONDON - AUGUST 4: Prince Edward, Viscount Linley, Prince Charles, Diana, Princess of Wales and the Queen at the Queen Mothers 87th birthday celebration on August 4, 1987 at Clarence House in London, England. Diana wore a dress designed by Catherine Walker. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 26: The Princess Of Wales Presents A Medal To Her Husband, Prince Charles, After A Polo Match At Windsor (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 30: Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales at the Central Coast Surf Carnival at Terrigal Beach, Sydney, Australia (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MARCH 15: The Prince And Princess Of Wales attend a desert picnic on March 15, 1989 in Adu Dhab, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MARCH 16: The Prince And Princess Of Wales On A Walkabout In Dubai On The Gulf Tour. Diana's Outfit Is By Fashion Designer Catherine Walker And Hat By Milliner Philip Somerville. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997), wearing a Belville Sassoon dress, presenting Prince Charles with a trophy after competing at the Hola Cup polo match at the Guards Polo Club, Windsor, 29th June 1988. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
PARIS - NOVEMBER: Prince Charles and Diana Princess of Wales meet guests arriving at a dinner in the Elysee Palace in Paris, France in November 1988, during the Royal Tour of France. Diana wore a dress designed by Victor Edelstein. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
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Charles’s composure collapsed, and the tears the public never saw began to flow. The Queen was equally stunned. While others in the royal family had long since given up on Diana, Elizabeth had retained some affection for her daughter-in-law, and still sympathized with her. She recognized Diana’s potential—and saw her death as a terrible waste. The connection between the Queen’s and Diana dates back to when the princess’ grandmother worked for the Queen. This connection is one of the 9 secrets about Princess Diana no one knew about until after her death.

In the outpouring of grief from Diana’s supporters, the royal family found itself caught in a startling rip of public rancor. Crowds surged through the streets of London mourning the Princess, and the Palace was blamed for treating her heartlessly. Perhaps for the first time in her life, Queen Elizabeth had to ask: What do they want me to do?

I once asked Diana whether her marriage had been arranged, and she told me with some irritation: “It was Charles and I who decided on the marriage. Not the Queen. Us. No one else.”

That was true—no one ordered Charles to propose or Diana to accept. Without the Queen’s approval, though, no proposal would have been made.

