Princess Diana:
The Early Years


Birth and Heritage
Baby Diana...another girl!  



They had hoped for a boy - an heir to the Spencer title.  Instead they got Diana.

Diana Frances Spencer was born at Park House, Sandringham in Norfolk, England on 1 July 1961.  She was the youngest daughter of John Spencer, Viscount Althorp (later the 8th Earl Spencer) and his first wife Frances Spencer, Viscountess Althorp.  She was the fourth child born to her parents, with older sisters Sarah and Jane, although an infant brother had died a year before she was born.  The family would a few years later welcome younger brother, Charles, who would become heir to the Spencer titles and estates.

The Spencers had been close to the British Royal Family for centuries, rising in royal favour during the 1600s. Diana's maternal grandmother, Ruth, Lady Fermoy, was a long-time friend and a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. Her father had served as an equerry to King George VI and to Queen Elizabeth II.

Diana grew up in Park House, practically next door to the Queen.  Park House is right next to the Royals' Sandringham estate.  The Spencer children were therefore no strangers to the princes.  Closer in age to Diana than Prince Charles, Prince Andrew was her childhood playmate.

Highlights:

  • born July 1, 1961 in Norfolk, England
  • Father: John Spencer (Viscount Althorp; later 8th Earl Spencer)
  • Mother: Hon. Frances Spencer (later Frances Shand Kydd)
  • Older sisters: Sarah (born  1955), Jane (born 1957)
  • Younger brother: Charles (born 1964)
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Diana with brother CharlesParents' Divorce
... a torn childhood


Diana has always longed for the love of a united home.  Her parents divorced when she was eight, following her mother's affair with wallpaper heir Peter Shand Kydd.  The years that followed were chaotic and isolating.   Diana's mother took her and younger brother Charles to live in an apartment in London's Knightsbridge, where Diana attended a local day school. At Christmas the children returned to Norfolk, and Lord Althorp subsequently refused to allow them to return to London. Their mother sued for custody, but her testimony during the trial contributed to the court awarding custody of Diana and her brother to their father.

In 1976, Lord Spencer married Raine Legge, Countess of Dartmouth, the only daughter of romantic novelist Barbara Cartland, after he was named as the "other party" in the Dartmouths' divorce. During this time Diana travelled between her parents' homes. None of the Spencer children liked their new stepmother.  Her father inherited the earldom and Spencer seat in 1975, and Diana inherited the title of "Lady".

Highlights:

  • Parents divorced at age eight
  • Mother ran away with wealthy heir Peter Shand Kydd
  • Father married Raine Legge
  • Father won custody over children
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