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Join Re:Fine for a look at Princess Diana's early life at her family home in Norfolk.
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The Early Years of Princess Diana
Surrounding him where Diana was born is a popular world retreat and as her father, he was destined to become all Earl Spencer. He was agreed first to King George VI and then to Diana’s future mother in law, the Queen. The Spencer family lived at Park House on the magnificent Sandringham Estate.
Queen Victoria purchased Sandringham Hall as it was then known for her eldest son, Berty, the Prince of Wales and future King Edward VII and for his new bride Princes Alexandra. When the renovations were complete in 1870, the houses were ahead of its time with gas lighting, flushing toilets and even a very early shower.
Today, Sandringham has been the private hymn of four generations of sovereigns with the Queen—over the Christmas holiday until the middle of February. The delightful church, St. Mary Magdalene were Diana was christened is the focus of much attention on Christmas morning as it’s where the royal family worshipped bringing out quite a crowd to witness the festive occasion.
So, when the honorable Diana Frances Spencer was born at Park House, Sandringham on the first of July 1961, the fourth child of Viscount and Viscountess Althorp, she could not have had better place to rival for future princess. With two older sister, Sarah, born in 1955 and Jane, born in 1957, when Diana paid on the scene, the Althorps would have still been hungering after a son, an heir especially in 1960, their third child, a boy, John died within hours of his birth.
The present Earl Spencer Charles, Diana’s younger was born in 1964 to finally complete the next generation of this aristocratic family. For onlookers, it would appear that Diana was the most fortunate of the children just as she would be perceived as extremely privileged for the entire duration of her tragically short life. But things were never as racy as they seemed, despite enjoying the delights of 200,000 acres of beautiful Norfolk countryside which on occasion meant going to tea with the royal neighbors at the big house, life for the young Spencer were about to thrown into turmoil.
Diana’s father was content living as a gentleman farmer and being part of the community even playing for the local cricket team. But 14 years his junior, her mother, after giving birth of five children before she was 30, along with the excitement and glamour of London Society. Diana was just six when her parents separated after the viscountess fell in love with Peter Shand-Kydd and left her husband. The acrimonious divorce that followed resulted in custody being granted to the viscount and consequently Diana had little contact with her mother. Although close to her father whom she adored, the day-to-day care of the children fought her succession of nannies which is far from ideal for the sensitive Diana, who quickly had to learn the art of self-reliance.
The older Spencer girls did it well at school but Diana was far more artistic than academic and she struggled to keep up with the high standard set by Sarah and Jane. Diana’s confidence was further dented when she broke her arm in a riding accident and unlike many of her far from academic peers, she wasn’t even to find solace in ponies and horses.
After attending Silfield School in nearby Kings Lynn as a day people, Diana followed her sisters to boarding school at the age of nine. A shy gal, Diana was most reminded for her kindness to her fellow peoples especially those younger than herself as she grew into her teens. But the Spencer girls faced quite to shock when they return to Park House for the holidays. In the early 1970’s, their father brought a new woman in his life to meet his children, Raine, countess of Dartmouth, the daughter of Romantic novelist Barbara Cartland. If Johnny Spencer had hoped create a happy new family, he was sadly disappointed as to save his children didn’t take to Raine as a prospective stepmother would be colossal understatement.
This bombshell for the Spencer children was then followed by yet another dramatic change in 1975 when the seventh Earl Spencer, Diana’s grandfather died at the age of 83. Johnny became the eighth Earl Spencer. Charles his son was now viscount Althorp and Diana, like her sisters exchanged her honorable title for that of a lady. The family moved from Sandringham to the ancestral home at Althorp, complete with eight and a half thousand acres in northern Northhamptonshire. For the painfully shy Diana, away at boarding school for most of the time, it meant she knew no one in the vicinity and matters get worse a year later when her father married Raine on July 1976.
Like many great ancestral estates in the 1970’s, Althorp was in need of total renovation and the Spencer children believed that Raine was dominating the proceedings, selling off many of the family treasures to fund the refurbishments which caused considerable resentment. These were crucial years for Diana to be suffering such upheaval and her schoolwork undoubtedly suffered as a result. When she failed to gained academic qualifications and a finishing school in Switzerland simply left her homesick and unhappy, she headed for London in search of work.
There were plenty of wealthy young families in London in search of suitable nannies for their children and as caring for little once made Diana happy, which intend meant she was very good at it, she soon caught eye to new existence for herself, although hardly more than a child herself. In 1978, on the advice of her mother, Diana bought a three-bedroom department in Coleherne Court and promptly invited a select group of girls who were old friends to share. These were blissfully happy days for Diana and although still painfully shy, she started to meet people her own age and enjoy the young affluent London scene.
After a while she went to work at the Young England Kindergarten which she described as her first proper job. And again Diana excelled with her young charges adoring her. At last the girl who had craved nothing more in her life than approval and affection had found fulfillment looking after other people’s children.