How Princess Diana was ‘first in 300 years’ to fulfill key royal role

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PRINCESS DIANA was a pioneer in many ways, not least because she was the first Englishwoman to marry the heir to the British throne in 300 years.

The last one before her was Anne Hyde, who married James, Duke of York, who later became King James II. However, like Diana, Anne never became Queen – she died in 1671, 14 years before he came to the throne, and he remarried Mary of Modena. Diana was also the first royal bride to have a paying job before her engagement.

In the 2013 Amazon Prime documentary ‘Royalty Close Up: The Photography of Kent Gavin’, royal biographer Anthony Holden pointed out this fact, as well how Diana brought something fresh to the Royal Family.

He said: “She was the first Englishwoman, I think, for 300 years to marry an heir to the throne.

“And she just brought a naturalness to it that it lacked and a showbiz dimension that has been as damaging as it has been helpful to the royal ratings.”

Diana was not only interesting in terms of who she was, but what she did once she became the Princess of Wales.

Prince Charles Charles married Diana in Image GETTY
Prince Charles Charles married Diana in Image GETTY

Princess Diana married Prince Charles in 1981 (Image GETTY)

Royal biographer Anthony Holden
Royal biographer Anthony Holden (Image: Amazon Prime)

Royal biographer Anthony Holden (Image: Amazon Prime)

She was a whole new kind of royal, transforming the image of it from the stuffy establishment to glamorous celebrity.

Diana’s former royal protection officer Ken Wharfe told the documentary: “There wasn’t anybody before that that was exciting enough and suddenly you had this 19-year-old that had this interaction, not only with the public but with the media. We had never had this before!”

 Mike Malloy, former editor of the Daily Mirror, added: “Princess Diana was like one of the old-fashioned movie stars – she knew where the camera was.

“She also knew instinctively – God knows, no one taught her this – she knew how to flirt with the camera.”

royal family anne hyde
Anne Hyde, first wife of King James II (Image: GETTY)

Anne Hyde, first wife of King James II (Image: GETTY)

Looking back at the 300 years before Diana married Charles, with some curiosities aside, most heirs married foreign royalty in order to forge alliances across Europe.

Before Diana, Princess Elizabeth – later Queen Elizabeth II – famously married Prince Philip of Greece, clearly neither a woman nor English.

Before them, Queen Elizabeth – later The Queen Mother – was married to the heir apparent,  Prince Albert – later George VI.

However, their wedding took place before George V died and therefore his older brother Prince Edward – later Edward VIII and then the Duke of Windsor – was heir to the throne at the time of the wedding.

mike malloy daily mirror
Mike Malloy, former editor of Daily Mirror (Image: Amazon Prime)

Mike Malloy, former editor of Daily Mirror (Image: Amazon Prime)

royal bodyguard ken wharfe
Former royal protection officer Ken Wharfe (Image: Amazon Prime)

Former royal protection officer Ken Wharfe (Image: Amazon Prime)

Edward VIII was unmarried when he became King, although he later abdicated to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

Before him, Prince George – later George V – married Mary of Teck – and Queen Victoria had several heirs during her reign, who each married foreign royalty. 

When she first came to the throne, the heir presumptive was her uncle Ernest Augustus, who became King of Hanover on the same day Victoria became Queen of the UK.

This was due to a Salic law which disbarred women from the succession and thus ended the personal union between Britain and Hanover that had begun in 1714.

Ernest Augustus was married to Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

When Victoria, Princess Royal, was born she was the new heir presumptive, but at just a year old she was supplanted by her brother Prince Albert Edward – later Edward VII, who married Mary of Teck.

Queen Victoria herself was unmarried when she came to the throne, although she of course later married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

queen mother
The Queen Mother does not count because her wedding to George VI happened when he was 2nd in line (Image: GETTY)

The Queen Mother does not count because her wedding to George VI happened when he was 2nd in line (Image: GETTY)

Before Victoria, most heirs also married royalty from the continent, as it was almost unheard of to marry commoners – and to marry British royalty would be to marry your close relatives.

What’s more, even marrying British aristocrats would not be as useful as marrying foreign royalty, as it does not help bring together the countries of Europe.

Before modern times, marriage in this context was far more about diplomacy than love.

Source: EXPRESS CO UK