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Diana, Princess of Wales

By Sue Nieboer Graduate Student, Grand Valley State University

Her Royal Highness Princess Diana became Diana Princess of Wales. As an outcast of the Windsor dynasty, she began to concentrate on the six charities closest to her heart, Centerpoint, a London group that aids homeless youth, the Leprosy Mission, various cancer benefits, AIDS and the International Red Cross (on land mine issues). Freed from her royal ties, Diana was willing to take on a more political cause, to bring about a ban on global land mines and provide funds for those injured by them.

At perhaps the height of her philanthropic work, on Sunday, August 31, 1997, Diana, was killed in a car accident in Paris following a high-speed auto race with paparazzi photographers. She was thirty-six years old. The world mourned the loss of one of the most famous women in the past sixteen years. Elizabeth Dole, American Red Cross president, said after her death,

"The Princess brought the power of her presence, her compassion, and her position to some of the most important humanitarian issues of our time, saving countless lives and bringing comfort to countless others. Her work to bring about a global ban on land mines did more to galvanize world opinion on this issue than any other single individual. Her death is mourned by an entire world. We at the American Red Cross share the grief of the British people in the loss of a national and global treasure. We will miss her special touch and the love that she so effectively expressed through action." (Britannia Internet Magazine 2003)

Worldwide reaction to her death is a testimony that her philanthropic endeavors greatly endeared Diana to the hearts of the world and live on as her legacy. The Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund was established in her honor. She is remembered not only for the money her name could raise, but also for the loving acts she bestowed on so many. She was the "People's Princess."


Diana's philanthropic legacy has inspired many to give to charitable causes. At the time of her death, thousands of Americans responded to raise more than two million dollars in charitable gifts. The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund (U.S.) was created as a way of continuing Diana's work in the United States. To date the fund has contributed $4 million to forty-two youth driven groups (The Diana, Princess U.S. 2003). Diana made philanthropic work glamorous again, especially among the rich and famous.

Not only did she raise millions of dollars for many causes benefiting the sick and the poor, but she also gave of her time and herself. Many examples exist of Diana's personal visits to homeless shelters and leprosy wards, of her physically touching those with HIV/AIDS or sitting with children dying of cancer. She was known to take her sons, Princes William and Harry, with her to poverty-stricken areas of South London to meet homeless people camped in cardboard shelters. She ministered to the children and adult victims of un retrieved landmine's. To outsiders, her life began in a fairytale fashion; yet, she rose to demonstrate to the world that one can overcome adversity and leave a meaningful legacy. She restored a sense of mission and humanity in a stodgy institution, the monarchy of England.

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector Britain's royal family is known for its philanthropic endeavors. It has long been an expectation that the rich give to the poor, and so it is with the royal family. Prince Charles is patron to approximately 200 charities and his mother, the Queen, to 221. Diana transformed a family obligation into a personal calling. "'Her overall effect on charity is probably more significant than any other person's in the 20 th century,' says Stephen Lee, director of Britain's Institute of Charity Fundraising Mangers" (Hubbard et al., 1998). At the time of her death Princess Diana was the official patron of Royal Marsden NHS Trust (a cancer fund); Greater Ormond Street Children's Hospital, London; the National AIDS Trust (an umbrella group for a wide array of AIDS causes in the United Kingdom); The Leprosy Mission; the English National Ballet, and Centerpoint Soho (which provides services to homeless youth). She was also closely associated with the British Red Cross Anti-Personnel Land Mines Campaign. After her death, the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund was established. There are many fundraising efforts contributing to this fund, and many foundations and charities receive gifts from the fund. Key Related Ideas HIV/AIDS : One of Diana's favorite causes was for the research and treatment of HIV/AIDS. Diana understood and saw firsthand, the ravaging effect of this disease. Five people die from AIDS every minute (The Diana, Princess 2003). This work took Diana's philanthropic efforts internationally, something new to the monarchy of Britain. Her philanthropic activities raised millions of dollars for AIDS treatment during her life and after her death. Many other foundations and charities have joined her in the fight. For example, the Elton John Foundation raised over $2.1 million to support those vulnerable to HIV and People magazine established a Diana's Fund for children infected with HIV.

Landmine's : One of the causes the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund champions is the campaign for a worldwide ban on landmine's and medical treatment for those injured by explosives. In the months preceding her death, Diana's most publicized activities were her agitation against land mines. She visited victims of landmine's in countries including Angola, and spoke in favor of the treaty to ban landmine's before the present Labor government took office. This was one of the few political causes Diana supported.

Palliative Care: Palliative care is an approach to caring for people who are dying. It is a holistic way of enabling people to die with dignity and to support the families through the grieving process. A very important component is pain relief and the relief of troubling symptoms. It is also one of the causes championed by the Diana, Princess Wales Fund.



