Everything was perfectly prepared. Pale blue baby clothes lay freshly washed and starched on the commode, father Jonnie Althorp held young Frances' hand and hoped that everything would very soon be over. Both the two small girls Sarah and Jane were also allowed to stay up for longer on this first of July 1961. They of course wanted to be the first to greet their new little brother. But with the first scream of the child followed the disappointing knowledge: a girl. Yet again no heir to the family title Earl of Spencer! It was the birth of Diana. Even when her parents so eagerly wished for a son, Diana experienced a carefree childhood, protected, loved and honoured. Three years later followed the eagerly awaited for son. They Christened him after the name of the British heir to the throne, Charles.
Diana later liked to think back to these first years of her childhood. The family lived in a very beautiful and large house on the private estate of the Royal Family at Sandringham. In earlier times Park House served as a royal guesthouse, later it was leased by Diana's family. It consisted of ten bedrooms and four roomy salons. The wonderful grounds offered the children a great amount of space for games and rollicks. The immediate neighbourliness to the royal country seat brought with it regular meetings between Diana and her siblings and members of the Royal Family. They often met up with Prince Andrew and Prince Edward to go swimming at Park House, or they were invited to a tea party "at the court". These meetings were completely informal and without courtly ceremony, as the Royals were mostly present during the hunting season and accordingly relaxed. In spite of this Diana's father paid much attention to good behaviour and etiquette when raising his children. After all he himself, as the descendant of the ancient noble Spencer family, held the high position of Royal Equerry. Diana's mother Frances, daughter of Baron Fermoy, was a highly educated lady, who warmed the hearts of her four children and her husband.
However family life became increasingly more difficult. Whilst Jonnie loved the country surroundings, hunting and fishing, Frances yearned for the hurly-burly and elegance of the capital city. They argued more and more, and Diana often closely witnessed loud arguments between her parents. This worried her, and she wondered whether she was perhaps at fault. When Diana was four years old Frances decided to hire a governess. Together with other children from the village the little girl was taught in her parents' house. In this way at least during the day bright children's laughter was able to be heard.
Hardly a year later began the marital tragedy of Frances and Jonnie. The prosperous and vivacious Peter Shand Kydd entered Diana's mother's life. She tried to save her marriage, to support her family, yet two years later she moved to London because of Peter. A catastrophe for Diana and her siblings! After the divorce came the battle over custody. Jonnie convinced the court that the children should stay with their father. Diana was just seven years old at this time.
Suddenly everything was different in their parental home. Nannies and servants certainly cared devotedly for the four children, but the joy was gone. Above all little Charles missed his beloved mother beyond all measure. Diana too felt deep worry in her heart, she felt abandoned and her child soul felt wounded. For the first time in her life she helped herself, by giving others faith and love. At the ripe age of just seven years she developed her most remarkable characteristic: she opened her heart to others and in this way she numbed her own pain. Diana became a substitute mother for Charles. She protected him, gave him love and warmth. In this way she found a new role within her family which met her needs.
Yet then her father decided that Diana must go to a boarding school. He chose Riddlesworth Hall in Norfolk, a girls' boarding school for the upper classes. A vision of horror for the nine-year-old! Nothing could help, Diana had to fulfil her father's wishes. It took a long time before she felt at ease in her new school. Diana was so shy, so vulnerable - how could she even find her way around in the strange environment? Mathematics, history, geography, French! Diana had no great interest in getting to grips with these things. She much more preferred to crouch in her room and read Barbara Cartland's novels. These were concerned with powerful feelings, with love and romance. She certainly couldn't guess that very soon a member of the Cartland family would completely change her life in a decisive way. Her teachers demanded discipline. Yet Diana's work only seldom offered cause for praise. She reflected on her natural talents and saved herself through her willingness to help and kindness. If there were problems between teachers and pupils - Diana negotiated. If one of her comrades had problems at home - then Diana comforted. If two girls argued, then she settled it for them.
At this time she made an important new experience, which would bring her yet more pleasure and use later in life: Diana discovered that sport activities bring not only recognition, but can also be a balsam for the soul. Swimming, tennis, hockey and ballet were her passions. She was even convinced that one day she would be a great dancer. After three years she was honoured for winning countless swimming competitions and received an honourable prize for "helpfulness".
Two years later she was sent to the West Heath Boarding School in Kent. Her father paid 4000 pounds per term and hoped that this respected school would take any ballet ideas out of her head. Again it took a long time before Diana felt comfortable amongst her fellow pupils. At first she wanted only one thing: that daddy would bring her home! She held through five years at the school, however she didn't pass her exams, even at the second attempt. A place at college was therefore not possible, so Diana ended her schooling at 16. For a girl from an old titled family all this is also not very important. It is enough to be able to marry well.
And when the family background is good and the girl is pretty, the rest is not so important. One thing was very clear to Diana: she never wanted to return to her father. This is because in the mean time a lot of things had changed in his life. In 1975 Diana's grandfather died, and with this her father became Earl of Spencer. As well as the title he also inherited the wonderful Althorp House. Shortly after the move Barbara Cartland's daughter entered his life. And Diana obtained a hated stepmother! Lady Raine had her husband under her control. She was pleased to be the lady of the castle, and she completely turned the household around. A few of the most expensive paintings were sold, new furniture and wall decorations were ordered. That was not Diana's home any more! There were arguments over the family heirlooms. How could father have married Lady Raine! Her shrill voice and her grumbling annoyed all the Spencer children, they suddenly all had a concept of the enemy in common. Yet it was difficult for them to assert themselves against Raine. She was not keen on any of the four, the children disturbed her in her duties as sole woman in charge. Diana was not able to achieve anything here through kindness and friendliness. On the contrary, Lady Raine left out no opportunity to present her step-daughter as a silly girl, who didn't once manage to pass exams at college. Diana was broken by the coldness and superior strength of her step-mother.