She had some of the most devastating experiences that you would never imagine a future princess would go through.
Her love for connecting with people and wanting to spread kindness was something that began from when she was little. But there were many things about her past that people would find hard to believe because she always hid the pain in public. As Princess Diana grew up to be one of the most popular faces of her time, she also had to cope with and heal from a number of experiences that weren't the most ideal for a child. Here's what you may not have known about her childhood.
Princess Diana's birth was not a happy occasion for her parents. After giving birth to two daughters, her mother had given birth to a boy, John Spencer, who passed away just 10 hours after he was born. And her parents were hoping that their fourth child would be a boy, too. But they were disappointed to have another girl, according to The Cheat Sheet.
In the tapes that Princess Diana recorded and was used by author Andrew Morton to write the book, Diana: Her True Story, the princess said, "...both my parents were crazy to have a son and heir. ‘What a bore, we’re going to have to try again.’ And then comes a third daughter. I’ve recognized that now and that’s fine. I accept it,” according to Express.
Her unhappy childhood included watching her parents constantly argue and having to see her mother cry. "I remember seeing my father slap my mother across the face," the Princess said, as reported by the Daily Mail. "I was hiding behind the door, and Mummy was crying. I remember Mummy crying an awful lot."
Her parents eventually got a divorce and went through a brutal custody battle, which meant she and her brother, Charles had to keep shuttling from one parents' house to another. "Every Saturday, when we went up (to stay with her and Peter Shand Kydd) for weekends, every Saturday night, standard procedure, she would start crying," she said. "We would both see her crying. ‘What’s the matter, Mummy?’"
"‘Oh, I don’t want you to leave tomorrow,’ — which, for a nine-year-old, was devastating, you know," Princess Diana added.
After her parents' divorced, each parent would try to one-up the other parent by getting them material stuff but forgetting to give them any real affection in the midst of it all. "Holidays were always very grim because, say, we had a four-week holiday: two weeks Mummy and two weeks Daddy, and the trauma of going from one house to another, and each individual parent trying to make it up in their area with material things rather than the actual tactile stuff, which is what we both craved but never got," Princess Diana said. "There was still none of the arms round the shoulder, or hugging."
Most children have their own pet peeves, and for young Diana, it was her fear of the dark. "I hated the dark — always had to have a light outside my door until I was at least ten," she recalled. During the unstable times of her childhood, the animal-lover would surround herself with an entire family of stuffed toys. "In my bed, I’d have 20 stuffed animals and there would be a midget’s space for me," Princess Diana said. "They were all adored. That was my family." Having pet rabbits, hamsters, and guinea-pigs were part of her childhood.
Sitting put in a classroom for hours was not her thing. "I was very naughty in the sense of always wanting to laugh and muck about rather than sit tight in the four walls of the schoolroom," Princess Diana recalled. She went on to talk about the dare that nearly got her expelled, saying "...they sent me out at 9 o’clock to the end of the drive, which was half a mile long, in pitch dark. I had to go and get some sweets at the gate from somebody... I got there and there was nobody there." That's when she saw the lights in school came back on and it terrified her. Princess Diana said, "Both my parents were summoned — they were divorced by then. Father was thrilled and my mother said: ‘I didn’t think you had it in you.’ No telling-off."
Princess Diana was mostly around her friends and mentioned that she didn't have boyfriends, saying, "Then, by the time I got to the top of the school, all my friends had boyfriends but not me, because I knew somehow that I had to keep myself very tidy for whatever was coming my way." But even then, she mentioned that she failed to keep those friends. "I had more girlfriends than boyfriends. I was always mucking about with girls. But I didn’t really have any friends that stuck," said Princess Diana. "I had crushes, serious crushes on all sorts of people, especially my sisters’ boyfriends. If they ever got chucked out from that department, I used to try my way."
7. She learned the biggest lesson of being kind from her father
Ever since she was young, she knew the importance of being kind and never hesitated to go up and speak to people. "My father always said: ‘Treat everybody as an individual and never throw your weight around.’ I always got on very well with everybody," said Princess Diana. "Whether it be the gardener or the local police or whoever, I always went over to talk to them." Her father would make them write thank-you letters and she carried the habit into adulthood. And even her son picked up the habit. "William now does it — it’s great. It’s nice if other people appreciate it at the other end," she said.
Throughout her years of adulthood, she's been known to have a special way with people. But it's something that began in school for her. She balanced a number of activities in school. "I always won all the swimming and diving cups... I played the piano," Princess Diana said. "I did my tap dancing, which I absolutely adored; tennis, and I was captain of the netball team, hockey, you name it, because of my height. I was one of the tallest there." And along with this, she made time to connect with people, adding, "I visited old people once a week, went to the local mental asylum once a week... I adored that. It was sort of an introduction for bigger things."
It was Princess Diana's oldest sister, Sarah Spencer, who played matchmaker in the relationship between Princess Diana and Prince Charles, according to Marie Claire. But before introducing them to each other, Sarah was dating Prince Charles in 1977 and it was the same year when Prince Charles and Princess Diana met. When Prince Charles first met his future wife who was just 16 years old at the time, he revealed that he thought "what fun she was", according to The Guardian.
It is said that Princess Diana loved food so much that her friends would sometimes have a laugh about it. There was one time where her friends dared her to eat six pieces of bread and three herrings. And of course, she did it with no hesitation, according to Mom.me. But the effects of her relationship and marriage with Prince Charles led Princess Diana to develop an eating disorder, turning into someone completely unlike the girl who happily took dares when she was young.