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Princess Diana's life in photos
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Princess Diana's life in photos
UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 01: An informal study of Prince CHARLES, the Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana SPENCER, whose wedding will take place at Saint-Paul's Cathedral, London on 29th July 1981. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Princess Diana wearing a tiara and diamond necklace on an official visit to Australia, April 12th 1983. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
LONDON - JULY 29: (FILE PHOTO) Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales leave St. Paul's Cathedral following their wedding July 29, 1981 in London, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
LONDON - JULY 29: Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince Charles ride in a carriage after their wedding at St. Paul's Cathedral July 29, 1981 in London, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales (1961 - 1997) pose together during their honeymoon in Balmoral, Scotland, 19th August 1981. (Photo by Serge Lemoine/Getty Images)
Princess Diana wearing a Jasper Conran suit during a visit to a community centre in Brixton, October 1983. (Photo by Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE: Britain's Princess Diana arrived in Paris Friday, 13 November, 1992, on a private three day visit she is making without her husband, Prince Charles. (Photo credit should read JOEL ROBINE/AFP/Getty Images)
HONG KONG, HONG KONG: Britain's Princess Diana stands with tennis players Michael Chang of the US (L) and Sweden's Jonas Bjorkman during the awards ceremony at the Hong Kong Open 23 April. Princess Diana, on a private visit to Hong Kong, watched as Chang defeated Bjorkman 6-3, 6-1 to win the tournament. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
The Princess of Wales visits Chinatown in Liverpool, April 1982. She is pregnant with Prince William, and wearing a pink wool maternity coat by Bellville Sassoon and a hat by John Boyd. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 06: Princess Diana At Polo, Just Two Weeks Before The Birth Of Her First Child, Prince William. Wearing A Maternity Dress Designed By Fashion Designer Catherine Walker She Is Walking With Sarah Ferguson. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
LONDON - JUNE 22: New born Prince William with Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince Charles leave St. Mary's hospital on June 22, 1982 in Paddington, London, England,. He was born in the Lindo Wing of the hospital on June 21. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 01: Princess Diana Holding Her Baby Son, Prince William, At Kensington Palace. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 18: Princess Diana And Prince William In New Zealand. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
(FILES) This picture taken 17 June 1997 shows Diana, Princess of Wales, a key volunteer of the British Red Cross Landmine Campaign at Red Cross headquarters in Washington DC. Princess Diana may have survived her fatal Paris car crash in 1997 if French medical staff had not wasted precious time, a leading British surgeon indicated at her inquest 19 November 2007. AFP PHOTO/FILES/Jamal (Photo credit should read JAMAL A. WILSON/AFP/Getty Images)
The Prince and Princess of Wales visit Barmouth in Wales, November 1982. She wears a suede beret by John Boyd and a coatdress by Arabella Pollen. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
The Princess of Wales visits University College Hospital in London, December 1982. She wears a John Boyd hat and a velvet suit by Caroline Charles. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 01: Princess Diana And Prince Charles With Prince William And His Koala Bear Toy At Kensington Palace (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) at the School of the Air, in Alice Springs, Australia, 30th March 1983. She is wearing a dress by Jan van Velden. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
AYERS ROCK, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 21: Prince Charles, The Prince Of Wales And Diana, Princess Of Wales Standing In Front Of Ayers Rock During Their Official Tour Of Australia (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 18: Princess Diana During A Visit To New Zealand Wearing A Dress Designed By Fashion Designer Donald Campbell (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
MANUKAU - APRIL 19: Diana Princess of Wales meets firemen during a visit to Manukau, near Auckland, New Zealand during the Royal Tour of New Zealand on April 19, 1983. Princess Diana wore a suit designed by Jan Van Velden, with a hat by John Boyd. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
CANADA - JUNE 23: Princess Diana in Edmonton during an official visit of Canada (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) leaving St Mary's Hospital, London with her new-born son Prince Harry, September 1984. She is wearing a red coat by Jan van Velden. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
VENICE, ITALY - MAY 5: (FILE PHOTO) (L-R) Diana the Princess of Wales holds her son Harry, whilst looking at Prince William held by his father Prince Charles on May 5, 1985 in Venice, Italy. Prince William will celebrate his 21st birthday on June 21, 2003. (Photo by Georges de Keerle/Getty Images) 
LA SPEZIA, ITALY - APRIL 20: The Prince and Princess of Wales in La Spezia during a tour of Italy. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
TWERTON ON AVON - MAY 31: Diana Princess of Wales meets girl guides outside the Poolemead centre for the Deaf on May 31, 1985 in Twerton on Avon, Bath, Avon. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)
CANADA - JULY 01: Diana Princess of Wales celebrates her birthday in Canada (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) inspects a guard of honour during a two-day visit to the 1st Battalion, the Royal Hampshire Regiment in Berlin, October 1985. She is wearing a pink and black suit by Victor Edelstein and a hat by Frederick Fox. (Photo by Lucy Levenson/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 04: Diana, Princess of Wales with her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, at the piano in Kensington Palace (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
KLOSTERS, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 06: Prince Charles With Princess Diana On A Ski-ing Holiday Together. The Princess Is Wearing A Red 'head' Ski Suit And A Headband And She Is Holding A Pair Of 'dynamic' Skis. The Prince Is Wearing A Blue Ski Suit And Carrying A Pair Of 'k2' Skis. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
VIENNA - APRIL 16: Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a sapphire diamond and pearl necklace, attends a banquet on April 16, 1986 in Vienna, Austria (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
TETBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 18: Princess Diana Carries Prince Henry (harry) On Her Shoulders At Highgrove. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 22: PRINCESS DIANA ON BOARD HMS TRAFALGAR NUCLEAR SUBMARINE MEETING THE CREW DURING A VISIT TO THE NAVAL SUBMARINE BASE IN FASLANE IN THE FIRTH OF CLYDE, SCOTLAND (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
SANDHURST - APRIL 10: Diana, Princess of Wales wears a Catherine Walker white suit with drum majorette gold frogging and epaulettes and a graham smith hat for her visit to the Sandhurst Military Academy on April 10, 1987 in Sandhurst, England (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Princess Diana and Prince Charles of Wales attending a Lionel Richie concert at Wembley Arena, London, November 7th 1987. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)
