You may remember Princess Diana for her humanitarian work, iconic style moments, and ability to touch the hearts of the public. But before she was a princess, she was Lady Diana Spencer. While she was born into a noble family, Diana was your typical teen who played with her siblings, wore funky outfits, loved her pet, and worked random jobs. (In fact, she was the first royal bride to have a paying job before her engagement to Prince Charles.)
As Netflix’s latest season of The Crown delves deep into Diana’s early years of royalty, many have wondered what her life was like before she married the heir to the British throne. Her brother, Charles, even emphasized that the show contains “a lot of invention,” adding that “you can hang it on fact but the bits in between are not fact.”
So, we’ve rounded up rare photos of her childhood, adolescence, and introduction to royal life to paint a fuller picture of Lady Diana, and who she was before she became the People’s Princess.
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Princess Diana’s parents John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer and Viscount Althorp, and Honorable Frances Roche married on June 1, 1954 at Westminster Abbey. The aristocratic Spencer family was founded in the 15th century and holds many noble British family members, who throughout history have gone on to become knights, kings, barons, and princesses, like Diana. John and Frances later divorced in 1969, which was very hard on Diana and her siblings.
Diana Frances Spencer, daughter of John and Frances, was born on July 1, 1961 and grew up in Norfolk, England. She wore this 19th century robe during her christening in 1961.
Diana turns one! In this picture from 1962, the princess waves on her first birthday at her childhood home. Meanwhile, her future husband, Prince Charles, was 12 at the time.
Lady Diana Spencer grew up at Park House in Norfolk, England. Diana’s parents rented Park House, which was located on Queen Elizabeth II’s estate at Sandringham. The future princess’s playmates growing up included the Queen’s youngest sons, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. Here is Diana at age 2 at her childhood home.
On on July 1, 1963, the young princess turned two. She was dressed up at Park House while she celebrated her special day.
Lady Diana, age three, was all smiles in a photo from her family album taken at Park House. Those bangs!
At age three, Diana was all bundled up in a winter coat in January 1964 while playing with a stroller. According to CNN, Diana’s childhood nanny Inge Crane described the young princess as “a tomboy who loved going outdoors, climbing trees and playing with animals.”
Diana, age six, gives her brother Charles Edward Maurice Spencer, now 56, a push on a swing at Park House. Diana’s parents had two other children, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, now 65, and Cynthia Jane Fellowes, now 63. They also had a son named John; however, he died shortly after birth. This was the same year Diana’s parents separated and before they officially divorced in 1969.
At age seven, Diana and her younger brother Charles, now Viscount Althorp, smiled for a photo at their Berkshire home. Queen Elizabeth II became Charles’ godmother, although the Queen is godmother to 30 children.
Lady Diana was ahead of the headband fashion trend in 1970! The future princess rocked a red one that matched her dress at the Cadogan Place Gardens in London, England.
Nine-year-old Diana attended the 50th wedding anniversary of her grandparents, Albert Spencer and Cynthia Spencer. She wore knee-high socks, a headband, and a plaid dress while standing next to her brother and sisters.
At age nine, the young princess looks festive in a sweater during a holiday at Itchenor in West Sussex, England.
In 1970, Lady Diana gripped a croquet mallet during a game in Itchenor, England while on vacation with family.
The future Princess of Wales lived in Park House until she went to boarding school at Riddlesworth Hall in 1970. Here she is with her dad, sisters, and brother.
After Diana’s death, her school uniform, toy car, and trunk were placed on display at her family home in Althorp, Northamptonshire. The exhibit is now closed, and the items were given to Diana’s sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.
Diana was a style icon from her youth. Here, the 10-year-old was on holiday in Itchenor, West Sussex.
At age 13, Diana went on holiday to the Isle of Uist in the Western Isles, Scotland. This was the same year that she attended West Heath, near Sevenoaks, Kent. According to the Royal Household website, Diana loved music, dance, science, and won an award for community service.
Teenage Diana had her own pony, a Shetland pony called Scuffle. They loved to play at Diana’s mom’s home in Scotland, like in this photo during a 1974 trip.
When Princess Diana’s grandfather died in 1975, her father inherited the Earldom, and Diana, 14, moved into Althorp House located in Northamptonshire, England. Diana officially became Lady Diana Spencer this year.
Diana served as a bridesmaid in her sister Lady Jane Spencer’s London wedding in 1978. Lade Jane married Robert Fellowes in the special ceremony. By 1978, Diana had met Prince Charles, who used to date Lady Jane.
After attending the finishing school of Chateau d’Oex at Montreux, Switzerland, Diana moved back to England. At 19, the princess worked as a nanny, a dance instructor, and a nursery assistant. Here, she was walking in the Eaton Square district while pushing a stroller.
In 1980, Diana worked at the Young England Kindergarten in Pimlico. She was the first royal bride to have a paying job prior to her engagement.
Just before her engagement to Prince Charles, word spread of their relationship, and Diana quickly found herself in the public eye. She earned the nickname “Shy Di” due her tendency to duck from photographers. In 1980, she was leaving her job at the school when she was caught by surprise by photographers. While trying to escape, she backed her car into a tree.
Lady Diana is once again caught by surprise outside of her Earls Court Flat in London, England when she encountered photographers.
Diana continued to work at the Young England Kindergarten while she dated Charles, and papparazzi were always close by.
In November 1980, Diana was invited to meet Queen Elizabeth II at her Balmoral residence in Scotland.
In October 1980, Camilla Parker-Bowles, the Duchess of Cornwall, and Lady Diana watched Prince Charles compete in the Amateur Handicap Steeplechase. Later, Camilla would go onto Marry Prince Charles.
Diana became engaged to Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1981. She was 20 years old at the time. Her engagement ring was a gorgeous sapphire and diamond piece. The ring now belongs to Prince William’s wife Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge.
Later that summer in July 1981, Princess Diana and Prince Charles got married at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
The Duchess of Wales gave birth to her first son Prince William in 1982, and her second son Prince Harry in 1984. She continued to inspire the hearts of the public until her sudden death in 1997.
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