Diana, Princess of Wales (Diana Frances Mountbatten-Windsor, ne Spencer) (1 July 1961 - 31 August 1997) was the first wife of HRH The Prince Charles, Prince of Wales.
From her marriage in 1981 to her divorce in 1996 she was styled Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales. She was generally called Princess Diana by the media despite having no right to that particular honorific, as it is reserved for a princess by birthright rather than marriage. Though she was noted for her pioneering charity work, the Princess's philanthropic endeavours were overshadowed by a scandal-plagued marriage. Her bitter accusations of adultery, mental cruelty and emotional distress visited upon her by her husband riveted the world for much of the 1990s, spawning biographies, 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, Diana was arguably the most famous woman in the world, the pre-eminent female celebrity of her generation: a fashion icon, an ideal of feminine beauty, admired and emulated for her high-profile involvement in AIDS issues and the international campaign against landmines. During her lifetime, she was often referred to as the most photographed person in the world. To her admirers, Diana, 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.
The Honourable 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). 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. 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 School (later reorganized as the New School at West Heath) in Kent, where she was regarded as an academically below-average student, having failed all of her O-level examinations. At age 16 she briefly attended Institut Alpin Videmanette, a finishing school in Rougemont, Switzerland. Diana was a talented amateur pianist, excelled in sports and reportedly longed to be a ballerina.