Princess Diana was stern as a royal mother to Prince William and Prince Harry. She tried every possible way to give them a normal upbringing, even if it meant breaking royal protocol a few times.
Diana, Princess of Wales, was born on July 1, 1961, in Sandringham, England. She was one of four children, older sisters, Lady Jane and Lady Sarah, and a younger brother, Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer.
Growing up, Diana attended private schools in England and Switzerland. She attended Riddlesworth Hall School and West Heath School and was interested in music and dancing.
A black and white photograph of a young Lady Diana Spencer pictured in 1965. / Source: Getty Images
The royal became Lady Diana Spencer following her grandfather's death, and her dad earned the title of Earl Spencer in 1975. She had a great fondness for kids. After finishing school at Institut Alpin Videmanette in Switzerland, the princess moved to London.
There, she began working with children and became an assistant at Young England Kindergarten. Diana also dabbled in various jobs, such as being a cook and a nanny.
Her parents, Edward Spencer, Viscount Althorp, and Frances Roche, Viscountess Althorp, divorced when she was only six years old. Edward won custody of the children.
Charles Spencer, Viscount Althorp with his father the 8th Earl Spencer in their cellar at Althorp House in on September 9, 1977 in Northamptonshire. / Source: Getty Images
Diana's mother had left her father after falling in love with Peter Shand Kydd, whom she had met at a dinner party in 1966 in London. The pair began an affair a year later, leaving Edward to decide to end his marriage to Frances through a trial separation and then a divorce.
Years later, Diana recalled her parents' bitter arguments in Andrew Morton's book titled "Diana: Her True Story," recounting the screeching sound of tires on the gravel as her mother drove away from home. Following the divorce, her childhood became unstable. She explained:
"The biggest disruption was when mommy decided to leg it. That's the vivid memory we have. People took sides. Various people didn't speak to each other. For my brother and I, it was very wishy-washy and painful experience."
Lady Diana Spencer with her brother Charles, Viscount Althorp at their home in Berkshire in 1968. / Source: Getty Images
Diana recalled how unhappy she and her brother Charles were, having to go from one house to the other after the divorce. She revealed Frances cried a lot whenever they had to leave to return to their father.
In addition, Edward never spoke about the divorce with the children. The two older siblings, Sarah and Jane, were in boarding school at the time and only came home during the holidays.
Moreover, the father of four taught his children to treat everyone with respect regardless of their job. Diana said she always got on well with everybody, including the gardener.
Lady Diana Spencer pictured playing with her brother Charles Edward, the Viscount Althorp, in the grounds of Park House, Sandringham. / Source: Getty Images
"My father always said: 'Treat everybody as an individual and never throw your weight around,'" Diana recalled. But she had an unhappy childhood seeing her mother cry all the time, and they could never ask their father questions, making the environment toxic.
She always found herself caught in the middle when it came to pleasing both her parents. Once, she was a bridesmaid to her first cousin and had to go to rehearsal.
Diana's mother gave her a green dress while her father gifted her a white one. The experience of choosing which one to wear traumatized her because she feared she would show favoritism.
DIANA'S TOUGH CHILDHOOD INFLUENCED HER MOTHERHOOD
A tough childhood made Princess Diana a strict mother; she often broke royal traditions to ensure that her sons did not get "spoiled," a close friend revealed to the Express in December 2021.
The royal became extra cautious, especially during the festive season, as she was determined to teach Prince William and Prince Harry about giving to the needy. Former bodyguard Ken Wharfe revealed that the princes used to receive lots of gifts, but their mother would force them to give some away to charity:
"Diana was very careful to ensure they were not flooded with gifts. Gifts did appear from unknown sources, and they were often returned or given away to charity because they didn't need them."
She also had her ways of disciplining them. One time, young Prince Harry was clambering over the ride-on lawn mower, and his mother had reprimanded him many times because it was dangerous. But he continued until she yanked him off and smacked him.
That was not unusual, said royal chauffeur David Griffin, Princess Diana's neighbor at Kensington Palace. According to Griffin, there was another incident with the eldest son, Prince William. He recounted:
"Another time, it was Prince William who got a clipped ear. He was cheeky, though, jokily answering back, 'I'm going to report you for cruelty to Childline!' I remember the princess smiling at me and shaking her head."
