Diana, Princess of Wales was once the most photographed woman in the world, and a good portion of those photographs also featured her then-husband, Prince Charles. However, there’s an intriguing detail in many Diana and Charles photos that you’ve probably never noticed. Moreover, what does that tell us about their marriage and the royal family in general?
Princess Diana was born Diana Spencer on July 1, 1961. She had royal ancestry and was the daughter of a Viscount. In other words, she was perfectly suited to becoming the wife of the heir to the throne of Great Britain. What’s more, by 1975 her father had become an Earl and she’d consequently gained the title of Lady.
Although he had dated her sister, Lady Sarah, first, Charles soon fell under the spell of Diana’s considerable beauty. And the subsequent courtship between Diana and Charles was a fairly traditional one. After they’d been dating for about a year, during which time he introduced her to his family, Charles proposed to Diana in early 1981.
On February 24, 1981, the engagement was announced to the world, and the entire U.K. certainly seemed to be delighted at the news. However, there were already signs that Diana was more of a modern woman than the royal family were used to. For example, she chose a regular ring from a catalog rather than having one made. Some cruel commentators consequently referred to it as “the Commoner’s Sapphire.”
What’s more, when it came to the day of the wedding – a huge celebration for the whole country – there was something unorthodox about her vows as well. Indeed, she didn’t, as was tradition, promise to obey Charles. The omission of this one small word subsequently caused an uproar. However, Diana was adamant that her marriage would be a modern, equal one.
Unfortunately, as the whole world now knows, it wasn’t. Diana did her royal duty and had two sons with Charles, Princes William and Harry. Nevertheless, she was desperately unhappy in her marriage. As Charles conducted an affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles, Diana consequently developed mental health problems and even began to self-harm.
Sadly, Diana’s life was to end in tragedy, too. On August 31, 1997, almost exactly one year after officially divorcing Charles, she was involved in a car crash. And although paramedics attempted to save her, nothing could be done. As a result of the accident, Diana, her new boyfriend Dodi Fayed and their chauffeur, who was driving under the influence of alcohol, all died.
However, in the years since Diana’s death and the vast outpouring of public grief that accompanied it, people have remained just as fascinated with her as they were when she was alive. Indeed, every aspect of her life story, it seems, has been examined by fans and historians. What’s more, in 2017 someone revealed a detail about her that had been completely overlooked.
In March of that year, sociologist Philip N. Cohen posted a picture of Charles and Diana in which the Prince was seen to be taller than her. However, Cohen captioned the image, “They were the same height.” Initially, people were skeptical, so Cohen subsequently tweeted other examples. And it turned out that there were a lot of other examples.
Diana and Charles were, by all accounts, roughly the same height. Although there was never any official confirmation, as the royals don’t really give out statistics, any difference in height wasn’t conspicuous. However, in a great many of their official posed photographs, Diana appeared much shorter than her then-husband. Indeed, it was as though she’d been asked to crouch down or Charles had been given something to stand on.
However, un-posed photos of the couple were usually very different. In these, they usually looked to be the same height. In fact, due to the fact that she wore high heels, Diana actually often appeared taller than her husband. Sadly, such candid photos also tended to betray the declining state of their marriage; it is rare to see one in which the couple looked happy together.
Although it was his 2017 tweet that brought the issue to public attention, Cohen had actually been discussing the matter for some time in his academic works. What did it mean for a marriage if one of the couple was deliberately made to look smaller in photographs? In addition, why did the royals bother doing such a thing in the first place?
Cohen brought the subject up in his 2014 sociology textbook, The Family, writing, “Although Charles was actually one inch taller than Diana, he often looked shorter than her in candid pictures. But when they posed for portraits, he usually stood on a box or step, as in the picture for the stamp commemorating their royal wedding.”
“The idea of women as the weaker sex corresponds to the pattern of male domination in modern society, as symbolized by the muscular male athlete and the taller husband,” Cohen added. What’s more, when his idea resurfaced in the Twitter post, many people agreed that it seemed representative of, at the very least, a casual sexism.
“This picture shows how insecure men can be, and it’s worse than we thought,” The Independent reported. And Twitter users commenting on the original post were also quick to criticize Charles’s ego. “Says a lot about their marriage. Poor woman,” one wrote.
However, there’s an argument to be made that practical issues, rather than a desire to depict a woman as somehow “lesser,” sometimes led to Charles and Diana posing for photos in the way that they did. For example, in one image that was to be used on a stamp, Charles had to stand on a box alongside Diana so that there would still be space for the stamp’s value to be displayed.
Nevertheless, there are still many photos of Charles and Diana that were not used on stamps in which the height difference is overly pronounced. A few media outlets mockingly speculated that maybe Charles was wearing high heels in all of them. In addition, the images caused Twitter users to draw other comparisons.
Some women shared their own stories of having to crouch down slightly beneath their husbands for their wedding day photos. Plenty of others, meanwhile, brought up movie star Tom Cruise. Camera trickery often has to be used to ensure the 5’ 7” actor does not seem shorter than his co-stars. As a result, the diminutive actor has often been on the receiving end of jokes about his height.
It’s also possible, of course, that the official Charles and Diana pictures were composed that way because of royal tradition. Indeed, over the centuries the British monarchy has tended to be dominated by men. In fact, it wasn’t until 2013 that an older female child was finally deemed to be higher in the line of succession than a younger male sibling. This was called the “Succession to the Crown Act 2013,” and it had been very a long time coming.
The Palace has said nothing about the internet’s fascination with the photos, and that’s unlikely to change. Regardless, the images still offer another intriguing window into Diana’s life. What’s more, they perhaps offer a hint as to the problems that came to define her relationship with the man she would eventually divorce.