Dreams of being rescued by a prince were not only part of Diana Frances Spencer’s girlhood fantasies, but queens, princes and princesses were real people in her world. The descendant of Earls and Lords, she was born at home at Park House, part of the grand 20,000-acre Sandringham estate owned by the royal family. The Spencer family is one of the oldest in the British aristocracy—a dynasty, much older that the Windsors, that stretched back to the sixteenth century—and the Fermoys, Diana’s mother’s family, was one of the wealthiest. Diana had an aristocratic title from the age of fourteen, becoming “Lady Diana” at the time her father inherited his earldom.
“Looming large in her romantic haze,” Tina Brown wrote in The Diana Chronicles, “was the face she had framed in her school dormitory, a real Prince Charming…the most eligible bachelor in the whole United Kingdom, the twenty-first Prince of Wales.” Charles was known for his “daring exploits on the polo field and ski slopes…parachuting out of combat planes,” making him a heart-throb for the country’s young girls. Did Diana fall in love with the dashing image when she thought she was in love with the man?
[This is the introduction to the End of the Myth section of my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride. Other parts of this chapter will follow.]