Princess Diana was – and still is – one of the most famous and influential figures of all time, and has continued to interest and inspire the world ever since her untimely death in 1997.
While the tragedy of her passing at the age of just 36 is what often dominates conversation, the late Princess of Wales undoubtedly led an incredibly full and fascinating life before her death, meaning there's plenty to know about the former royal.
From her upper-class childhood to the hobbies she was most passionate about, and the reality of her life within the royal family, here are some of the most interesting facts about Princess Diana that you may not know.
32 interesting facts about Princess Diana
Diana’s grandmothers had a working role within the royal family
The Spencers have always had a close connection to the royal family, and two of Princess Diana’s direct descendants actually had a working role within the royal household years before Diana was even born.
Her grandmothers, Cynthia Spencer, Countess Spencer, and Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy, worked for many years as ladies-in-waiting to none other than Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, the woman who would go on to become Diana’s grandmother-in-law. Both women remained in their positions until the death of the Queen Mother in 2002.
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She is credited with blasting the stigma associated with AIDS
Princess Diana did a huge amount of important work in her lifetime, but she is most often credited with being absolutely instrumental in undoing the stigma associated with AIDS – at a time when it was most needed.
At the height of the AIDS crisis in 1978, Diana regularly visited patients living with the illness. And images of her hugging and shaking hands with patients were revolutionary in reminding people that AIDS was not contagious via typical social conduct, and in reducing the stigma of the illness for people living with it.
At the time, during a visit to one hospital, she said, "HIV does not make people dangerous to know. You can shake their hands and give them a hug. Heaven knows they need it. What's more, you can share their homes, their workplaces, and their playgrounds and toys."
Speaking about Diana’s impact, the chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, Ian Green, said in 2021, "With every gloveless handshake and every hug, she helped to challenge the hysteria and fear which was rife at the time. I truly believe we wouldn’t be where we are today without her.
"[And] for people living with HIV, her comments marked the start of her monumental efforts to see them treated with dignity, respect, and compassion. Of course, it didn’t change everything overnight and abhorrent stigma and discrimination remain today, but the Princess’s impact was felt worldwide."
Diana aspired to this career before becoming a royal
Perhaps one of the greatest loves of Diana’s life was her love of ballet, which she first got into as a young girl. It’s reported that Diana adored both ballet and tap when she was a child, and took lessons throughout her childhood.
Rumour has it that Diana was even determined to become a professional ballet dancer, but that she was eventually deemed to be too tall at 5ft 10in.
That didn’t stop her from supporting the cause she loved during her time as a royal, however – she was royal patron of the English National Ballet for years.
She struggled at school
Diana was originally home-schooled by a governess, before joining an all-girls boarding school later in life. She then joined West Heath Girls’ School in Kent, which her older sisters also attended.
Unfortunately, the future royal didn’t find school easy, reportedly struggling academically. In fact, she is said to have failed her O-Levels twice (a 16+ examination), and eventually ended up dropping out of school. Unlike her eldest son Prince William, she did not attend college or university, having joined the royal family at the age of 20, and soon after, becoming a working royal.
She was a huge fan of one 80s band
Though the late Princess likely had plenty of different musical preferences, as far as the public is aware, her favourite band was Duran Duran – something the band’s frontman Simon Le Bon himself revealed at her 2006 memorial concert.
Speaking on stage, he shared, "We are honoured that she always referred to Duran Duran as her favourite band, as she was certainly our favourite Princess."
The Princess of Wales met the band a few times throughout her life, and her love for them was even documented in series 4 of The Crown, where she is seen rollerblading through Buckingham Palace whilst listening to one of their biggest hits, Girls On Film.
Diana shared a significant friendship with a revered public figure
The Princess of Wales was known to be friendly with plenty of famous figures, but you may not know that she also shared a close relationship with one of the most famous humanitarians in history, Mother Teresa.
The pair first met in 1992 in Rome, spending an afternoon together praying and chatting. They reunited (publicly) in New York in 1997, just a few months before Diana’s death. Commenting on Diana’s death in August 1997, Mother Teresa shared a public statement to reporters, saying, "Diana was extremely sympathetic to poor people – and very lively, and homely, too. All the sisters and I are praying for her and for all members of her family.
