Though she died all the way back in 1997, the world has never forgotten Princess Diana. And while the late British royal did an incredible amount of good in her short life, she also had a myriad of hidden secrets and troubles that many people don’t know, prefer not to think about or even, in some cases, deliberately sweep under the rug. So who was Diana, really? Maybe you’ll find out here.
20. She never promised to “obey” Prince Charles
For their wedding vows in 1981, Charles and Diana removed the part where she would promise to “obey” her new husband. This caused a minor uproar at the time, believe it or not, but in 2011 Kate Middleton followed Diana’s lead and likewise dropped the word from her own vows when marrying Diana’s son Prince William.
Image: via Princess Diana Remembered
19. She wasn’t a good student at all
Princess Diana twice failed her O-Levels – roughly the equivalent to a U.S. high school diploma – and was deemed at her alma mater, West Heath Girls’ School, to be somewhat lacking academically. Nevertheless, the future royal shone rather more distinctly in music and sports.
18. Her sister dated Prince Charles first
Diana’s sister, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, actually dated Charles before Diana did. Her relationship with him wasn’t great either; she eventually revealed to the press that she wouldn’t marry Charles “if he were the dustman or the King of England.” The pair, naturally, parted swiftly afterwards – but despite this less than amicable split, Diana reportedly remained close to her sister during and after her own relationship with Charles.
17. She worked to destroy the stigma of AIDS – and against the wishes of the Queen
During the 1980s the AIDS crisis was at its height, and many believed erroneously that it could be contracted through touch. Diana attempted to erase that misconception, holding HIV and AIDS sufferers’ hands and making speeches in support of AIDS patients and research. But though her work was important, the Queen allegedly didn’t approve, reportedly telling her that she should get involved in something “more pleasant.”
16. She suffered from bulimia and depression
What’s more, Diana admitted that her eating disorder was triggered by her husband-to-be calling her “a bit chubby.” As her relationship with Charles deteriorated, Diana used both bulimia and attempts at self-harm to gain control over her terrible depression. Fortunately, though, she eventually sought professional help for her issues.
15. Her engagement ring was bought from a catalog
Usually British royals would have had their jewelry custom made, but Diana broke tradition by picking her engagement ring from the Garrard catalog. At $42,000 the ring didn’t come cheap, but it was nevertheless still available for any wealthy person to buy if they so wished. After Diana died, the ring passed to William, who used it to propose to Kate Middleton.
14. She was godmother to 17 children
Diana had an incredible 17 godchildren, and sometimes she even volunteered for the position of godmother without having even been asked. Among the late Princess’ charges were Lady Edwina Grosvenor, daughter of the Duke of Westminster; George Frost, the son of famous journalist David; and Domenica Lawson, a little girl with Down Syndrome.
13. She was in the middle of a feud with her mother at the time of her death
By the time Diana died, she apparently hadn’t spoken to her mother in months – meaning that the fallout from her divorce from Charles had claimed yet another relationship. Her butler, Paul Burrell, would later claim that the main catalyst for the rift was a phone call in which Diana’s mother verbally abused her about the men she dated after her divorce.
12. She called Camilla Parker Bowles “the Rottweiler”
Diana’s alleged nickname for the other woman in her marriage was very unflattering indeed – but perhaps understandable given the circumstances. Camilla, for her part, gave as good as she got, apparently referring to Diana as “that ridiculous creature.” But Britain seemingly took Diana’s side in the matter: after the Princess died, in fact, the country collectively turned Charles’ future wife into a hate figure.
Image: via A Bunch of Gibberish
11. She appeared on more People magazine covers than any other individual
Throughout her eventful life – and even after it – Princess Diana appeared on no fewer than 55 People magazine front covers. That’s an impressive record and one that still has the potential to grow, but it could yet be beaten by her son Prince William, who by October 2014 had racked up a not too shabby 29 People covers both with and without his late mom.
10. She didn’t tell Charles the gender of her second baby
Diana once said that the relationship between her and Charles was strongest during her pregnancy with Prince Harry. Yet despite this, she still didn’t tell her husband the gender of their new child; in fact, she didn’t tell anyone at all. Perhaps it was her way of gaining a little control over her life.
9. One of the campaigns in which she was involved won a Nobel Peace Prize
Most people are aware of Princess Diana’s work concerning the use of landmines, but they may not be aware that one of the crusades with which she was involved – the International Campaign to Ban Landmines – picked up a Nobel Peace Prize in 1997. Bittersweetly, the prestigious accolade was announced a matter of weeks after Diana’s death.
8. Her wedding dress was almost ruined on the big day
Diana’s wedding gown was an incredible and expensive creation, but unfortunately the designers forgot that for one point of the wedding it and Diana would have to travel in a small glass coach. The fairytale effect was almost ruined, then, when the bride-to-be’s huge train was crumpled in transit, and the dress was noticeably wrinkled upon her arrival at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Image: via The Royal Fans
7. While expecting Prince William, she propelled herself down some stairs
Diana’s mental health issues eventually led to something desperately drastic. While three months pregnant with William in 1982, she pitched herself down some stairs. And though she and the baby were fortunately both alright afterwards, the incident still understandably disturbed her mother-in-law the Queen.
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6. She was related to many, many famous people
Even without her aristocratic bloodline, Diana could boast of a rather starry family tree. Figuring among her distant relations are U.K. prime minister Winston Churchill, Mary Queen of Scots and 18th-century British duchess Georgiana Cavendish, whose life was later made into a Hollywood movie. And it doesn’t stop there: she was also related, albeit remotely, to Audrey Hepburn and even George W. Bush.
5. She once invited Cindy Crawford to Buckingham Palace
Even Diana’s critics tend to agree that she was a very good mother. The Princess went completely above and beyond good mothering, though, when in 1996 she invited Cindy Crawford to Buckingham Palace, just because William had a crush on the supermodel. Diana and the American star remained friends right up until the royal’s death the following year.
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4. She said Charles’ name wrong during her wedding vows
When Diana was reciting her wedding vows in 1981, she unfortunately gave her betrothed’s name as Philip Charles Arthur George, instead of Charles Philip Arthur George. It was a slip-up perhaps made even more embarrassing given that approximately 750 million people around the world were watching her, and it could even have been a bad omen of things to come.
3. She voluntarily gave up her royal title
Post-divorce, Diana could no longer be feasibly called “Her Royal Highness.” However, it was the Princess who made the first move in relinquishing her title, rather than having her hand forced by the Queen into doing so. It was a change she made with some sadness, though.
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2. She wasn’t wearing a safety belt when she died
Tragically, Diana may have survived her fatal car crash had she just been wearing a seatbelt. But no one in the ill-fated Mercedes-Benz was – and the combination of that, her drunk driver and the presence of the paparazzi led, it’s said, to her untimely death.
1. Freddie Mercury apparently once smuggled her into a gay bar
Princess Diana was good friends with Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, and apparently – according to comedian Cleo Rocos – he once smuggled her into a gay bar dressed in male drag. “She did look like a beautiful young man,” Rocos recalled, also suggesting that the disguise was so successful that Diana wasn’t recognized. Unfortunately, all other witnesses to the event – Mercury included – have passed on, so we’ll just have to take Rocos’ word for it.