Still, that was not the end of it. When young Prince William misbehaved at school on sports day, his mother gave him a public smack. The mother of two lost her temper when her son ran away as she was about to leave after the events had ended.
Royal correspondent Ashley Walton revealed in 1990 that then seven-year-old Prince William set off across the field to play with his sirens; his livid mom ran 100 yards, caught him, and gave him a hiding.
"William burst into tears," said Walton. It was usual for the Princess of Wales to reprimand her boys, even if it meant shouting at them or slapping them, especially if guests were around. But she also instilled good values in them, encouraging her firstborn to clean staff cars for pocket money.
THE ROYAL ONCE FIRED THE BOYS' NANNY
Prince William and Prince Harry's former nanny Barbara Barnes photographed in 1984 in London, England. / Source: Getty Images
After the princess gave birth to her first child Prince William in June 1982, she hired 42-year-old Barbara Barnes as his nanny. She was Prince William's nanny for two years before young Prince Harry arrived in September 1984.
The royal brothers called Barnes "Baba," and she taught them how to walk, talk and read. While caring for the siblings, their mother, Princess Diana, was preoccupied with the charities and humanitarian efforts that turned her into the world's favorite royal member.
She also had a busy social life, which meant Barnes spent more time with the children. She became their surrogate mother and took them away on holiday without their parents to Scilly and Scotland.
Prince William and his nanny Barbara Barnes arriving in Alice Springs, Australia on March 20, 1983. / Source: Getty Images
Those with prying eyes mentioned that Barnes was becoming too possessive over the boys, leading their mother to have the same suspicion. When in 1986, Barnes rubbed shoulders with public figures such as Princess Margaret and Raquel Welch, it irritated the princess.
She concluded that Barnes was way over her head. Then came the Christmas break of 1986-87, when Barnes resumed her duties as usual and received the cold shoulder from Princess Diana.
She hardly said a word to her and sent her to the Coventry until the family returned to Highgrove, where the princess told Barnes that her time at the royal household was up and that it would be better if she left.
PRINCESS DIANA WANTED TO RAISE HER BOYS NORMALLY
Diana, Princess of Wales with her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry at Highgrove in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. / Source: Getty Images
Despite that experience, Princess Diana remained an excellent mother to her sons. She wanted to raise them in a "normal" environment, going against royal protocol. But not all royal members were on board with her parenting ethics, including the boys' father, Prince Charles.
The father of two and other royal members believed in strict tradition. For instance, on a trip to Balmoral Castle, royal biographer, Morton, revealed Princess Diana left her nanny behind, which led to the Queen asking why she was refusing to allow people to help her:
"I don't understand why Diana has to do this. There are millions of housemaids around."
Princess Diana arriving at Aberdeen airport with her sons princes William and Harry for a holiday at Balmoral Castle in August 1986. / Source: Getty Images
The People's Princess only wanted her children to experience "normal things" like other kids, such as a trip to Thorpe Park, an amusement park, during the Easter Holidays in 1993.
She also made time for them even when she had to travel often. The proud mom tried to arrange her schedule to accommodate the princes. In her official calendar, she highlighted the daily details of Prince William and Prince Harry's everyday lives by marking them in green.
Diana, Princess of Wales during an outing with Prince William and Prince Harry on the boat "Maid of the Mist" at Niagara Falls in October 1991. / Source: Getty Images
In July 2017, all grown up, Prince William and Prince Harry reflected on how their mother used to be silly with them by taking them out on adventures outside the palace walls:
"She was very informal and enjoyed the laughter and the fun. She understood that there was a real-life outside of Palace walls."
Prince Harry, who seems to take after his mother's naughty side, said: "She was one of the naughtiest parents. She was our mom. She still is our mom. And, of course, as a son, I would say she was the best mom in the world. She smothered us with love, that's for sure."
Princess Diana pictured greeting her sons Prince William and Prince Harry on the deck of the yacht Britannia on October 23, 1991 in Toronto, Canada. / Source: Getty Images
Princess Diana once said she wanted to teach her sons empathy so they could understand people's emotions and struggles, including their hopes and dreams.
She took the first step in bringing them along to visit the homeless, to see people dying of AIDS but told them it was cancer instead. Princess Diana wanted her children to make an impact in the world someday.