The Prince And Princess Of Wales At A Prizegiving, At Polo, Smiths Lawn, Windsor. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
Diana, The Princess Of Wales, And Prince William, At A Polo Match, Smiths Lawn, Windsor. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 14: Princess Diana With Her Sons Prince William And Prince Harry At Aberdeen Airport. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
MAJORCA, SPAIN - AUGUST 10: Diana, Princess of Wales with Prince Harry on holiday in Majorca, Spain on August 10, 1987. (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) driving an armoured vehicle with the Royal Hampshire Regiment at Tidworth, Hampshire, 23rd June 1988. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
CHAMBORD, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 09: Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a white and blue lace and sequin evening coat-dress designed by Catherine Walker for a dinner at the Chateau de Chambord during her official visit to France. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
The Princess of Wales at the museum in Kuwait City, March 1989. She is wearing a gold embroidered bedouin gown that was presented to her with a silver tea set to mark the occasion of her visit. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Getty Images)
The Princess of Wales with her sons William and Harry on the chair lift during a skiing holiday in Lech, Austria, April 1991. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 7 Diana, Princess of Wales attends the Premiere of Dangerous Liaisons, in London's West End, on March 7, 1989 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - MARCH 15: The Prince And Princess Of Wales attend a desert picnic on March 15, 1989 in Adu Dhab, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
BATH - MAY 30: (FILE PHOTO) Prince William, Diana, Princess of Wales, Prince Harry and Charles, Prince of Wales, attend the wedding of the Duke of Hussey's daughter in May, 1989 in Bath, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 11: Princess Diana With Her Sons Prince William And Prince Harry Standing On The Steps Of Wetherby School On The First Day For Prince Harry. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
INDONESIA - NOVEMBER 05: The Princess Of Wales Playing Bowls At Sitanalia Leprosy Hospital In Indonesia (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
NIGERIA - JUNE 3: (FILE PHOTO) (PRINCESS DIANA RETROSPECTIVE 17 OF 22) The Princess of Wales speaks with Nigerians circa 1990 during a visit to Nigeria. Princess Diana, 36-years-old, died with her companion Dodi Fayed, 41-years-old, in a car crash August 31, 1997 in Paris, France. Fayed was the son of an Egyptian billionaire. (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
The Princess of Wales and the Queen Mother in an open-topped landau on their way to the Royal Ascot race meeting, June 1990. The Princess wears a Catherine Walker suit and a Philip Somerville hat. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
The Princess of Wales walks amongst crowds of children waving flags during her visit to Cullompton in Devon, September 1990. She is wearing a Catherine Walker dress. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 05: Princess Diana With Mrs Barbara Bush At The White House (Photo by TIM GRAHAM/Getty Images)
Diana, The Princess Of Wales Takes Her Sons, Prince'S William, And Harry Out On The Boat ' Maid Of The Mist ' To View Niagara Falls. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 18: Diana Princess of Wales attends the Premiere of Hot Shots, in London's West End, on November 18, 1991 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
The Princess of Wales (1961 - 1997) talks to children at the British school in Seoul during a visit to Korea, 1992. (Photo by Linda Grove/Getty Images)
INDIA - FEBRUARY 11: Diana Princess of Wales sits in front of the Taj Mahal during a visit to India (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
CALCUTTA;INDIA - FEBRUARY: Princess Diana the Princess of Wales holds hands with a nun at Mother Teresa's Hospice in Calcutta during her visit to India in February of 1992. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
GIZA, EGYPT - MAY 12: Diana Princess of Wales visiting the Pyramids in Giza during an official tour of Egypt. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
EGYPT - MAY 13: Diana, Princess of Wales in teh Alazhar Mosque, Cairo, Egypt (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: Diana, Princess of Wales, Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, and Prince Harry, attend the Trooping The Colour Ceremony on June 13, 1992 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) on a skiing holiday in Lech, Austria, March 1993. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) meets local people during a field visit to Red Cross projects in the remote mountain villages of Nepal, 3rd March 1993. (Photo by Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
Diana Princess Of Wales, Prince William & Prince Harry Visit The 'Thorpe Park' Amusement Park. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) during a visit to the Red Cross borehole project for refugees in Zimbabwe, July 1993. She is wearing a safari suit by Catherine Walker. (Photo by Jayne Fincher/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997), Prince Harry, Prince William and Prince Charles at a parade in the Mall, London, during V.J. Day commemorations, August 1994. Diana is wearing a Tomasz Starzewski suit and a hat by Philip Somerville. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Getty Images)
UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 20: Princess Diana Reviewing The Troops Of The Princess Of Wales Regiment In Kent. The Princess Is Wearing A Pink Suit Designed By Versace. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Diana, Princess Of Wales Attends The Serpentine Gallery Summer Party. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
LONDON -OCTOBER 08: Diana, Princess of Wales laughs as she visits the London Lighthouse, the HIV/Aids charity, to help launch it's £1.5 million Capital Appeal on October 08, 1996 in London, England . (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Diana, Princess of Wales at Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art for a benefit ball. (Photo By: Richard Corkery/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
ANGOLA - JANUARY 15: Diana, Princess of Wales wearing protective body armour, visits a minefield being cleared by the chirty Halo in Huambo, Angola (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 09: Official Portrait Of The Royal Family On The Day Of Prince William's Confirmation. Front Left To Right - Prince William, Princess Diana, Prince William, Prince Charles And The Queen. Back Left To Right - King Constantine, Lady Susan Hussey, Princess Alexandra, Duchess Of Westminster And Lord Romsey (Photo by Tim Graham Picture Library/Getty Images)
GREAT BRITAIN - JUNE 06: Diana, Princess of Wales crouching down to embrace a pupil at the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Neasden (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Diana, The Princess Of Wales Visits Washington, Usa.Gala Dinner Held By The American Red Cross, To Raise Funds For Landmine Victims Around The World. . (Photo by Mark Cuthbert/UK Press via Getty Images)
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As their romance acquired mo­mentum, almost everyone urged Charles to press forward. The Queen herself never directly addressed the question of his marriage, but by nod and nuance, she made it clear she ap­proved of Diana. The Prince, how­ever, was confused. ”I’m terrified sometimes of making a promise and then perhaps living to regret it,” he said.

