Five Surprises from Princess Diana

August 11, 2017
Princess Diana, Princess of Wales

Princess Diana, Princess of Wales (1961 – 1997), circa 1995. (Photo by Gemma Levine/Hulton Archive/Getty Images).

Princess Diana may have been the most publicized figure in the world when she died in 1997, but there are many facets of her life and personality that still surprise today, especially in footage that has been made public the first time this year in Diana – Her Story, airing on PBS on Tuesday, August 22 at 8pm.

Surprises from Diana – Her Story

5. Diana and Prince Charles met only 13 times before they married on July 29, 1981. In the documentary, Diana describes an early and uncomfortable meeting at a barbecue in Sussex, where they sat and talked on a bale of hay.

4. On the day their engagement was announced, Diana was stunned by a response Charles gave in an on-camera interview. When the couple was asked, “you’re happy and I suppose in love?” Diana quickly answered “Of course!” Prince Charles followed up with a broad smile, saying, “Whatever ‘in love’ means.” Diana recalls the moment, admitting “that threw me completely. It traumatized me.”

3. “I desperately loved him,” Diana asserts about her early years with Prince Charles.

2. Diana studied ballet for years after she married. “She had dance in her soul,” says her teacher Anne Allan.

1. Confessing to how depressed she became as a result of her strained marriage and lack of support in the royal family, Diane reflects, “There’s no better way to dismantle a personality than to isolate it.” She became bulimic.

Preview Diana – Her Story

Married to Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1981, 20-year-old Diana had a hard time integrating not only into the royal British family, but into her husband’s own heart. By 1992, feeling like she needed to carve her own path, Diana spent several months with speech coach Peter Settelen, learning how to give speeches, polishing her speaking style, figuring out what her story would be, and determining how she wanted to present herself. These sessions were central to Diana’s transformation into a woman who stood up for herself and dedicated her work to advocating for AIDS patients, those with Leprosy and people maimed by land mines.

The sessions, filmed with an amateur video camera, capture the only known, unmediated footage of Diana. Through this lens, we see her as perhaps only those closest to her did: lively, mischievous, humorous and charming. This candid footage in Diana – Her Story is placed against the backdrop of a Britain in turmoil, a country that in the early 1980s was more divided than it had been for decades. Interviewees include only those who knew Diana personally: her private ballet teacher; a longtime friend; her personal bodyguard; her personal secretary. The marriage of Diana and Charles seemed to outsiders that it might live up to fairy tale expectations. But as we know now, not all fairy tales come true.

The sessions reveal Diana’s fascinatingly expressive body language: the movement of her eyes, the angle at which she holds her head, the set of her mouth. She is testing out stories and truths after years of carefully guarding herself. This account of Diana’s life, with all her successes and weaknesses, marries the public person we think we all know with the private person we have rarely seen.