"[She was a] very good friend, in love with the poor, a very good wife, a very good mother. She was very concerned for the poor. She was very anxious to do something for them. That is why she was close to me."
It’s also claimed that Diana was buried with a set of rosary beads in her hands, given to her from Mother Teresa.
She hired a voice coach to help with public speaking
Shortly after her famous Panorama interview with Martin Bashir in 1995, Diana took it upon herself to hire a voice coach, Stewart Pearce, to help her present a more confident image during her public duties.
The pair worked together until her death in 1997, and Stewart had rarely spoken about their relationship, until 2021, when he wrote a book called Diana: The Voice of Change, sharing details about his time with the Princess.
Speaking to Town & Country about Diana’s aims, he said, "She sought me out after that Panorama interview because she looked at herself on-screen and realised that she wasn't appearing to be as powerful as she wanted to be. She felt quite submissive.
"She wanted to try and find a way of really balancing her private self with her public persona so that there is no change between the two – so she could stand on a platform and render forth whatever she needed to say, but feel good about it, to feel relaxed, to feel confident, to feel empowered, and to feel harmony," he said.
Diana spilt something on her dress right before her wedding
We can all forgive a royal bride for feeling more than a little nervous before her wedding, so it comes as no surprise that Diana experienced an unfortunate moment on the morning of her July 1981 wedding to Prince Charles.
It’s reported that when Diana went to spritz on some perfume at Clarence House, before her wedding, she accidentally ended up spilling some on her dress, causing a visible stain on the gown. In Rosalind Coward’s book Diana: The Portrait, the late Princess’ make-up artist Barbara Daly explained that Diana had chosen the floral Quelques Fleurs perfume for her big day, which eventually spilt on her dress.
Fortunately, she came up with a deft solution to the problem and simply placed her hand over the stain as she walked up the aisle, making it look as if she was just holding her dress.
She was the first royal bride to have a job before getting married
Despite the Spencer family’s wealth, Diana actually worked multiple jobs before marrying Charles at the age of 20. She was famously working part-time as a nursery assistant in London when the former couple met.
Alongside her role at the nursery, she also worked three days a week as a private nanny to an American family in London. It's said that she handed her notice in just a couple of months before walking down the aisle to become the Princess of Wales. In her capacity as a private nanny, she looked after the couple’s toddler, Patrick Robertson, performing typical household duties such as washing up, picking up toys, and feeding and playing with Patrick.
She made a big work change after her divorce
When Diana and Charles divorced in 1996, her role as a royal changed, given that she was technically no longer an official working member of the family.
As such, in July 1996, she quit her roles as patron or president to over 100 organisations, including her connections to military units. In total, she slimmed down her links with her chosen causes to just six; she remained as patron of Centrepoint (of which her son William is now patron), the National Aids Trust, Great Ormond Street, the English National Ballet, Leprosy Mission, and the Royal Marsden Hospital, until her death in 1997.
In a letter written to the chairman of the Royal New Zealand Foundation for The Blind and published by The Telegraph, Diana explained, "As I seek to re-organise my life it will not be possible for me to provide you with the right level of commitment and I feel that there may be someone else better suited to support you in all that you do."
Prince William urged her to auction off her royal wardrobe
Back in 1997, just months before she passed away, Diana auctioned off 79 of her royal dresses and ball gowns, to raise money for AIDS and cancer charities. And it’s reported that one of her sons encouraged her to do so.
Speaking in a Channel 5 documentary, Diana’s friend Debbie Frank claimed, "The idea of auctioning the dresses came from William. She told me so herself and she was so proud of him for coming up with that idea."
In a rare interview with Vanity Fair at the time, Diana confessed, "Yes, of course it is a wrench to let go of these beautiful dresses. However, I am extremely happy that others can now share the joy that I had wearing them."
It’s reported that the auction raised almost £4 million. And while Diana was keen to raise funds for causes she was passionate about, the auction of her royal wardrobe was also said to be a way for her to move beyond her royal life, following her divorce.
Her childhood was unhappy in parts
Princess Diana’s parents separated when she was just seven years old in 1968 – and following a custody battle, her mother, Frances Ruth Shand Kydd, left the family home that same year, according to Diana's younger brother.
