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Princess Diana's Lifelong Love of Children

The late Princess of Wales would have been a young — thrilled — 'granny'

  • Tim Graham/Getty Images

    The People's Princess

    En español | If Princess Diana hadn't died in a high-speed car crash in a Paris tunnel on Aug. 31, 1997, she would be a first-time grandmother — at only 52 years old — thanks to the July 22 arrival of William and Kate's baby boy. Diana would have reveled in the role.

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    Iconic Intro

    Lady Diana Spencer was a 19-year-old kindergarten aide when she was introduced to the world in 1980 as Prince Charles's fiancée. Diana had a special rapport with children — her own and those she met while doing her royal work.

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    A Down-to-Earth Royal

    Because she was so comfortable with little ones, Diana sought them out as she learned to handle royal engagements. During an outing with fiancé Prince Charles in March 1981, she crouched to meet a young girl at eye level, as she would often do with children.

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    Here Comes the Bride

    Some 750 million watching on TV waited for Diana to walk down the aisle of St. Paul's Cathedral to meet her prince, but the bride (with soon-to-be mother-in-law Queen Elizabeth) was wrangling her young bridesmaids, including Clementine Hambro, 5, Winston Churchill's great-granddaughter.

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    It was no surprise that Diana was expecting soon after her wedding, nor that she continued making appearances during her pregnancy. (She's greeting children at a London community center in May 1982.) The unexpected? British tabloids were already hinting at her marital unhappiness.

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    Child's Play

    Diana was affiliated with many charities, but the causes she kept close all her life were those that had to do with children. A windswept princess had some fun with youngsters at the new Charlie Chaplin Adventure Playground for handicapped youth in South London in September 1982.

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    Young Mum

    The royal couple posed with Prince William (born in June 1982) for a family portrait in early 1983. (Prince Harry arrived in September 1984.) The boys called Queen Elizabeth "Granny," and their children would have called Diana by the same name. It's an upper-crust British appellation.

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    Charity at Home

    Visiting the head office of Barnardo's in 1985, Diana was just beginning her long commitment to the British charity that helps children in need. As president of the organization for 12 years, from 1984 to 1996, she attended more than 110 events to support its efforts.

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    Hands-on Mum

    Holding a mischievous Prince Harry, then 3, Diana stood with Prince William, Lady Gabriella Windsor and Lady Rose Windsor to watch a 1988 procession of the British and Commonwealth armies from a Buckingham Palace balcony.

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    Family Holiday

    Always an active and in-the-trenches mom, Diana played in the sand with her sons (ages 5 and 7) and nephews during a 1990 visit to the British Virgin Islands estate of business magnate Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines.

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    Real-World Princess

    The British tabloids were focused on her marital troubles, but in the U.S., People magazine marveled that Diana, who greeted young admirers in Derbyshire in June 1990, was "forging an emotional connection with her countrymen that few other Windsors have achieved."

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    Keeping Her Commitments

    In the spring of 1991, as rumors swirled that the Prince and Princess of Wales' marriage was over, Diana kept at her royal duties, traveling to Brazil, where she exhibited her famous ease and unself-conscious physical contact with children — many of them living with disability or disease.

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    Bittersweet Times

    While her marriage was disintegrating publicly — Charles confessed to adultery; Diana's affair with a cavalry officer was acknowledged — she continued her royal work, greeting a little girl at the opening of an English foundation for the disabled in 1995.

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    Coming Into Her Own

    Divorced from Charles in 1996, Diana found  meaningful work with the Red Cross. In 1997, on a visit to Pakistan, she held a child in her lap. That summer she vacationed with William and Harry at the St. Tropez villa of Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed and began a romance with his son, Dodi.

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    The Personal Touch

    Helping land mine victims, such as this child amputee in Angola in 1997, was a cause close to Diana's heart. The princes have taken up their mom's youth-focused charity. William supports programs for homeless young people; Harry cofounded an organization for children in Lesotho.

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    Her Final Days

    Diana visited land mine victims in Bosnia just two weeks before her death, at age 36. On Sept. 6, 1997, mourners lined London's streets for her funeral. On the 10th anniversary of the tragedy, Harry said, "To us, just two loving children, she was quite simply the best mother in the world."

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    Her Legacy

    Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge — aka Prince William's wife, the former Kate Middleton — has showed the same gentle ease Diana had with young people. Here, the 31-year-old princess goes about her engagements while awaiting the birth of her own royal baby.

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    The Proud Parents

    William and Kate welcomed their first child on July 22, 2013. The 8-pound, 6-ounce baby boy is third in line to the throne, after his grandfather, Prince Charles, and dad William. The couple introduced the newborn to the public on July 23 and revealed his name as George Alexander Louis on July 24.

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    More Diana, More Slideshows

    See more photos of Princess Diana (including her 21st birthday portrait at left): Remembering Diana.

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