10 Fascinating Facts About Princess Diana

Len Trievnor/Getty Images
Len Trievnor/Getty Images

On August 31, 1997, the entire world mourned the passing of Princess Diana. Though she never found her happily-ever-after with Prince Charles (the couple divorced in 1996, just a year before her death), Diana remains an icon of strength and independence to women around the world. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the People's Princess.

1. She worked at a nursery school.

In 2015, Prince George began attending the Westacre Montessori School in Norfolk, England, continuing what has become a bit of a tradition with the current royal family. At Princess Diana's insistence, both William and Harry attended Montessori schools. Before she became a princess, Diana worked as a nursery assistant at the Young England Kindergarten school in Pimlico, yet another school that embraces the Montessori curriculum.

2. She wanted to be a ballerina.

When her height topped out at 5 feet 10 inches, however, she was declared too tall to make it to the professional heights she wanted to reach.

3. Her older sister, Sarah, dated Prince Charles before Diana did.

Sarah's relationship with Charles was rumored to have ended when she blabbed some details to the press and then proudly showed Charles the resulting newspaper clipping. Charles chastised her and turned his attentions to Diana shortly thereafter. Lady Sarah gave Charles and Diana her blessing; when they announced their engagement, Sarah noted that, "I introduced them. I'm Cupid."

4. Her wedding dress was a work of art.

Princess Diana's extravagant wedding dress remains one of the most famous—and copied—dresses in history. Designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, the ivory dress was made of silk taffeta and antique lace, covered in 10,000 pearls (each one of them hand-sewn) and featured a 25-foot train.

5. She was extremely protective of her sons.

Diana was famously protective of her sons and tried very hard to give them a somewhat “normal” upbringing, including taking them to school herself when she could. But what you may not know is that she also liked to occasionally indulge their more boyish whims, even if it meant using her royal status: She once invited Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, and Christy Turlington to be waiting in the family's private residence when a star-struck William came home from school. "I was probably a 12- or 13-year-old boy who had posters of them all on his wall, and I went bright red and didn’t know quite what to say, and sort of fumbled and I think pretty much fell down the stairs on the way out," William recalled.

6. She always sent a thank-you note.

Diana was known for sending thank-you notes for the smallest of deeds and doing it nearly immediately. Diana instilled this in her children, too; when a bundle of her correspondence was put up for auction in 2010, it included a thank-you note written by Prince William, reportedly to their chauffeur, Davies: “Thank you for the James Bond video it is brilliant. Thank you. See you soon. With love from William.”

7. She had some pretty interesting relatives.

Diana's stepmother, Raine, was the daughter of famous bodice-ripper writer Barbara Cartland. She was a second cousin once-removed to American actor Oliver Platt (they never met). She was also seventh cousins with Humphrey Bogart.

8. She loved ABBA.


Pool/Liaison/Getty Images

The princess loved the "Dancing Queen" band. To pay tribute to her late mother-in-law, Kate Middleton—a.k.a. Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge—requested some of the Swedish band's biggest hits at her wedding to Prince William.

9. She was a major fan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Tim Curry once said in an interview that when he met her she thanked him for making the movie, telling him that it "quite completed" her education.

10. She is buried on an island at her family estate, Althorp.

In order to maintain privacy, Diana was buried on an island on her family estate, which does not permit visitors. There are 36 oak trees leading to the lake, one for each of her 36 years. In 2016, it was announced that the princess's burial place would get a multi-million dollar facelift. On July 1, 2017, princes William and Harry rededicated the site during a private service on what would have been Diana's 56th birthday.

9 Facial Reconstructions of Famous Historical Figures

A facial reconstruction of King Richard III unveiled by the Richard III Society in 2013
A facial reconstruction of King Richard III unveiled by the Richard III Society in 2013
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Why look at a painting of a historical figure when you can come face to face with one? Forensic facial reconstruction using scans of skeletal remains allows researchers to create 3D models of the face through a combination of science, history, and artistic interpretation. The results may be somewhat subjective, but they’re fascinating anyway. Here are nine facial reconstructions of famous people.

1. Richard III

In 2012, King Richard III’s skeleton was found below a parking lot in Leicester, England, where in 1485 he was hurriedly buried after dying in battle. A reconstruction (above) shows a young man, only 32 years old, with a gentle, approachable face. It’s a far cry from the child-murdering villain portrayed by Shakespeare and other writers. One thing they said does seem accurate, however: The skeleton had a curved spine from scoliosis, suggesting that Richard’s humpback may have been real.

2. Bach

J.S. Bach’s bust has sat on innumerable pianos for centuries, but he only posed for one portrait in his lifetime. So this reconstruction of his face—which was taken from a bronze cast of his skull—offers an interesting glimpse into the man beneath the 18th century wig. You get the same thick neck, underbite, and stern brow you see in the painting, but the reconstruction’s friendly, confused stare lacks the soul of the real man … and his music, for that matter.

3. Shakespeare

Apparently, no one knows anything about Shakespeare for sure—his hair color, his sexual orientation, how he spelled his name, whether he liked his wife, etc. Some people aren’t even sure whether he wrote his plays or not. So this rendering, taken from a death mask found in Germany, is bound to be controversial. But if it is Shakespeare, it’s pretty intriguing. It shows a man who suffered from cancer and had a sad, soulful face.