In a 2020 interview in The Sunday Times, her brother Earl Charles Spencer shared of their childhood, "Diana and I had two older sisters who were away at school, so she and I were very much in it together and I did talk to her about it.
"Our father was a quiet and constant source of love, but our mother wasn’t cut out for maternity. Not her fault, she couldn’t do it. She was in love with someone else – infatuated, really."
In the transcript of Princess Diana’s recordings for the Andrew Morton book, Diana, Her True Story, released in 1991, Diana herself confessed that her childhood, though outwardly privileged, was very difficult emotionally. Speaking about her parents' divorce, Diana reportedly said, "It was a very unhappy childhood. Always seeing our mum crying. Daddy never spoke to us about it – we could never ask questions. Very unstable, the whole thing."
Diana attended a ‘finishing school’ abroad
Princess Diana was given a typically aristocratic upbringing, and as such, attended finishing school from the age of 16-17, an experience designed to provide her with the social skills required to live as a woman in the upper echelons of society.
She attended a finishing school in Switzerland, the Institut Alpin Videmanette, where she was taught things like French, dressmaking, skiing and cooking. The school however shut down in 1991.
She was living in a flatshare in London when she got engaged
Between the years of 1979 and 1981, Diana Spencer lived in a three-bedroom apartment in Coleherne Court, in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea. She bought the apartment with £50,000 she had inherited from her American great-grandmother – and like many young people living in the capital, went on to share the home with three others.
She charged friends of hers £18 a week to live in the apartment, and is said to have spent several happy years in her flat-share. She moved out only when she married Prince Charles in 1981. After their wedding, Diana moved straight into Kensington Palace, where the pair lived together for a time, before jointly occupying Highgrove House in Tetbury and Clarence House in London.
She picked out her own engagement ring
Diana bucked tradition when it came to her engagement to Charles. She picked her own engagement ring by royal jeweller Garrard, and unconventionally for a royal bride, the now world-famous sapphire ring was not custom made.
Instead, the Princess' engagement ring was a piece that was readily available for anyone to buy at the time – though for the princely sum of £47,000.
Reportedly, many members of the royal family were not happy that Diana had picked a ring that was also accessible to members of the public. The ring now however is one-of-a-kind – and though priceless to its new owner, Catherine, Princess of Wales – is estimated to be worth around £400,000.
She was fiercely independent when parenting Harry and William
While many royal children are brought up in a similar way, Diana was famously strict about parenting her sons Prince William and Prince Harry in her own way.
She typically resisted too much influence from the royal family, and was instead clear on parenting her boys as she saw fit – for example, doing the school run herself whenever she could, choosing her own royal nanny, and selecting their schools and clothing herself.
In her famous 1995 Panorama interview with Martin Bashir, Diana also shared that she was making a point to introduce her sons to experiences that royal children don’t usually have.
She explained, "Well, with William and Harry, for instance, I take them round homelessness projects, I've taken William and Harry to people dying of AIDS – albeit I told them it was cancer – I've taken the children to all sorts of areas where I'm not sure anyone of that age in this family has been before.
"I want them to have an understanding of people's emotions, people's insecurities, people's distress, and people's hopes and dreams," Diana said.
She and Charles were closest during one of her pregnancies
In the 1992 book by Andrew Morton, Diana: Her True Story, the Princess revealed to the royal biographer that she and Charles were perhaps at their closest when she was pregnant with Prince Harry.
Though she and Andrew denied her involvement in the book at the time, following her death, Morton confirmed that she did indeed contribute to it. At the time, she is quoted as having said, "Between William and Harry being born it is total darkness. I can't remember much, I've blotted it out, it was such pain.
"However, Harry appeared by a miracle. We [Charles and Diana] were very, very close to each other the six weeks before Harry was born, the closest we've ever, ever been and ever will be."
Sadly, she explained that this didn't last long. "Then suddenly as Harry was born it just went bang, our marriage, the whole thing went down the drain."
She grew up alongside the royal family
Though Princess Diana wasn’t a royal when she met and married King Charles (then Prince Charles), she actually grew up in very close proximity to the British royal family. She and her parents and siblings lived on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk – which is where the royals famously spend Christmas every year, at Sandringham House.