The question; when it came, was a question in itself. “If I were to ask, what do you think you might say?” Charles inquired. Giggling, Diana replied, “Yeah, OK.” Charles then ran out of the room to telephone his mother with the news.

The engagement was announced on February 24, 1981, and Diana soon moved into rooms at Buckingham Palace. Since Diana had been born into privilege, the Queen believed her future daughter-in-law knew what was expected of her. As she wrote to a friend in March 1981, “I trust that Diana will find living here less of a burden than is expected.”

In fact, Diana had no notion of what to expect—and from the beginning, she found royal life an extraordinary burden. She swam most mornings in the Palace pool, immersed herself in wedding plans, and took dance and exercise classes. The rest of the time she simply sat around, bored and increasingly irritable.

Pent-up and lonely, Diana began making herself ill, the first signs of bulimia. Several times a day she visited the kitchen, filling a bowl with Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and fruit, adding sugar and drenching it all in cream. Afterward, she would go to the bathroom and make herself sick.

43 PHOTOS
Princess Diana and her fabulous travels
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Princess Diana and her fabulous travels
GIBRALTAR- AUGUST 01: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing a Donald Campbell dress, leave for their honeymoon cruise on the Royal Yacht Britannia on August 01, 1981 in Gibraltar. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
The Prince and Princess of Wales leave Gibraltar on the Royal Yacht Britannia for their honeymoon cruise, 1st August 1981. The Princess wears a Donald Campbell dress. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
BALMORAL, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 19: The Prince And Princess Of Wales On Their Honeymoon In Balmoral, Scotland (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
BALMORAL, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 19: Prince Charles With His Arm Around Princess Diana As They Sit On A Style During Their Honeymoon At Balmoral In Scotland.the Princess Is Wearing A Suit Designed By Bill Pashley With A Pair Of Shoes By The Chelsea Cobbler. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
15th June 1983: Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana, Princess of Wales, (1961 - 1997) on holiday in Nova Scotia. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
FRANCE - UNDATED: Princess Diana, Princess of Wales poses in a bikini whilst on holiday in the South of France. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
VIRGIN ISLANDS - UNDATED: Princess Diana, Princess of Wales enjoys a swim in the Virgin Islands. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
FRANCE: The Princess of Wales enjoys a swim in the South of France. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
KLOSTERS, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 1986: Princess Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing red ski gear and a red and white head band, enjoys a skiing holiday in Klosters, Switzerland in February 1986. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
(From left to Right) Prince Charles, Princess Diana, The Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson and The Duke of York Prince Andrew posing for photographers on their skiing holiday at the Swiss resort of Klosters. Wednesday 17th February 1987. (Photo by Kent Gavin/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
KLOSTERS, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 17: The Duchess Of York (sarah Ferguson) And Princess Diana Having Fun On Holiday In Klosters. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Members of the British Royal Family on a ski holiday, (L-R) Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, Princess Diana and the Duchess of York, in Grisons, Switzerland, February 17th 1987. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Princess Diana on a ski holiday in Klosters, Switzerland, February 6th 1986. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
KLOSTERS, SWITZERLAND - FEBRUARY 06: Diana, Princess of Wales, wearing red ski gear and a red and white head band, enjoys a skiing holiday on February 06, 1986 in Klosters, Switzerland. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
MAJORCA-AUGUST 10: (FILE PHOTO) Princess Diana, Princess of Wales with Prince William and Prince Harry on holiday in Majorca, Spain on August 10, 1987. Also present were the Spanish Royal Family and the Prince of Wales. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
MAJORCA, SPAIN - AUGUST 08: Prince Charles And Princess Diana With Prince William And Prince Harry On Holiday In Majorca. Also Present Are Queen Sofia Of Spain And Infanta Elena. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
PALMA, SPAIN - AUGUST 10: Diana, Princess of Wales poses with Queen Sofia of Spain during a summer holiday in Majorca on August 10, 1987 in Palma, Spain. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997, left) with the Duchess of York during a skiing holiday in Klosters, Switzerland, 9th March 1988. (Photo by James Andanson/Sygma via Getty Images)
Left to right: the Duchess of York, Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) and Prince Charles during a skiing holiday in Klosters, Switzerland, 9th March 1988. (Photo by James Andanson/Sygma via Getty Images)
NECKER ISLAND, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS - JANUARY 9: Diana, Princess of Wales, with Prince Harry on holiday on Necker Island , on January 9, 1989 in Necker Island, British Virgin Islands. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
NECKER ISLAND, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS - JANUARY 9: Diana, Princess of Wales, on holiday on Necker Island , on January 9, 1989 in Necker Island, British Virgin Islands. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
NECKER ISLAND, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS - JANUARY 9: Diana, Princess of Wales, on Necker Island , on January 9, 1989 in Necker Island, British Virgin Islands. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
NECKER ISLAND, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS - JANUARY 9: Diana, Princess of Wales, on Holiday on Necker Island , on January 9, 1989 in Necker Island, British Virgin Islands. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
NECKER ISLAND - APRIL 11: Princess Diana In Leopardskin Swimming Costume And Sarong On Holiday In Necker Island In The Caribbean (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
The Prince and Princess of Wales holiday on a yacht with King Constantine II of Greece, 1990. (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
NECKER ISLAND, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS - APRIL 11: Diana, Princess of Wales, with Prince William, on Holiday In Necker Island In The Caribbean, on April 11, 1990, in the British Virgin Islands. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
SPAIN - AUGUST 15: Princess Diana on holiday in Majorca with King Constantine of Greece and his daughter, Princess Theodora on the King's yacht, Fortuna. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
MAJORCA, SPAIN - AUGUST 15: Princess Diana On Board The Yacht Fortuna On Summer Holiday In Majorca (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
MAJORCA, SPAIN - AUGUST 15: Diana, Princess of Wales, on board the yacht of King Juan Carlos of Spain 'Fortuna' on summer holiday on August 15, 1990 in Majorca, Spain (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS - JANUARY 1993: Diana, The Princess of Wales walks in the sea on January 1993 in the Island of Nevis. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
Princess Diana (1961 - 1997) in the surf off the Island of Nevis, during a Caribbean holiday, 2nd January 1993.(Photo by Thierry Orban/Sygma via Getty Images)
SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS - JANUARY 1993: Diana, The Princess of Wales walks in the sea on January 1993 in the Island of Nevis. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
The Princess of Wales (C) watches for a wave while surfing at Indian Castle Beach 02 January 1993. Princess Diana is vacationing with her sons William and Harry. (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS - JANUARY 1993: Diana, The Princess of Wales walks in the sea on January 1993 in the Island of Nevis. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
GIZA, EGYPT - MAY 12: Diana Princess of Wales visiting the Pyramids in Giza during an official tour of Egypt. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
GIZA, EGYPT - MAY 12: Diana Princess of Wales visits the Pyramids in Giza during an official tour of Egypt. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS - JANUARY 1993: Diana, The Princess of Wales walks in the sea on January 1993 in the Island of Nevis. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
LECH, AUSTRIA - MARCH 25: Diana, Princess Of Wales, On A Spring Ski-ing Holiday With Her Sons, Prince William And Prince Harry, And Her Friend Kate Menzies. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
AUSTRIA - MARCH 26: Diana, Princess of Wales running whilst on a skiing holiday in Lech, Austria (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Princess Diana (back row, R), along with her friends Kate Menzies (back row C) and Catherine Soames (back row, L), rides 26 August 1993 the Splash Mountain ride at Disney World's Magic Kingdom during the third day of their vacation. Front row left is Prince Harry, son of Princess Diana. Other passengers are unidentified. (Photo credit should read BOB PEARSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo taken on July 14, 1997 shows Britain's Lady Diana taken by an unidentified young girl for a jet-ski ride off the property of her friend Dodi Al-Fayed in Saint Tropez, on the French Riviera. Diana, Princess of Wales, and her companion, the Egyptian millionaire film-producer Dodi al-Fayed, died in Paris early 31 August after a midnight car crash. / AFP PHOTO / Patrick HERTZOG (Photo credit should read PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images)
Photo taken on July 14, 1997 shows Britain's Lady Diana taken by an unidentified young girl for a jet-ski ride off the property of her friend Dodi Al-Fayed in Saint Tropez, on the French Riviera. Diana, Princess of Wales, and her companion, the Egyptian millionaire film-producer Dodi al-Fayed, died in Paris early 31 August after a midnight car crash. / AFP PHOTO / Patrick HERTZOG (Photo credit should read PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images)
ST TROPEZ, FRANCE - JULY 17 1997: (FILE PHOTO) Diana, Princess of Wales and son HRH Prince William are seen holidaying with Dodi Al Fayed (not pictured) in St Tropez in the summer of 1997, shortly before Diana and Dodi were killed in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997. The inquests into both of their deaths are due to start in early 2004. (Photo by Michel Dufour/WireImage)
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Her moods became ever more unpredictable, and Charles drew much of her fire. Why, she asked, was he not spending more time with her? It was explained that the Prince had a schedule of engagements arranged months before. That did little to pacify her.