Extract from article written at



Princess Diana Biography

Biography of Diana, Princess of Wales

The Lady Diana Frances Spencer (Diana Frances Mountbatten-Windsor, née Spencer) (July 1, 1961–August 31, 1997) was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales. From her marriage in 1981 to her divorce in 1996 she was styled Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales. After her divorce from the Prince of Wales in 1996 Diana ceased to be the Princess of Wales and also lost the resulting Royal Highness style,[1] She received the title normally used by the ex-wives of peers, Diana, Princess of Wales under Letters Patent issued by Queen Elizabeth II at the time of the divorce.

Diana was often called Princess Diana by the media and the public, but she did not possess such a title and was not personally a princess, a point Diana herself made to people who referred to her as such. Contrary to belief, being Princess of Wales does not make one a princess in one's own right. It merely indicates that one was married to a Prince of Wales. Princesses in their own right only exist by creation of the monarch or by birth. Diana was in fact the first non-princess to be Princess of Wales for centuries. Previous Princesses of Wales, such as Alexandra of Denmark or Mary of Teck were already princesses by birth when they married a Prince of Wales.

An iconic presence on the world stage, Diana, Princess of Wales was noted for her pioneering charity work. Yet her philanthropic endeavors were overshadowed by her scandal-plagued marriage to Prince Charles. Her bitter accusations via friends and biographers of adultery, mental cruelty and emotional distress visited upon her, and her own admission of adultery and numerous love affairs riveted the world for much of the 1990s, spawning books, magazine articles and television movies.

From the time of her engagement to the Prince of Wales in 1981 until her death in a car accident in 1997, the Princess was arguably the most famous woman in the world, the pre-eminent female celebrity of her generation: a fashion icon, an image of feminine beauty, admired and emulated for her high-profile involvement in AIDS issues, and the international campaign against landmine's During her lifetime, she was often referred to as the most photographed person in the world. To her admirers, the Princess of Wales was a role model - after her death, there were even calls for her to be nominated for sainthood - while her detractors saw her life as a cautionary tale of how an obsession with publicity can ultimately destroy an individual.

Early years of Princess Diana

Diana Frances Spencer was born as the youngest daughter of Edward Spencer, Viscount Althorp, and his first wife, Frances Spencer, Viscountess Althorp (formerly the Honourable Frances Burke Roche) at Park House on the Sandringham estate. She was baptized at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Sandringham, by Rt. Rev. Percy Herbert (rector of the church and former Bishop of Norwich and Blackburn); her godparents included John Floyd (the chairman of Christie's) and Mary Colman (a niece of the Queen Mother). Partially American in ancestry — a great-grandmother was the American heiress Frances Work - she was also a descendant of King Charles I.

During her parents' acrimonious divorce over Lady Althorp's adultery with wallpaper heir Peter Shand Kydd, Diana's mother sued for custody of her children, but Lord Althorp's rank, aided by Lady Althorp's mother's testimony against her daughter during the trial, meant custody of Diana and her brother was awarded to their father. On the death of her paternal grandfather, Albert Spencer, 7th Earl Spencer, in 1975, Diana's father became the 8th Earl Spencer, and she acquired the courtesy title of The Lady Diana Spencer and moved from her childhood home at Park House to her family's sixteenth-century ancestral home of Althorp.

A year later, Lord Spencer married Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, the only daughter of the romance novelist Barbara Cartland, after being named as the "other party" in the Earl and Countess of Dartmouth's divorce.

Diana was educated at Riddlesworth Hall in Norfolk and at West Heath Girls' School (later reorganized as the New School at West Heath, a special school for boys and girls) in Sevenoaks, Kent, where she was regarded as an academically below-average student, having failed all of her O-level examinations.

In 1977, aged 16, she left West Heath and briefly attended Institute Alpin Videmanette, a finishing school in Rougemont, Switzerland (Diana's future husband was also dating her sister, Lady Sarah at that time). Diana was a talented amateur singer, excelled in sports and reportedly longed to be a ballerina.

Diana's family, the Spencer's, had been close to the British Royal Family for decades. Her maternal grandmother, Ruth, Lady Fermoy, was a longtime friend of, and a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

The Prince's love life had always been the subject of press speculation, and he was linked to numerous women. Nearing his mid-thirties, he was under increasing pressure to marry. In order to gain the approval of his family and their advisors, including his great-uncle Lord Mountbatten of Burma, any potential bride had to have an aristocratic background[citation needed], could not have been previously married, should be Protestant and, preferably, a virgin. Diana fulfilled all of these qualifications.