That said, the doting mother's efforts paid off as her oldest son Prince William became a patron of Centrepoint in September 2005 at a youth homelessness charity that happened to be one of her favorite organizations.
Prince William pictured meeting youths during his visit to St Basil's youth homeless charity project on November 29, 2013 in Birmingham. / Source: Getty Images
Another royal tradition the princess broke was taking her first son on an Australian royal tour when he was only nine months old. In addition, she also drove her sons to school; overall, the Princess of Wales changed the entire education system within the Royal Family.
The Duke of Cambridge became the first future monarch to be educated in the public school system. On his first day of school at Mrs. Mynors' nursery in Notting Hill in September 1985, his mother said he was entirely ready for it:
"I was a little sad because it's opening another chapter in my life and certainly William's. But he's ready for it. He's a very independent child."
THERE WOULD BE NO RIFT IF SHE WERE ALIVE
Princess Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell, told Marie Claire that the rift between Prince William and Prince Harry, now the Duke of Sussex, would have never happened if their mother was still alive.
When asked how the princess would have felt seeing her sons being at odds like this, Burrell said the royal would have been heartbroken. He added things would not have escalated this far in her presence because she would "have banged their heads together."
The former royal household keeper said as such; the brothers would have listened to their mother, adding she would have been the only one who would have brought them to their senses:
"She's probably the only person that could have done that. If Diana had been here, the rift would have never happened."
Prince Harry and Prince William will permanently be bonded by the loss of their beloved mother, who passed away in August 1997 in a car crash in Paris.
In honor of Princess Diana's tenth anniversary of her death, her youngest son Prince Harry said they would forever cherish the years of having the presence of their parents then the painful period of ten years since her passing.
Princess Diana, Prince Harry, Prince William, Prince Charles at Prince William's first day at Eton on September 6, 1995 in England. / Source: Getty Images
In the documentary, "Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Our Legacy," Prince Harry shared that their mom used to squeeze them tight for a hug,joking
being as short as he was, there was no escape for him:
"You were there for as long she wanted to hold you. Even talking about it now, I can feel the hugs she used to give us."
At the time of Princess Diana's death, her sons, who were only 12 and 15, had not seen her for a month. They spent the summer in Scotland with their father, Prince Charles, and grandmother, Her Majesty, while the princess was vacationing in Paris.
Princess Diana spotted in St Tropez in the summer of 1997, shortly before she and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed were killed in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997. / Source: Getty Images
The princes spoke to their loving mom on the phone the day she tragically died as they played outside. Recalling that fateful day, Prince William revealed that he and his brother rushed the call to tell their mother goodbye, telling her they would see her later.
Unknowingly to them, that never came to be. "That phone call sticks in my mind, quite heavily," Prince William admitted, while Prince Harry stated looking back on that daunting experience today is hard because he will live with it for the rest of his life.
He mentioned that the conversation could have turned out differently had he known that her life would be cut short that evening.
Prince William and Prince Harry pictured bowing their heads as their mother Princess Diana's coffin is taken out of Westminster Abbey following her funeral service September 6, 1997. / Source: Getty Images
In July 2021, the royal brothers reunited to unveil the statue of their late mother, the Princess of Wales, on what would have been her 60th birthday.
The ceremony was held at Kensington Palace's Sunken Garden, where the siblings uncovered a bronze sculpture showing the celebrated princess surrounded by three children.
Princess Diana has impacted her children's lives so much that they adopt her ways in adulthood. In April 2022, Hello Magazine reported that former royal chef Darren McGrady revealed Prince William is adopting his mother's parenting style.
McGrady shared that when he used to work for the princess, she treated him like family and loved making herself coffee and would offer to make him one too.
He said what he realized about the prince is that he and his wife, Kate Middleton, together with their brood, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, love to cook and do things together.
McGrady divulged the Cambridges, like Princess Diana, also allow their kids to be kids. "You see them eating cookies, you see them even making cookies," he said.
Doting mom Middleton once shared that she made pizza dough with her two older kids as they love it because they get their hands messy, adding she also enjoys the activity with them.
McGrady emphasized that seeing the princess always wanted her sons to have an ordinary upbringing by letting them experience things like normal children; it is evident that the royal couple is doing the same, judging by how they raise their offspring.
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