© Sprakey / SplashNews.comThe Crown season 4 - Diana's early life.
Diana Frances Spencer's journey in The Crown begins when her older sister starts dating Prince Charles.
He arrives at Althorp, her family home and estate, to spend the day with Sarah and that's when he first meets the young woman he will later marry.
She could well be a tree nymph lifted straight from Greek myth, her face obscured by a mask, a sash made from various bits of greenery fixed across her petite frame.
In their engagement interview in 1981, Diana said that Charles was at Althorp for a shoot in 1977 when the pair were properly introduced "in a plowed field".
He was 29 years old and she was just 16.
But what about Diana's life before Charles and the rest of the royal family were in the picture? © Sprakey / SplashNews.comEmma Corrin in The Crown
She was born on July 1, 1961 at Park House on the Queen's Sandringham Estate, Norfolk.
Her upbringing did not quite reach the heights of Charles' in terms of luxury, but she did know vast privilege and her parents were on the royal payroll.
Her father was Edward John Spencer, known as John or "Johnnie", originally Viscount Althorp, before becoming the 8th Earl Spencer when his father died, with Diana gaining the title Lady. He was Captain in the Royal Scots Greys, and both an equerry to George VI and to the Queen following her accession, which essentially means that he helped them in their official duties.
He was 30 when he married Diana's mother, 18-year-old The Honourable Frances Ruth Burke Roche.
Frances was the daughter of the 4th Baron Fermoy and his wife Ruth, who also worked for the royals as a Woman of the Bedchamber and intimate of the Queen Mother.
The Queen was present at their wedding, which took place at Westminster Abbey. © Terry Disney - Getty ImagesJohn and Frances Spencer
The pair had five children, including Diana.
There was Sarah, the eldest (1955), followed by Jane (1957). Then there was a boy called John, but tragically, he only lived for a few hours.
Diana was the next to be born, which prompted members of the family to send Frances to a gynaecologist to try and understand why she had given birth to yet another girl (because this was still the 16th century after all).
She was just 23 at the time.
Baby number five, Charles, was born in 1964 and to mark the occasion of the long-awaited male heir he was christened at Westminster Abbey with the Queen as his Godmother. © Mirrorpix - Getty ImagesFrances Shand Kydd and Diana
John and Frances divorced in 1969. Their split was acrimonious and they engaged in a heated custody battle against one another, during which Frances's own mother testified against her.
She lost custody of all four of their children. Some reports say that Diana was just six at the time. According to others, she was seven. © Central Press - Getty ImagesYoung Diana
Frances left her first husband for Peter Shand Kydd, the heir to a wallpaper fortune, according to multiple publications.
The pair married but they later divorced after Peter reportedly set his sights on a younger woman.
She later said that the lack of privacy that came from having a famous child was the driving force behind their separation.
"I think the pressure of it all was overwhelming and, finally, impossible for Peter," she said (via The Guardian) "They didn't want him. They wanted me. I became Diana's mum, and not his wife."
In 1976, Earl Spencer went on to marry politician and socialite Raine, Countess of Dartmouth. He died in 1992.
There has been much written about Diana and her siblings' dislike of their stepmother when they were children and beyond. The future Princess of Wales was reportedly 14 when her father married his second wife.
But Diana forged a strong friendship with Raine in the five years before her death, the two women meeting regularly - a contrast to her relationship with her actual mother.
At the trial of Diana's former butler Paul Burrell in 2002, Frances said that when Diana died, the pair had not spoken for four months. © Getty ImagesDiana's siblings - Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Lady Jane Fellowes and Earl Spencer
According to The Times, Charles (now Earl) Spencer described the period in which his mother underwent tests following Diana's arrival as "a dreadful time for my parents and probably the root of their divorce, because I don't think they ever got over it."
But he did say that he and his sisters "had very loving parents" in The Spencer Family, which was published in 2003, "who cared for us in their separate homes with devotion, humour, honesty and respect."
He added: "I feel truly lucky to have had two parents who did so much for us. Both had immense qualities".
Speaking to The Times in 2020, Charles painted a different picture. © Hulton Archive - Getty ImagesDiana and Charles Spencer.
He said that he had "quite a ruptured childhood emotionally", going into greater detail about his younger years.
Charles described Althorp as a "cold and frightening place", revealing that his grandfather and father were both unhappy there and he, too, had "some deeply unhappy times".
He was just two when his mother left.
"I've been in and out of therapy for 20 years," he said. "I did a lot of very profound work on my unhappy childhood last year, which was agonising and horrible."
With Sarah and Jane away at school, Charles said that himself and Diana were "very much in it together", and he did confide in her about his troubles.
Their mother "wasn't cut out for maternity", which only exacerbated their sorrow.
"While she was packing her stuff to leave, she promised Diana [then aged five] she'd come back to see her," he said. "Diana used to wait on the doorstep for her, but she never came. She could hear me crying down the corridor but was too scared of the dark to come to me."
But Charles did say that he doesn't blame Frances, adding: "She was in love with someone else - infatuated, really... It was ignorance rather than malice."
© Hulton Deutsch - Getty ImagesDiana and Prince Charles
Interestingly, Charles' wife Karen made a remark about her husband during that interview which many would argue rings true of the People's Princess.
"There were always women who would have been a good match for him, but he wasn't interested. It was the ones who couldn't love him back who were magnetic for him," she said.
"When you're damaged, you look for damage. If you've experienced trauma and abandonment to the degree Charles did, your brain is hard-wired."
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