Reportedly, the Prince's former girlfriend (and, eventually, his second wife) Camilla Parker Bowles helped him select the 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer as a potential bride, who was working as an assistant at the Young England kindergarten in Pimlico. It was at this kindergarten school that the famous iconic snap of a 19-year-old Lady Diana Spencer was taken by John Minihan with the morning sun to her back, her legs in silhouette through her skirt.

Buckingham Palace announced the engagement on 24 February 1981. Mrs. Parker Bowles had been dismissed by Lord Mountbatten of Burma as a potential spouse for the heir to throne some years before, reportedly due to her age (16 months the Prince's senior), her sexual experience, and her lack of suitably aristocratic lineage.

The wedding took place at St Paul's Cathedral in London on Wednesday 29 July 1981 before 3,500 invited guests (including Mrs. Parker Bowles and her husband, a godson of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) and an estimated 1 billion television viewers around the world. (Comment: Similarly large viewing audiences have been reported for television audiences of the Academy Awards and the NFL Super Bowl, but such numbers are not substantiated.) The acclaimed New Zealand opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa sang Handel's "Let the Bright Seraphim" at the wedding ceremony.

Diana was the first Englishwoman to marry the heir to the throne since 1659, when Lady Anne Hyde married the Duke of York and Albany, the future King James II (although, unlike Charles, James was heir presumptive and not heir apparent). Upon her marriage, Diana became Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales and was ranked as the third most senior royal woman in the United Kingdom after the Queen and the Queen Mother.

The Prince and Princess of Wales had two children, Prince William of Wales on 21 June 1982 and Prince Henry of Wales (commonly called Prince Harry) on 15 September 1984.

In the mid 1980s her marriage fell apart, an event at first suppressed, but then sensationalized, by the world media. Both the Prince and Princess of Wales allegedly spoke to the press through friends, accusing each other of blame for the marriage's demise. Charles resumed his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, whilst Diana became involved with James Hewitt and possibly later with James Gilbey, with whom she was involved in the so-called Squidgygate affair. She later confirmed (in a television interview with Martin Bashir) the affair with her riding instructor, James Hewitt. (Theoretically, such an affair constituted high treason by both parties.) Another alleged lover was a bodyguard assigned to the Princess's security detail, although the Princess adamantly denied a sexual relationship with him. After her separation from Prince Charles, Diana was allegedly involved with married art dealer Oliver Hoare and rugby player Will Carling. She did publicly date heart surgeon Hasnat Khan before becoming involved with Dodi Fayed.

The Prince and Princess of Wales were separated on 9 December 1992; their divorce was finalized on 28 August 1996. The Princess lost the style Her Royal Highness and instead was styled as Diana, Princess of Wales. However, since the divorce, Buckingham Palace has maintained that Diana was officially a member of the Royal Family, since she was the mother of the second and third in line to the throne.

In 2004, seven years after her death, the American TV network NBC broadcast tapes of Diana discussing her marriage to the Prince of Wales, including her description of her suicide attempts. The tapes were in the possession of the Princess during her lifetime; however, after her death, her butler took possession, and after numerous legal wrangling's, they were given to the Princess's voice coach, who had originally filmed them. These tapes have not been broadcast in the United Kingdom.

Charity work

Starting in the mid-to-late 1980s, the Princess of Wales became well known for her support of charity projects, and is credited with considerable influence for her campaigns against the use of landmine's and helping the victims of AIDS.

In April 1987, the Princess of Wales was the first high-profile celebrity to be photographed knowingly touching a person infected with the HIV virus. Her contribution to changing the public opinion of AIDS sufferers was summarized in December 2001 by Bill Clinton at the 'Diana, Princess of Wales Lecture on AIDS', when he said:

" In 1987, when so many still believed that AIDS could be contracted through casual contact, Princess Diana sat on the sickbed of a man with AIDS and held his hand. She showed the world that people with AIDS deserve no isolation, but compassion and kindness. It helped change world opinion, and gave hope to people with AIDS with an outcome of saved lives of people at risk. "

Princess Diana also made clandestine visits to show kindness to terminally ill AIDS patients. According to nurses, she would turn up unannounced, for example, at the Mildmay Hospice in London, with specific instructions that these visits were to be concealed from the media.


Perhaps her most widely publicized charity appearance was her visit to Angola in January 1997, when, serving as an International Red Cross VIP volunteer [1], she visited landmine survivors in hospitals, toured de-mining projects run by the HALO Trust, and attended mine awareness education classes about the dangers of mines immediately surrounding homes and villages.