4. Dante

Maybe it’s because The Divine Comedy dealt with the ugliness of sin that Dante Alighieri is usually depicted as unattractive, with a pointy chin, buggy eyes, and enormous hooked nose. But a reconstruction done from measurements of the skull taken in 1921—the only time the remains have been out of the crypt—reveals a much more attractive Dante. The face has a rounder chin, pleasant eyes, and smaller nose than previously thought. It’s a face with character.

5. King Henri IV

The mummified head of France’s King Henri IV was lost after the French Revolution until a few years ago, when it showed up in a tax collector’s attic. In his day, Henri was beloved by everyone except the Catholic fundamentalists who murdered him in 1610. The hard-living king looks a bit old for his 56 years, but there’s a twinkle in his eyes. What the model cannot show, however, was how much the king stank—apparently he smelled of ”garlic, feet and armpits.”

6. Cleopatra’s Sister

Cleopatra hated her half-sister Arsinoe IV so much she had her dragged out of the temple of Artemis and murdered. In 2013, researchers said they had discovered what may be Arisone’s body, based on the shape of the tomb, carbon dating, and other factors. The resulting facial reconstruction shows a petite teenager of European and African blood. And yeah, maybe this is closer to what Arsinoe would look like if she were trapped in The Sims, but since Cleopatra’s remains are long gone, this may be the closest we get to knowing what she looked like.

7. King Tut

King Tutankhamun, whose famous sarcophagus has traveled far more than the “boy king” did in his 19-year lifetime, had buckteeth, a receding chin, and a slim nose, according to 3D renderings of his mummy. His weird skull shape is just within range of normal and was probably genetic—his father, Akhenaten, had a similarly shaped head. Tut’s body also had a broken leg, indicating he may have died from falling off a horse or chariot.

8. Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus, who challenged the belief that the sun revolved around the earth, died in 1543 at age 70. When his body was found in 2006 in a Polish church and confirmed by matching DNA to strands of his hair left in a book, the Polish police used their forensic laboratory to make this portrait. They made sure to include Copernicus’s broken nose and the scar above his left eye. Who knew that the Father of Astronomy looked so much like the actor James Cromwell?

9. Santa Claus

The remains of St. Nicholas, i.e. Santa Claus, have been in a church in Bari, Italy, since they were stolen from Turkey in 1087. This reproduction, taken from measurements of his skull, reveal that St. Nicholas had a small body—he was only 5’6”—and a huge, masculine head, with a square jaw and strong muscles in the neck. He also had a broken nose, like someone had beaten him up. This is consistent with accounts of St. Nicholas from the time: It turns out that Santa Claus had quite a temper.

A version of this list was first published in 2013.

Fabric Allegedly From Queen Elizabeth I’s Only Surviving Piece of Clothing Is Going on Display

© Historic Royal Palaces Courtesy of St. Faith's Church, Bacton
© Historic Royal Palaces Courtesy of St. Faith's Church, Bacton

When Eleri Lynn, curator of historic dress at Historic Royal Palaces, first laid eyes on the Bacton altar cloth, she had a feeling that it wasn’t your typical 16th-century altar cloth. She had come across it online while researching Welsh connections to the Tudor court, and decided to pay a visit to St. Faith’s Church in Bacton, Herefordshire, England, to see it in person.

“I knew immediately that it was something special,” she told The Telegraph. “As I examined it, I felt as though I had found the Holy Grail, the Mona Lisa of fashion.” After a year’s worth of careful analysis, experts believe it was originally part of a dress that Queen Elizabeth I wore in the Rainbow Portrait of 1602. That makes it the only known surviving piece of clothing worn by the Virgin Queen.

Elizabeth I Rainbow Portrait
Isaac Oliver, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The cloth and Elizabeth I’s dress are both embroidered with roses, daffodils, and other flowers. The altar cloth shows animals like butterflies, frogs, squirrels, and bears, which Lynn thinks were added after the Rainbow Portrait was painted. Lynn also noticed that the altar cloth contains strands of gold and silver, which only the royal family could wear during Elizabeth I’s reign due to strict sumptuary laws.

Bacton altar cloth from Elizabeth I's dress
© Historic Royal Palaces Courtesy of St. Faith's Church, Bacton

Close-up on Bacton altar cloth from Elizabeth I's dress
© Historic Royal Palaces Courtesy of St. Faith's Church, Bacton

Since royal attire was so extravagant, it was often handed down to the next generation or reincarnated as upholstery. And, according to a statement from Hampton Royal Palaces, Elizabeth I sometimes gave her hand-me-downs to Blanche Parry, her Chief Gentlewoman of the Bedchamber and the woman who had nursed her from infancy. Parry, as it so happens, belonged to St. Faith’s Church. Lynn and her fellow historians posit that Elizabeth I may have even sent this particular fabric to St. Faith’s in memory of her companion.

While recycling or reusing clothing was sustainable, it has made it difficult for Lynn and her contemporaries to track down fashion relics from the Tudor dynasty. In addition to that, Lynn told The Telegraph, “Oliver Cromwell sold off every item of clothing in the royal stores, so the only things we have, including a hat which might have been worn by Henry VIII, have come back to Hampton Court after they have survived elsewhere.”

St. Faith’s has loaned the cloth to Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that oversees Hampton Court Palace, where you can see it on display along with the Rainbow Portrait and other Tudor artifacts from October 12, 2019, to February 23, 2020.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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