The Queen chose to overlook Diana’s behavior in these early months, concluding that she needed time to settle in. Nearly everyone, from the Queen to the staff who looked after Diana, attributed her behavior to a bad case of “nerves.”

Left to struggle through, Diana did so, barely. After one particularly difficult stretch in June 1981, when the Prince was traveling, she bolted. Following a party to celebrate Prince Andrew’s 21st birthday, she got into her car at 5:30 a.m. and drove from London to her family home, over an hour away. She told her father, John Spencer, that she was calling off the engagement. He listened as Diana poured out her heart, then advised her that it was probably just the pressure. Once she was married, said her father, things would get easier. One of the fascinating facts you probably didn’t know about Diana and Prince Charles is that Diana his first choice, either. Feeling aside, by Sunday night Diana was back in Buckingham Palace, acting as if nothing had happened.

Most brides revel in the first weeks of marriage. Instead, during her honeymoon cruise in the Mediterranean, Diana became violently ill with bulimia. After 15 exhausting days, which were punctuated by tremendous fights, the newlyweds arrived back at Balmoral. The Prince summoned a doctor, the first of many who would try to help. “All the analysts and psychiatrists you could ever dream of came plodding in to sort me out,” Diana recalled.

In medical terms, some feel that Diana suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. Symptoms include fear of abandonment, a tendency toward histrionic behavior, a need for adoration, and mood swings. Bulimia can be another manifestation.

8 PHOTOS
8 rules Princess Diana changed
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8 rules Princess Diana changed
She didn’t say “obey” in her wedding vows

The Anglican Book of Common Prayer from 1662 specified that brides should promise to “obey” their new husbands in their wedding vows. That word was removed from later versions, starting in 1928, but the royal family—including Queen Elizabeth II—continued using it during their weddings. That’s why it was quite the controversy when Princess Diana opted not to say it when she married Prince Charles in 1981. But she set a new tradition: Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle both took Diana’s lead and left it out of their vows, too. Check out these other times Meghan Markle channeled Princess Diana.

She brought the kids on royal tours

Until Princess Diana entered the picture, leaving kids at home with a nanny was standard. When Prince Charles and Princess Anne were five and three years old, respectively, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip left them in England for half a year while they went on a grand tour of the Commonwealth. Princess Diana wasn’t a fan of leaving the kids behind, though. When Prince William was just nine months old, Princess Diana insisted on taking him on tour. William is following his mother’s footsteps by bringing his own kids on international visits.

She didn’t homeschool her kids 

Prince Charles was the first royal to go to prep school rather than being privately educated, but he didn’t leave his private tutor until he was eight years old. When he and Diana were raising their own children, they sent William and Harry straight to school with other kids in nursery school.

She gave birth in a hospital 

Queen Elizabeth II and her predecessors delivered their children in royal residences; Prince Charles was born in Buckingham Palace. Her Majesty’s daughter, Princess Anne, was the first royal woman to give birth in a hospital, and Diana followed suit. Photos of Princess Di standing outside St. Mary’s Hospital with her newborns became iconic. Kate Middleton gave birth to all three of her kids in the same Lindo Wing of the hospital and stepped out for similar photo ops afterward. Don’t miss these 20 rarely seen photos of Princess Diana.

She stopped wearing gloves 

You’ll rarely see Queen Elizabeth step out in public without her iconic gloves, but Princess Diana kept her hands bare. The People’s Princess reportedly ditched the stuffy accessory because she actually preferred the direct contact. These days, you’ll rarely see a duchess wearing white gloves. Find out why Queen Elizabeth always wears gloves.

She ditched the hats

Gloves aren’t the only accessory Princess Diana stopped wearing—she also chose not to wear hats during every royal visit. “She said, ‘You can’t cuddle a child in a hat,’” Eleri Lynn, curator of the Diana: Her Fashion Story exhibit, tells People. Learn about how Princess Diana’s hats were a window into her life.

She wasn’t afraid of controversy 

The royal family is all about decorum and typically doesn’t get involved in controversial issues—partially because it’s unconstitutional for the monarch to express political opinions. When Princess Diana famously shook hands glove-free with a man who had HIV/AIDS in 1987, she helped eliminate the stigma of the disease. At the time, public thinking was that AIDS could be spread through touch, so seeing a member of British royalty unafraid of that contact sparked a change in public perception. Now, Prince William, Prince Harry, Kate Middleton, and Meghan Markle are all campaigning with Heads Together to end the stigma around mental health.