The Spencer family leased out Park House, a home within the estate, from the royals directly. The property is situated around a mile from the main Sandringham House, and it was also where Diana’s mother, Frances Ruth Shand Kydd was born.
Diana lived there for the first 14 years of her life, and is said to have spent lots of time with Prince Edward and Prince Andrew, with reports stating that the royal boys would often came to play in the Park House pool with Diana and her siblings.
She was awarded a huge amount in her divorce proceedings
Princess Diana and Charles’ divorce was finalised in August 1996, just a year before she passed away. Despite the sadness over the end of their marriage, Diana received a healthy settlement after her separation from the (then) future King.
According to reports, she was awarded a lump sum of around £17 million – which in today’s terms is equivalent to about £35 million – as well as £400,000 per year to run and maintain her private office and life. During the divorce, both parties also signed an agreement stating that they wouldn’t share any further private details of their marriage or their divorce.
Diana was the first royal to give birth to a future monarch in hospital
Prior to Diana’s generation, the expected protocol for royal women was to give birth at home – Queen Elizabeth II for example, had all of her children in either Buckingham Palace or Clarence House.
Diana, however, was the first royal to give birth to a future monarch in hospital, when she and Charles welcomed Prince William on 21st June 1982 at St. Mary’s Hospital in London. She wasn’t however, the first royal to ever give birth in a hospital – Princess Anne actually takes that crown, having given birth to Peter Phillips at the same hospital in November 1977.
She reportedly confronted Charles and Camilla at a party
Archived recordings of Princess Diana speaking for Andrew Morton’s book, Diana: Her True Story, reportedly indicate that the late royal did, at one point during her marriage, confront both Charles and Camilla at a party, regarding their affair.
The recordings are said to reveal that Diana addressed Camilla directly, saying, "I'd just like you to know that I know exactly what is going on." Then, she is said to have recalled Camilla defending herself, saying that Diana could have "all the men in the world, and what more could she want?”
However, Diana is then said to have replied with, "I want my husband."
She had an unusual pre-workout breakfast
While many people typically favour protein before the gym, in the form of a shake or eggs, the late Princess of Wales is said to have enjoyed something slightly more unusual before heading off for her regular workouts, according to her former chef Darren McGrady.
In a 2021 interview with Insider, he explained that before exercising, she would always ask for "a tin of Heinz baked beans, a pink grapefruit, a cup of coffee, and a glass of orange juice.” He also shared that this was usually her go-to order around three times a week.
She left out a traditional line during her wedding vows
Ever the royal rule-breaker, Princess Diana made a decidedly modern decision at her 1981 wedding, when she opted to remove the words ‘obey’ from her vows to Charles.
Tradition at the time dictated that when marrying in a church, the woman would say ‘to love, to cherish and to obey’, as part of her vows. However, Diana requested for the ‘obey’ part of the vow to be taken out, a request that was permitted. Instead, she simply promised ‘to love and to cherish’ King Charles.
Diana's daughter-in-law Catherine also left out the 'obey' section of the vows when she married Prince William.
She eventually refused security from the royal family
Following her divorce from the then-Prince of Wales in 1996, Diana continued to be offered royal protection from the Metropolitan Police.
It's claimed that this is something she was happy to keep when she was travelling with her sons Prince William and Prince Harry, but she reportedly refused it when travelling alone, in order to keep some separation between herself and the royal family.
As such, in the final years of her life, she mostly used police protection when out at public events, rather than the royal protection that the rest of the royal family used.
She had an older brother who sadly passed away
It's well known that Diana has three siblings: Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Charles Spencer, and Lady Jane Fellowes. But what is perhaps less known, is that the four Spencer siblings did, at one point, have another brother, who sadly passed away just hours after he was born.
John was the third child born to Diana’s parents Frances and John, in January 1960, a year before Diana herself was born. Of course, this means that Diana and her younger brother Charles (born in 1964) never got to meet their older brother.
Diana’s brother Charles paid a rare tribute to their late sibling on Instagram in 2022, sharing an image of his gravestone, which he had recently cleaned up. Charles wrote, "Looking as it should, now… I never knew my older brother, John, and live 100 miles from his grave - but, seeing it last summer, realised serious action was required. Thank you, BB, for making it look as it should."
