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Details About Princess Diana's Life Before She Married Prince Charles

Updated March 9, 2021 89.3k views13 items
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In Season 4 of The Crown, Princess Diana finally joins the royal family. But what was Princess Diana's life like before royalty? Was Lady Diana's early life as tragic as her passing?

Born into wealth and privilege, Diana Spencer had tea parties with Prince Andrew and lived in a 100,000-square-foot mansion. She also dropped out of high school, failed in her dance teacher training, and met Prince Charles while he was dating her older sister. As a teenager, Diana used her family's inheritance to live in London with friends, where she took on a series of odd jobs - many of them working with children. 

Diana's childhood wasn't always happy. Her parents went through a difficult divorce that tore apart the family. Diana also struggled to find her purpose - a search she solved by taking on charity work and becoming the "people's princess" as a member of the royal family. And Diana's dance training came back when she attended a 1988 Michael Jackson concert and danced to "Dirty Diana."

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  • She Came From A Family Steeped In History

    On July 1, 1961, Diana Frances Spencer was born to an illustrious British family. The Spencers boasted a long history, and Diana's father was an earl, the eighth in their line. 

    Back in the Tudor era, the Spencers made a fortune as wool traders. They received a title in 1603 and an earldom in 1765. By the 18th century, the Spencers helped push for King George to take over after the Stuart line ended.

    Diana even boasted a touch of royal blood. She could trace her lineage back to Charles II (r. 1660-1685) and James II (r. 1685-1688). 

  • Photo: The Crown / Netflix

    She Wasn't A Great Student

    Diana was only 9 years old when her family sent her off to boarding school. After spending three years at Riddlesworth, a boarding school for girls, she attended the West Heath Boarding School. 

    But school wasn't where Diana excelled. She took her O-level exams to graduate high school but failed twice. At 16, Diana dropped out of her boarding school. Her parents sent her to Switzerland, where she attended a finishing school, but Diana quickly left, since she would rather spend time skiing than practicing her French. 

    Since she came from a wealthy background and wasn't expected to attend college, Diana decided to move to London at 18.

  • Her London Flat Was A Coming-Of-Age Gift

    At 18 years old, Diana Spencer lived in her own London flat with three friends. The flat was a gift from her parents, who called it a coming-of-age present

    Diana was wealthy and single, and she'd just received a major inheritance on her 18th birthday. 

    The flat was in Kensington, a posh neighborhood. "It was juvenile, innocent, uncomplicated and above all fun," Diana said. "I laughed my head off there."

    Later, Diana called those two years "the happiest time of her life."

  • Photo: The Crown / Netflix

    Her Dream Was To Become A Dancer

    As a young girl, Diana didn't have academic ambitions. Instead, physical activity motivated the future princess. She loved playing tennis, skiing, and swimming. 

    Diana always dreamed of being a dancer. When she was 17 years old, Diana asked the Vacani Dance School to hire her as a dancing teacher. Diana had tried to pursue dance on her own, but her tall height - she was 5 feet 10 inches - made it hard for her to get jobs as a ballerina.

    Diana trained as a dance teacher for a month. Then she dropped out. Madame Vacani remembers, "She went skiing and never came back. I think that she felt that the training - three years and until 6:30 in the evening - would be too all-embracing. She never gave a reason for not returning."