She was a hands-on mom

Diana might have been raising two princes, but she didn’t raise them in the traditional royal manner. She’d take them out for pizza and McDonald’s, bring them to Disney World, and even let them ride the tube and bus on certain occasions. William and Harry have expressed how thankful they are that their mom let them live relatively normal lives, and they’ve kept up with her tradition. William and Kate are hands-on parents, too, bringing their kids to school themselves instead of asking staff to help out. Next, read about 12 times the royal family broke their own protocol.

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The Queen was understanding of Diana’s difficulties, especially after it was made clear just how unwell her daughter-in-law was. For all her reserve, Elizabeth seemed to have a natural empathy with Diana. And for a time Diana saw the Queen’s support as a source of enormous com­fort. “I have the best mother-in-law in the world,” she once told me.

But the Queen’s indulgence could not bridge the gulf between Diana and Charles. Diana was an exuberant city girl barely into her 20s, with zero experience in romance. Charles was a contemplative self-described “countryman,” with several significant love affairs behind him.

The Queen hoped that the birth of Prince William, in 1982, and Harry, two years later, would ease the tensions and give Charles and Diana reasons to grow together. Instead, the pressures on the couple increased. Diana’s emotional difficulties grew worse, and in short order, the marriage began to curdle.

As it did, Diana began calling at Buckingham Palace seeking guidance from her mother-in-law. At first, the Queen took a tolerant view of these unscheduled visits. “Diana was usually in a lot better mood when she left than she was when she arrived,” one of the Queen’s staff recalled.

In time, though, Elizabeth came to dread the meetings. After one session a footman said, “The Princess cried three times in a half an hour while she was waiting to see you.” The Queen replied, “I had her for an hour—and she cried nonstop.”

8 PHOTOS
8 rules Princess Diana changed
See Gallery
8 rules Princess Diana changed
She didn’t say “obey” in her wedding vows

The Anglican Book of Common Prayer from 1662 specified that brides should promise to “obey” their new husbands in their wedding vows. That word was removed from later versions, starting in 1928, but the royal family—including Queen Elizabeth II—continued using it during their weddings. That’s why it was quite the controversy when Princess Diana opted not to say it when she married Prince Charles in 1981. But she set a new tradition: Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle both took Diana’s lead and left it out of their vows, too. Check out these other times Meghan Markle channeled Princess Diana.

She brought the kids on royal tours

Until Princess Diana entered the picture, leaving kids at home with a nanny was standard. When Prince Charles and Princess Anne were five and three years old, respectively, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip left them in England for half a year while they went on a grand tour of the Commonwealth. Princess Diana wasn’t a fan of leaving the kids behind, though. When Prince William was just nine months old, Princess Diana insisted on taking him on tour. William is following his mother’s footsteps by bringing his own kids on international visits.

She didn’t homeschool her kids 

Prince Charles was the first royal to go to prep school rather than being privately educated, but he didn’t leave his private tutor until he was eight years old. When he and Diana were raising their own children, they sent William and Harry straight to school with other kids in nursery school.

She gave birth in a hospital 

Queen Elizabeth II and her predecessors delivered their children in royal residences; Prince Charles was born in Buckingham Palace. Her Majesty’s daughter, Princess Anne, was the first royal woman to give birth in a hospital, and Diana followed suit. Photos of Princess Di standing outside St. Mary’s Hospital with her newborns became iconic. Kate Middleton gave birth to all three of her kids in the same Lindo Wing of the hospital and stepped out for similar photo ops afterward. Don’t miss these 20 rarely seen photos of Princess Diana.

She stopped wearing gloves 

You’ll rarely see Queen Elizabeth step out in public without her iconic gloves, but Princess Diana kept her hands bare. The People’s Princess reportedly ditched the stuffy accessory because she actually preferred the direct contact. These days, you’ll rarely see a duchess wearing white gloves. Find out why Queen Elizabeth always wears gloves.

She ditched the hats

Gloves aren’t the only accessory Princess Diana stopped wearing—she also chose not to wear hats during every royal visit. “She said, ‘You can’t cuddle a child in a hat,’” Eleri Lynn, curator of the Diana: Her Fashion Story exhibit, tells People. Learn about how Princess Diana’s hats were a window into her life.

She wasn’t afraid of controversy 

The royal family is all about decorum and typically doesn’t get involved in controversial issues—partially because it’s unconstitutional for the monarch to express political opinions. When Princess Diana famously shook hands glove-free with a man who had HIV/AIDS in 1987, she helped eliminate the stigma of the disease. At the time, public thinking was that AIDS could be spread through touch, so seeing a member of British royalty unafraid of that contact sparked a change in public perception. Now, Prince William, Prince Harry, Kate Middleton, and Meghan Markle are all campaigning with Heads Together to end the stigma around mental health.

She was a hands-on mom

Diana might have been raising two princes, but she didn’t raise them in the traditional royal manner. She’d take them out for pizza and McDonald’s, bring them to Disney World, and even let them ride the tube and bus on certain occasions. William and Harry have expressed how thankful they are that their mom let them live relatively normal lives, and they’ve kept up with her tradition. William and Kate are hands-on parents, too, bringing their kids to school themselves instead of asking staff to help out. Next, read about 12 times the royal family broke their own protocol.

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Diana went in search of comfort wherever she could find it, and by 1986 had formed a close relationship with Capt. James Hewitt of the Queen’s Household Cavalry. Charles also resumed a relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, a married woman who many believed was the love of his life. That’s just part of the true story of what happened between Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

Queen Elizabeth was advised of these unhappy developments. She had once likened Diana to a “nervy racehorse” who needed careful handling, not harsh discipline. Despite the evidence, she convinced herself that if Diana were given the independence she claimed she needed, her self-assurance would grow and she would settle down.

