activists

Diana, Princess of Wales

The illustration for this weeks Illustrated Women in History was submitted by Philip Mole. The biography was submitted by Anna Sanderson. 

Diana, Princess of Wales, once a member of the British royal family, was a humanitarian who worked tirelessly to raise awareness of previously overlooked issues, such as homelessness, landmines and HIV.

Diana Spencer was born at Park House, Sandringham, on 1st July 1961, the fourth child of John Spencer (later the 8th Earl Spencer) and his first wife Frances Roche.

She hit the headlines in 1980 as the girlfriend of Prince Charles, heir to the British throne. Her picture was soon on the front page of every newspaper — a foreboding sign for the 19-year old nursery school assistant, who was to become arguably the most photographed woman in the world.

After only twelve meetings, Diana and Charles were engaged, and the couple married at St. Paul’s Cathedral on 29th July 1981. They went on to have two children, Princes William and Harry.

Throughout her life, Diana changed the face of the British royal family. Tactile and humorous, she quickly became a popular figure, with the press and public alike taking an unprecedented interest in their new princess. Everything from her clothing to her hairstyle garnered attention, but there was much more to Diana than her outward appearance. Drawn to those in need, she championed causes that all too often went un-noticed. She shook hands with aids sufferers at a time when it was unheard of, hugged children in hospital beds, and used her publicity to give a voice to the people who needed it most. A hands on mum, she also ensured her children got involved with her work, taking them to visit homeless centres and introducing them to a world outside of their own. Never before had a member of the royal family forged such a close relationship with their subjects.

In 1992, amidst rumours of marital problems, Diana secretly collaborated with author Andrew Morton on a controversial book, Diana: Her True Story. Revealing the princess’ private struggles with her husband’s infidelity and the eating disorder bulimia nervosa, the publication offered such a candid insight into royal life that it was banned by several retailers. A deeply personal and, at times, difficult read, it became a best-seller, further reinforcing Diana’s public popularity.

Diana and Charles separated later that year and were divorced in 1996. Despite being stripped of her HRH title, Diana continued much of her charity work, lending her name, image and support to organisations such as Centrepoint and The Leprosy Mission. She was also instrumental in bringing attention to the dangers of landmines, and in January 1997, she was photographed walking through a minefield in Angola to further highlight the cause.

Diana, Princess of Wales, died on 31st August 1997, following a car crash in Paris; she was just 36 years old. Her untimely death was met with such a huge outpouring of public grief that she was given a ceremonial funeral. Broadcast live around the world, it became one of the most watched events in television history.

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