The pictures of Diana touring a minefield, in a ballistic helmet and flak jacket, were seen worldwide. (In fact, mine-clearance experts had already cleared the pre-planned walk that Diana took wearing the protective equipment.) In August that year, she visited Bosnia with the Landmine Survivors Network. Her interest in landmine's was focused on the injuries they create, often to children, long after the conflict has finished.

She is widely acclaimed for her influence on the signing by the governments of the UK and other nations of the Ottawa Treaty in December 1997, after her death, which created an international ban on the use of anti-personnel landmine's. Introducing the Second Reading of the Landmine's Bill 1998 to the British House of Commons, the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, paid tribute to Diana's work on landmine's:

" All Honorable Members will be aware from their postbags of the immense contribution made by Diana, Princess of Wales to bringing home to many of our constituents the human costs of landmine's. The best way in which to record our appreciation of her work, and the work of NGOs that have campaigned against landmine's, is to pass the Bill, and to pave the way towards a global ban on landmine's."

As of January 2005, Diana's legacy on landmine's remained unfulfilled. The United Nations appealed to the nations which produced and stockpiled the largest numbers of landmine's (China, India, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States) to sign the Ottawa Treaty forbidding their production and use, for which Diana had campaigned. Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said that landmine's remained "a deadly attraction for children, whose innate curiosity and need for play often lure them directly into harm's way".

Death of Princess Diana

On 31 August 1997 Diana was involved in a car accident in the Pont de l'Alma road tunnel in Paris, along with her friend and lover Dodi Al-Fayed, and their driver Henri Paul. Fayed's bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones is the only person who survived the wreckage. The death of the Princess has been widely blamed on reporters, that were reportedly hounding the Princess, and were following the vehicle at a high speed. Ever since the word paparazzi has been associated with the death of the Princess.

Related Links

Diana Frances Spencer was born on July 1, 1961, at Parkhouse near Sandringham, Norfolk.   She was first educated at the preparatory school, Riddlesworth Hall at Diss, Norfolk.  In 1974, she went as a boarder to West Heath, near Sevenoaks, Kent.   Even as a young girl, Diana was very helpful.  While at boarding school, Diana gained the school's award for the girl giving maximum help to the school and her school fellows. 

On July 29, 1981, Diana married her love, The Prince of Wales, at St. Paul's Cathedral.   Together they had two wonderful sons.  Prince William Arthur Philip Louis was born on June 21, 1982.  Two years later, Prince Henry (Harry) Charles Albert David was born on September 15.  The fairytale marriage shattered on August 28, 1996.

Before her tragic death, Diana gave her support, in Angola, against land mines.  While she was there, the Princess of Wales visited the International Red Cross' prosthetic center at Huambo, Angola, where several hundred mining victims have been fitted with artificial limbs.  With Diana's help, they learned how to use them.

Diana worked tirelessly for charities such as the AIDS funding and the effort to ban land mines.  EVEN THOUGH SHE'S GONE, SHE WILL FOREVER LIVE IN PEOPLE'S HEARTS.

Princess Diana

Princess Diana

Princess Diana and Sri Chinmoy at their meeting in Kensington Palace
May 21st, 1997.

From Princess Diana to Sri Chinmoy:

“I know that you too strive to ease unnecessary suffering and indeed, have helped many, many people…I thank you for your generosity of spirit and send to you my heartfelt best wishes.”
July 21st, 1997

“Your letters are so enormously encouraging. It is through this encouragement that I find the strength to continue with the fight against landmines, which is so vitally important to me...”
August 7th, 1997

From Sri Chinmoy to Princess Diana

“A Temple-Heart of Sympathy”

“Princess Diana,
Yours is a temple-heart
Of sympathy, self-giving
And oneness-delight.”

“Princess Diana, your heart of sympathy covers the length and breath of the world. There shall come a time when the entire world will value you most sincerely, most lovingly and most wholeheartedly.

In your case, your heart always unites itself with the multiplicity of the world-family. You are inspiring the whole world by virtue of your heart of oneness and sympathy. Eventually your heart will win.”

“Princess Diana, at such a tender age,
Who could equal you
In breathing the breath
Of the suffering and dying patients?”

“Princess Diana gave us her heart-garden, which was so beautiful and so inspiring. That is why she will always be remembered as the unparalleled Queen of the universal heart.”

“Princess Diana had so many spiritual qualities that were just beginning to bud and bloom in her life, the way her service-life had already blossomed. The world knows so much about Princess Diana's good works and also about her personal and private life, but this spiritual dimension is also extremely important. One might say it is of paramount importance.”

“Princess Diana, you are no more!
Your soul-bird has reached the Golden Shore.
The world's bleeding heart mourns your death.
Your life on earth, the Lord's own Breath.”

Nelson Mandela Announces AIDS Project With Princess Diana Fund

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