Instead, what came next was the June 1992 publication of Andrew Morton’s book Diana, Her True Story. The scandalizing bestseller cast Charles in the worst light and painted a picture of a royal family so cold and self-absorbed that it was incapable of responding to the plight of a young woman who should have been at its very heart.

Although she was not quoted directly, it was clear Diana collaborated on the book. The Queen was stunned. She was well aware how unhappy her daughter-in-law was, but never imagined Diana would air dirty linen in such a way. In most families, this behavior would have meant the immediate end of the marriage. lnstead, the Queen ordered a six-month cooling-off period. Charles agreed. So did Diana. For all her grievances, the Princess realized what life would be like if she were cast out of the royal family altogether.

Through all of this, Diana presented a captivating image of beauty and compassion. The gossip magazines might print acres of stories about arguments and illicit affairs, but Diana carried on with her appointments, and the public never stopped adoring her. She also had a genuine sympathy for the ill and troubled. In a royal family desperately in need of a humane face, she was the only one who could kneel to comfort a sick child and look as if she meant it.

As much as anyone, Elizabeth saw the good that Diana could do for the monarchy. Yet as the Princess increasingly went her own way—for instance, when she gave a TV interview and questioned whether Charles had the moral character to be king—she became more and more of a liability. Charles and Diana had separated late in 1992; they were divorced in August 1996. And barely a year later, she was dead.

