The real Princess Diana
It’s been 23 years since the world lost its beloved Diana, Princess of Wales, in a fiery car crash so difficult to process that to this day it remains the centre of at least 10 different conspiracy theories. At the time of her death, her unfulfilling marriage to Prince Charles was a little more than one year in the rear-view, and although Diana had lost more than just her ‘HRH’ styling in the divorce, photos taken in the final weeks of her life point to a bright future ahead, according to body language expert Patti Wood. When last we spoke with Wood, she helped us to understand the evolution of the doomed marriage by examining the couple’s body language through the years. Today, she gives us unique insight into who Princess Diana really was and what she might have been thinking as she hurtled from commoner to People’s Princess and mother of a future king.
Ever the maternal soul
Diana Frances Spencer was born on July 1, 1961, at Park House, Sandringham, in Norfolk. The fourth child of Frances Roche and John Spencer (her older brother died at just 10 hours of age), she was no stranger to domestic unhappiness. Frances left John for another man in 1967, leading to a protracted custody battle that was eventually won by John. In this photo, taken that same year, Diana stands behind her younger brother Charles (now the 9th Earl of Spencer), seated on a swing but turning around to look up at his sister. Although Diana wasn’t as shy as everyone assumed, she is smiling shyly here as she turns away from the camera, Wood points out. More importantly, Wood tells us this is an opportunity to see Diana’s maternal instincts on display even as a young girl. “See how she stretches up to stand on tiptoe? It appears she is doing so in order to keep her hands on her brother’s shoulders as if to keep him safe.”
Rivals for the love of the prince
In the summer of 1980, Prince Charles was actively looking for a wife who was not Camilla Shand, the woman he truly connected with, and eventually went on to marry, but whom the royal family did not see as future-queen material. (Among other issues the family had with Camilla, she was the great-granddaughter of the longtime mistress of Charles’ great-great-grandfather, King Edward VII.) Charles had already dated Diana’s sister, Sarah, but that relationship had ended three years earlier when Sarah told the media she was not in love with Charles. When Charles finally noticed young Diana, 13 years his junior, he swept her off her feet and, in the process, unleashed the paparazzi’s endless fascination with her.
This photo, of Diana walking with her secret rival Camilla at Ludlow Races, where Charles was competing, shows how conscious Diana already is of the intense media interest in her, according to Wood. “Although others in the photo don’t seem to be cold,” she notes, “Diana has her hands shoved deeply into her pockets, her shoulders hunched.” Her defensive demeanour is further highlighted by Camilla’s more aggressive stance, with her elbow up and pointed, weapon-like, at Diana.