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Princess Diana: A beautiful, tragic life cut short

August 31, 1997
Web posted at: 1:40 a.m. EDT (0540 GMT)

In this story:

(CNN) -- Princess Diana, beautiful, famous and wealthy, won the admiration of millions, but simple happiness eluded her. On Sunday, the 36-year-old princess died from injuries suffered in a Paris car crash that also killed her companion, Dodi Fayed.

A year after her "fairy-tale" marriage to Prince Charles ended in divorce, she seemed finally to have found, in Fayed, a modicum of joy. But the pressures of an insatiable press and public never abated.

In an interview published last week, she told the French newspaper Le Monde she would like to move to another country but couldn't because of her sons, who are in line for the British throne.

"Any sane person would have left long ago. But I cannot. I have my sons," Diana said.

She had often pleaded with the press -- particularly the pack of photographers who followed her every move -- to leave her alone.

A steady stream of photographs in the tabloids over the past month showed Diana and Fayed embracing, laughing and relaxing in the Mediterranean.

Wedding of the century

It was on a summer's day in 1981 that a 20-year-old Lady Diana Spencer married Charles, the Prince of Wales, amid the splendor of St. Paul's Cathedral.

Her wedding, the wedding of the century, came after a courtship that appeared to be straight out of the storybooks. Their marriage captivated not just Britons but the world.

Diana was young, diffident, and uncertain. She was not yet used to the formality and rules that governed the House of Windsor, and not accustomed to the unrelenting media spotlight that would become part of her daily existence.

The expectation was that she and Charles would continue the line of succession, providing at least one heir who would assume the throne in the 21st century.

Just a year after the marriage, their first son, Prince William, was born. He was soon to be followed by another son, Harry. Everything seemed to be going according to the script carefully prepared by Buckingham Palace.

Problems in the marriage

tension

But Diana was depressed by her frequent separations from Charles, and by what she perceived as his excessive devotion to royal duty. She hated being away from her sons. And she was both hurt and angered by constant speculation about her husband's alleged relationships with other women.

She spoke later of Camilla Parker Bowles, a longtime friend of Charles, as being "the third person" in her marriage.

For his part, Charles appeared to resent Diana's immense popularity with the public, which stole the limelight from him.

His interests -- the countryside, ecology, fishing and hunting -- were incompatible with her interests, including music and fashion.

Amid intense media attention, it became clear that the royal couple was growing apart. Newspapers would measure the days the two spent apart. A book, "Diana: Her Story" by Andrew Morton, revealed details of her unhappiness. She had developed eating disorders, and was even reported to have attempted suicide.

Separation, then divorce

land mines

Eventually, out of the blue, then-Prime Minister John Major announced that Diana and Charles would separate. The British monarchy had not faced such a crisis since the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936.

But the princess was not to be deterred from maintaining her high public profile. Once the couple's divorce was confirmed, and she was freed from the shackles of royal protocol, she began to be seen in public with other men.

She focused her official life on several charities, ranging from the Royal Ballet in London to the Red Cross campaign against land mine use. In recent months, she traveled to Angola and to Bosnia to see the effects of land mines firsthand as a guest of the International Red Cross, a stand that courted political controversy.

She managed to combine her charitable work with a high-profile social calendar.

But her liaison with Dodi Fayed, the son of Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed, seemed to be the most serious social engagement she'd had since the breakup of her marriage.

"She genuinely was saintly," said Andrew Roberts of the London Sunday Times. "She hadn't got a vicious bone in her body. And if we had privacy law here, if we had a press law in this country like they had in France, she could be alive today."

 
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