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Princess Diana

A privileged youth, a tragic death

by David Johnson
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Biographies of the Royal Family

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The tragic death of Princess Diana in a Paris car crash on August 31, 1997, generated an intense outpouring of grief. Millions of people said they identified with her quest for happiness and her sense of altruism. In her memory, the Diana, Princess of Wales' Memorial Playground opened in June 2000 in London. That was one of the many tributes to the beloved princess.

A Privileged Youth

Diana was descended from the Stuart kings, and her family, the Spencers, is one of the more illustrious in England. They have lived at Althorp, the family estate, since 1508.

Born on July 1, 1961, Diana had two older sisters, Sarah and Jane, and a younger brother, Charles. When she was just six years old, her parents went through a bitter divorce. Her father, Earl Spencer later remarried Raine, Countess of Dartmouth.

Diana was educated at Riddlesworth Hall, a preparatory school in Norfolk, and later at the West Heath school. She excelled at music, dance, and home economics. She also attended the Institut Alpin Vidermanette in Switzerland.

Diana's Work With AIDS Charities
By publicly shaking hands with an AIDS patient, Diana helped dispel the myth that the disease was spread by simple contact. She remained an active supporter of AIDS charities for the rest of her life. In addition, the Princess of Wales took special interest in the homeless, disabled children, lepers, and the elderly. An enthusiastic ballet fan, Diana also supported the English National Ballet.

A Shy Kindergarten Teacher

In 1979 Diana moved into a London apartment, working as a nanny and then as a kindergarten teacher at the Young England School in the Pimlico section of London.

Her 1981 engagement to Prince Charles captivated the world. The image of the inexperienced, gawky teacher dubbed "Shy Di" meeting her prince charming delighted even the most jaded observers.