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15 rare facts about Diana the People's Princess

Did you know the Princess failed her O Levels twice?

princess diana rare facts
Ainhoa Barcelona
Content Managing Editor
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Saturday 31 August marks 22 years since Princess Diana was tragically killed in a car accident. Her zest for life and her legacy of love and compassion continue to live on through her sons Prince William and Prince Harry, and those whose lives she touched. In a tribute to Diana whose power to fascinate has never died, we explore the lesser known facts about the People's Princess…

1. Diana was the fourth of five children of John Spencer, Viscount Althorp, and his first wife Frances. The couple had been hoping for a boy, and when Diana arrived, no name was chosen for a week. They eventually settled on Diana Frances, after her mother and her distant relative Diana Russell, Duchess of Bedford.

princess diana young© Photo: Getty Images

Princess Diana grew up on the Queen's Sandringham Estate

2. Her family always had ties to the royal family. Both of Diana's grandmothers served as ladies-in-waiting to the Queen Mother, and Diana grew up in Park House, located on the Queen's Sandringham Estate. The royals frequently holidayed at the neighbouring Sandringham House, and Diana played with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward – Prince Charles' younger brothers – as a child.

3. Following the divorce of her parents, Diana's father was awarded custody of Diana and her three siblings. She had a brother John, who died as an infant one year before Diana was born.

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4. The Princess often joked about her poor academic record. She failed her O Levels twice and at the age of 16, left the prestigious West Heath Girls' School in Sevenoaks, Kent. She was sent to a finishing school in Switzerland but only stayed for one term before returning to the UK.

5. Diana took a series of low-paying jobs when she moved to London as a teenager. She worked as a dance instructor, a nanny, a playgroup pre-school assistant and even did some cleaning work for her sister Sarah and her friends. She also worked as a nursery teacher's assistant at the Young England School in Pimlico.

princess diana sarah sister© Photo: Getty Images

Prince Charles dated her sister Sarah before her

6. Prince Charles dated Diana's older sister Sarah in 1977. This was the first time Diana and Charles met, and three years later in 1980, Charles took a serious interest in the future Princess when they mingled at a polo match. Charles and Diana got engaged the following year in February 1981 and married in July 1981, when Diana was 20. Charles was 12 years her senior.

7. While royal brides are usually given custom-made engagement rings, Diana selected hers from a Garrard jewellery catalogue. The sparkler consisted of 14 solitaire diamonds elegantly surrounding a 12-carat oval blue Ceylon sapphire set in 18-carat white gold. In today's terms, it would cost around £94,800. The stunning rock now sits on Duchess Kate's finger.

8. Diana chose to abandon the royal wedding tradition of saying she would "obey" her husband in her vows. Kate did the same some 30 years later when she wed Prince William.

princess diana wedding dress© Photo: Getty Images

She accidentally reversed Charles' first names during the wedding vows, calling him 'Philip Charles'

9. On her wedding day, a nervous Diana accidentally reversed Charles' first names during the vows. She accidentally called him "Philip Charles Arthur George" instead of "Charles Philip Arthur George".

10. Her wedding to Prince Charles was broadcast in 74 countries and watched by 750 million people worldwide. Her funeral 16 years later had 2.5 billion viewers.

11. Diana was very strict with her diet. Her former chef Darren McGrady revealed to HELLO! Online: "She was into healthy eating so we never had beef on the menu, unless the boys were home, and it was always chicken, fish or stuffed vegetables. When I started working for her she said, 'I want you to take care of the fats and I'll take care of the carbs at the gym'. So dishes like tomato mousse which she really liked, she'd say, 'Make me a fat-free version'." When the Princess was home alone, she'd "eat at the kitchen table, at the dining room or she'd have a tray in front of the TV," he added.

princess diana© Photo: Getty Images

The Princess counted George Michael and Elton John among her close friends

12. The Princess counted Gianni Versace, George Michael, Bryan Adams and Elton John among her close friends. Sir Elton rewrote Candle in the Wind in tribute to Diana when she died, and performed it at her funeral – the only time he has sung it live.

13. Diana once invited the supermodel Cindy Crawford to Buckingham Palace for dinner when a young Prince William had a secret crush on the model.

14. The Princess supported over 100 charities, including the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which won the Nobel Peace Prize a few months after her death.

15. Diana's funeral took place in Westminster Abbey on 6 September 1997. Later that day, she was buried privately on an island in the middle of Oval Lake, in the grounds of Althorp Park, the Spencer family home. Diana was originally meant to be buried in the Spencer family vault, but the plan was altered to find a more private location. She was buried with a set of rosary beads, a gift she had received from Mother Teresa, who died the same week as Diana.

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