40 PHOTOS
Princess Diana's funeral
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Princess Diana's funeral
Prince William (left) and Prince Harry, the sons of Diana, Princess of Wales, bow their heads as their mother's coffin is taken out of Westminster Abbey following her funeral service. The princess was killed in a car crash in Paris. (Photo by Adam Butler - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Prince of Wales, Prince William and Prince Harry wait outside Westminster Abbey for Diana, the Princess of Wales' coffin to enter the Abbey. (Photo by Adam Butler - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
(From left) Prince Philip, Prince William, Earl Spencer, Diana's brother, Prince Harry, and Prince Charles walk together behind the carriage carrying the casket of Princess Diana in London on its way to the funeral at Westminster Abbey, 06 September. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / STF (Photo credit should read STF/AFP/Getty Images)
Sir Elton John signing 'Candle In The Wind' at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales on September 6, 1997. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 6: Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince William, and Prince Harry, join the Funeral Procession, at Diana Princess of Wales's Funeral, at St James Palace, for the journey to Westminster Abbey, London, on September 6, 1997, in London, England. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 6: ( l to r ), The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William, Earl Spencer, Prince Harry, and Charles, Prince of Wales join the Funeral Procession, at Diana Princess of Wales's Funeral, at St James Palace, for the journey to Westminster Abbey, London, on September 6, 1997, in London, England. (Photo by Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images)
Hollywood star Tom Cruise (left) and his wife, actress, Nicole Kidman arrive at the funeral service for Diana, Princess of Wales with film director Steven Spielberg at Westminster Abbey. (Photo by Adam Butler - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William, Earl Spencer, Prince Harry and the Prince of Wales follow the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales in September 1997. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
383207 02: Prince Charles, Right, Accepts Some Flowers From A Well-Wisher After He And His Sons Prince William, And Prince Harry, Left, Arrived At Kensington Palace To View Some Of The Flowers And Mementos Left In Memory Of Their Mother Princess Diana In London, Friday, Sept. 5, 1997. The Funeral For Princess Diana, Who Was Killed In A Car Crash In Paris Aug. 31, Will Be On Saturday At Westminster Abbey. (Photo By David Brauchli/Getty Images)
The public funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, London, UK, 6th September 1997, Queen Elizabeth II, 6th September 1997. (Photo by John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty Images)
The public funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, London, UK, 6th September 1997, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Prince William, 6th September 1997. (Photo by John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty Images)
The public funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, London, UK, 6th September 1997, Tributes to the late Princess from the public, 6th September 1997. (Photo by John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty Images)
The son of Diana, Prince William (R), and her brother Earl Spencer wait in front of Westminster Abbey in London to attend the funeral ceremony of the Princess of Wales 06 September. WPA POOL / AFP PHOTO / AFP WPA POOL / JOEL ROBINE (Photo credit should read JOEL ROBINE/AFP/Getty Images)
The public funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, London, UK, 6th September 1997, Tributes to the late Princess from the public outside Kensington Palace, 6th September 1997. (Photo by John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty Images)
The public funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, London, UK, 6th September 1997, Mourners on the procession route, 6th September 1997. (Photo by John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty Images)
The public funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, London, UK, 6th September 1997, Tributes to the late Princess from the public, 6th September 1997. (Photo by John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty Images)
The public funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, London, UK, 6th September 1997, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and Prince Harry, 6th September 1997. (Photo by John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty Images)
Millions of flowers blanket the ground in front of London's Kensington Palace, home of Diana, Princess of Wales, Sunday Sept. 7, 1997. Diana was buried Saturday as Britain bid a massive goodbye, closing a week of shock, sorrow, regret and recriminations. (Photo by David Brauchli)
The public funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, London, UK, 6th September 1997, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Prince Harry, Earl Spencer and Prince William, 6th September 1997. (Photo by John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty Images)
The funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales at Westminster Abbey, London. 6th September 1997. (Photo by Mike Maloney/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
The funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales at Westminster Abbey, London. Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and Prince Andrew, Duke of York with their two daughters Eugenie and Beatrice. 6th September 1997. (Photo by Mike Maloney/Mirrorpix/Getty Images)
The Funeral takes place of Diana, Princess of Wales. (L-R) The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William, Earl Spencer, Prince Harry and the Prince of Wales follow the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales, to Westminster Abbey for her funeral service. (Photo by Adam Butler - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Princess Royal, her husband Captain Tim Laurence (2nd left), her son Peter Phillips (2nd right) and Prince Edward leave Westminster Abbey following the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. (Photo by Adam Butler - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Three young women weep during the funeral procession of Diana, Princess of Wales, in London 06 September.PENNY/AFP POOL (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, London, 6th September 1997 Express picture by John Downing Diana's family in Westminster Abbey (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
3-year-old Sam Swinney reflects the nation's sombre mood today (Saturday) as people gather on the Redheugh Bridge in Newcastle to pay their respects to Diana, Princess of Wales whose funeral was taking place at Westminster Abbey in London this morning. Photo OWEN HUMPHREYS/PA (Photo by Owen Humphreys - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
The coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales is carried by the bearer party of Welsh Guardsmen as it arrives at Westminster Abbey, for her funeral today (Saturday). (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Earl Spencer (4th left) Prince William, Prince Harry and The Prince of Wales (far right) watch the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales, leave Westminster Abbey following her funeral. 23/08/02 : Britons rate the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, as the most significant event in the nation's history over the last 100 years, according to a survey published. More than 1,000 people were asked to take part in the poll, undertaken on behalf of the History Channel, with the death of Diana voted ahead of the outbreak of World War II and the winning of women's suffrage. (Photo by Sean Dempsey - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
(L-R) The Prince of Wales, Prince Harry, Earl Spencer, Prince William and the Duke of Edinburgh watch the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales, leave Westminster Abbey this afternoon (Saturday) following her funeral service. (Photo by Fiona Hanson - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM: Prince Charles (R), former husband of Diana, their two sons, Harry (C) and William follow the hearse in a Limousine as the coffin of Princess of Wales, makes its way from Saint James's Palace to Kensington Palace, Diana's former home, 05 September in London on the eve of her funeral. Some 2 million people are expected to line the route of the funeral procession. (Photo credit should read THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) The area around Kensington Palace, covered with flowers shows the great popularity of Diana. (Photo by Jon Jones/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)
Earl Charles Spencer, the younger brother of Princess Diana, stands with Prince William, Prince Harry, and Prince Charles at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, only seven days after she was killed in an automobile accident in Paris. At least a million people lined the streets of central London to watch the procession with Diana's coffin from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey. She was buried at Althorp House, the Spencer family home in Northamptonshire. (Photo by Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
Guardsmen of the Prince of Wales Company of the Welsh Guards put Diana's casket in a hearse after the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, only seven days after she was killed in an automobile accident in Paris. The coffin was draped with the Royal Standard, the monarchy's flag, and topped with three wreaths, from Diana's sons and her brother. The Princess was buried at Althorp House, the Spencer family home in Northamptonshire. (Photo by Peter Turnley/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)
Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry and Earl of Althorp wait for Diana, the Princess of Wales' funeral cortege to arrive at St James' Palace. test 2 (Photo by David Giles - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Former husband of Diana Prince Charles (L) and their two sons Harry (C) and William wait in front of the Westminster Abbey in London after the funeral ceremony of Princess of Wales 06 September. WPA POOL (Photo credit should read JOEL ROBINE/AFP/Getty Images)
BALMORAL - SEPTEMBER: Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, holds the hand of Prince Harry as they view bouquets of flowers left in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales in September 1997 in Balmoral, Scotland. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/WireImage)
LONDON- SEPTEMBER 6: (FILE PHOTO) Prince Harry stands outside Westminster Abbey at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales on September 6, 1997 in London, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
LONDON - SEPTEMBER 5: (FILE PHOTO) The Prince of Wales, Prince William and Prince Harry look at floral tributes to Diana, Princess of Wales outside Kensington Palace on September 5, 1997 in London, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)
383207 02: Prince Charles, Right, Accepts Some Flowers From A Well-Wisher After He And His Sons Prince William, And Prince Harry, Left, Arrived At Kensington Palace To View Some Of The Flowers And Mementos Left In Memory Of Their Mother Princess Diana In London, Friday, Sept. 5, 1997. The Funeral For Princess Diana, Who Was Killed In A Car Crash In Paris Aug. 31, Will Be On Saturday At Westminster Abbey. (Photo By David Brauchli/Getty Images)
Prince William arriving at Aberdeen Airport to board a plane for London along with Prince Harry and his father, the Prince of Wales today (Friday). The Princes will attend the funeral of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales at Westminster Abbey tomorrow. (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
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In the end, Diana was the one person the Queen never learned to handle. She reacted badly to criticism—any rebuke by the Queen was taken as an instance of the family ganging up on her. Neither patience nor the silent, steely-eyed displeasure Elizabeth had learned to deploy with such withering effect made any impression on Diana. Yet by doing nothing, and by allowing Diana to disregard the constraints of convention that keep the monarchy in place, the Queen unwittingly allowed the Princess to run out of control. If you didn’t know that, then you’ll also be surprised by these fascinating facts—and a few scandals!—about Queen Elizabeth.

From the perspective of today, marrying into the House of Windsor is certainly no fairy tale; Charles, Princess Anne, and Prince Andrew have all gone through divorce. Looking back on the litter of her children’s broken marriages, the Queen would come to wonder if she had failed in her duty as a mother. Or, as she once asked of a lady-in-waiting, “Where did we go wrong?”

*Adapted from “The Queen and Di: The Untold Story.” Copyright 2000 by Ingrid Seward. Published at $25.95 by Arcade Publishing, Inc., 141 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010

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