Popular Love Story
Prince Charles met Lady Diana Spencer when she was sixteen, in the middle of a ploughed field in 1977, when she had gone home for the weekend, during school holidays. His first impression about her was that she was 'full of fun' and thought her 'pretty amazing'! Diana was a guest at her elder sister, Lady Sarah's home. The couple's first meeting went down in history as a low-key beginning, which later became the most popular love story of the 1980s.
Lady Diana Spencer was born to Earl Spencer, the Queen's personal attendant, who, looked after her horses, and Frances, daughter of one of the Queen Mother's ladies-in-waiting. Diana was a home-loving, kind-hearted girl, who loved children and animals, but appeared to be self-reliant and confident of what she wanted. At the age of 19 she started working in a London kindergarten at Victoria and shared a flat with a friend in Kensington.
The British press had been 'marrying off' Prince Charles, to every eligible girl who caught his eye, for years, while his friendship with Lady Diana Spencer had developed into love by the time news hawks spotted the two together on the Balmoral riverbanks. As the situation developed both of them had to demeanour their romance from the public stare, until the official announcement was released from the Buckingham Palace.
When Diana was about to go to Australia with her mother on a holiday, Prince Charles proposed to her, giving her adequate time to ponder over it, but she had already decided what she wanted; despite the age gap of 13 years. Prince Charles had observed formal tradition of seeking permission to marry Diana from her father, Earl Spencer. Lady Diana's life changed immediately and drastically; she was transferred to a suite at Buckingham Palace as the future Princess of Wales. From that day onwards her independently lived life of a bachelor girl ended; and wherever she went, thereafter, the Police escorted her.
The wedding at St. Paul's Cathedral on 29 July 1981 was a royal occasion on a scale never seen before, surpassing even the Queen's coronation ceremony! Millions of people the world over watched, as they made their vows at a 'fairy-tale' wedding and how the royal couple kissed in full public view on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. A romantic honeymoon followed on a Mediterranean cruise, with ten weeks break at Balmoral subsequently, making a relaxing start to their married life.
Seemingly, the Queen was said to be troubled by the persistent media attention on Princess Diana when all other royal businesses diminished by comparison. Rumours were afloat in the press about a personal rift between the Queen and her new daughter-in-law exposing to what extent the Queen was interested in Diana - for her personal qualities; but not just as the wife of the heir to the throne.
At one stage the Queen instructed her press secretary to invite all Fleet Street editors to a meeting and appealed to them in an almost unprecedented move to restrain in their coverage of Princess Diana, which only worked temporarily, while Princess Diana resented any shift of focus away from her.
On 21 June 1982, Princess Diana gave birth to Prince William Arthur Philip Louis. His christening was scheduled on the Queen Mother's 82nd birthday, apparently, to give more prominence to the old Queen rather than to the christening of the new royal baby. Princess Diana had later complained how she felt 'totally excluded'.
When Prince William celebrated his first birthday speculation was rife once again in the press to find out whether the royal household was ready to have the next addition. By this time the shy Princess Diana had become skillful in handling the media without a blush. If and when an inquisitive pressman posed such a question as to whether she was pregnant, she had no qualms about giving a direct and perplexing answer saying, 'that's a personal question' or make a joke and smile in a charming way.
A difficult second pregnancy, two years later, made the Princess fatigued, stressed and thoroughly miserable. Prince Henry Charles Albert David was born on September 15, 1984, at St. Mary's Hospital in West London. He soon came to be known as 'Harry', and was later nicknamed 'the Happy Prince'
Princess Diana's relaxed, informal style in public meant her popularity was unparalleled. ‘The Queen’ would reproach her for not seeing how much strain this has put on the Wales's marriage. Day after day, the focus of millions all over the world was on the Prince and Princess of Wales, with their young and lovable family. The pressmen and paparazzi photographers had a heyday encroaching on their privacy, be it on a sea beach in swim wear, during overseas holidays when the couple mingled with the general public in a more relax manner, Princess fondling a young African child, shaking hands with a HIV patient in a hospital ward, or walking bravely on areas where dangerous landmines had been buried in war zones. All such colourful photographs published in newspapers and glossy magazines helped to increase the sale of newspapers and magazines. The Princess of Wales managed to win the hearts of the people from nations all over the world until finally she became known as 'Princess Di'.
Day after day, Princess Diana became unhappy within the walls of Buckingham Palace. The depth of her unhappiness was bared when she collaborated with journalist, Andrew Morton, in a book where she gave off-the record interviews and authorized her friends and family to speak to the author of the book.
Princess Diana stood beside the Queen on the Palace balcony at Buckingham Palace after the Trooping the Colour, as if nothing was amiss; a week after the book was released publicly. But the disguise had to blow up when Prince Philip ignored her in full view of everyone in the Royal Enclosure. The Queen allowed a cooling off period to let tempers down for six months, but critics always maintained that the Queen failed to understand why the Princess behaved in such an unpredictable and provocative manner.
Princess Diana did not reject any indictment when she started hinting ominously about the Palace courtiers' scheming to smear her by using the secret services to eavesdrop on her private conversations. The Queen dismissed this as 'utter nonsense', and did not allow the family to discuss the 'Charles and Diana situation' openly. But the breakdown of the royal marriage became imminent when on 9 December 1992, when the Queen was at Sandringham, Prime Minister John Major announced at the House of Commons that "with regret, the Prince and Princess of Wales have decided to separate". One of the senior members of staff apparently had approached the Queen to offer condolences upon hearing the announcement in Parliament, but the Queen apparently had replied briskly: 'I think you will find it's all for the best 'and walked out.
In August 1996, The Queen Elizabeth urged the couple to divorce and the Prince and Princess of Wales reached a final agreement. In exchange for a generous divorce settlement, Princess Diana agreed to relinquish her title of 'Her Royal Highness' and any claims to the British throne, whist she retained her apartments at Kensington Palace.
Queen of the People
Following the divorce, Princess Diana was seen as becoming a 'Queen in peoples' hearts. On 31 August 1997, she was killed in a serious motorcar accident in Paris, along with her companion Dodi Fayed. Speculation was rife about her death, as the French Police concluded that the deaths were due to the driver of the car, in which she travelled, was heavily intoxicated and accident was caused while trying to escape paparazzi photographers who consistently trailed behind Princess Diana during any public outing. Many people started to condemn the Royal family vociferously, especially the Queen, for staying in Balmoral at the time of such a tragic death, instead of returning to London, and for refusing to fly a flag at half-mast over Buckingham Palace.
The Queen was bewildered by these criticisms, but it is the custom and a protocol to hoist the flag only when the Queen is in residence in a palace.