She had an important title before meeting Charles
Diana may have married into royalty, but she was already as close as it gets before meeting her future husband. Her family were (and are) British nobility, meaning that when she was born, she was styled as ‘The Honourable Diana Frances Spencer’.
And when she was 14 years old, she also officially became Lady Diana. In 1975, her father John inherited his Earldom, becoming the Viscount of Althorp when Diana’s grandfather Albert Spencer passed away. So even if Diana had never married Charles and become a member of the royal family, she would still have been referred to as Lady Diana.
Diana and Charles met just a handful of times before getting engaged
Charles and Diana had a pretty short courtship before getting engaged, with Diana confessing in tapes with her voice coach – which aired on the documentary Diana: In Her Own Words – that they only ever met 13 times face-to-face before the now-King got down on one knee.
The former royal couple first met in 1977, when Diana was just 16 years old, and Charles was 29; at which point, Charles was dating her sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale.
It wasn’t until 1980 that the pair spent some proper time together during a weekend in the country, and they entered into a romantic relationship. Soon after this, Charles invited Diana to spend the weekend with him on the royal yacht Britannia, and he proposed in February 1981 after receiving his family’s approval. They married at St. Paul’s Cathedral later that year.
Her favourite designer created the dress she was laid to rest in
After Diana’s tragic and untimely death at the age of 36 in 1997, the Princess’s funeral was held at Westminster Abbey, in front of her family and friends and heartbroken crowds of fans. She was then laid to rest at the Spencer family's Althorp Estate in Northampton, which is where her brother Charles Spencer also currently lives.
Diana was laid to rest in a dress made by one of her most loved fashion designers, Catherine Walker. The black woollen dress was actually something that Diana herself had ordered from Catherine weeks prior to her death. Over her lifetime, it’s reported that Catherine created over 1,000 outfits for the late Princess.
She had an unusual nickname growing up
Members of the royal family have plenty of nicknames for one another, and it's said that Diana had a rather significant one whilst growing up, before officially joining the monarchy.
Her former chef Darren McGrady shared that Diana was often called ‘Duch’ by her family as a child, because, "when she was younger she always acted like a Duchess." We’d say that’s pretty fitting!
The nickname is said to have continued into adulthood too. Darren explained, "I remember Sandringham one Christmas. She came into the kitchen with Sarah Ferguson, and Fergie called her 'Duch'."
There was some discussion about allowing her to keep her ‘HRH’ title
After Charles’ and Diana’s 1996 divorce, there was said to be plenty of discussion over whether or not Diana should be able to keep the ‘Her Royal Highness’ styling, which she had gained after marrying Prince Charles in 1981.
According to reports, the Queen was keen to allow Diana to retain her HRH title as the mother of a future King. However, it’s said that Charles was against it, and was keen for it to be removed given their separation. Eventually, it was decided that she would not be allowed to be called Her Royal Highness, but would be allowed to keep her other royal titles – meaning she was to be referred to as Diana, Princess of Wales.
She grew up in a 100,000 sq ft home
At the age of 14, Diana’s father moved the entire Spencer family to the majestic Althorp House in Nottinghamshire, after spending the first decade of her life living on the Sandringham Estate.
The family moved to Althorp because Diana’s grandfather had passed away, leaving her father as Viscount Althorp, which meant that they were able to move into the ancestral home. And it was certainly a luxury upbringing; Althorp House sits on around 13,000 acres, and the home itself is around 100,000 square feet. Princess Diana is now buried within the grounds of the home, on a small island in the middle of the estate's Oval Lake.
She had some very famous distant relatives
Princess Diana comes from an aristocratic, noble family that dates back years (it's said that the House of Spencer was established in the early 1500s), which means that aside from her royal connections, Diana also has some very famous distant relatives!
According to reports, Diana and actress Audrey Hepburn were distant cousins on the Spencer side – the actress's mother descended from Dutch nobility, which is where the connection to Diana comes in.
It's also reported that Diana and Sir Winston Churchill were distant cousins too, with their families being connected a long way down their lineage.