1. Prince Charles was dating Diana’s older sister, Sarah, when he first met Diana, but their relationship hit a rough patch after she boldly stated in print, “I am not in love with Prince Charles.” Diana, however, was more emphatic about her affection for the royal, and even had a picture of Charles tacked up above her bed at boarding school. “I would love to be a dancer—or Princess of Wales,” she once told a classmate. Diana was just 16 years old when she met Charles (who was then 28) on a pheasant hunt in Norfolk. “I can remember the weekend she came back after she met him because she couldn’t talk about anything else,” Penny Walker, Diana’s former music teacher, would recall. “[She said]: I’ve met him! At last, I’ve met him.” When Diana and Charles officially began courting two years later, Sarah proudly proclaimed: “I introduced them. I’m Cupid.”
2. Princess Diana’s wedding dress was adorned with more than 10,000 tiny mother of pearl sequins and pearls, and included a 25-foot-long train—the longest in royal history. In an effort to support England’s fashion industry, Diana called upon a young designing couple, David and Elizabeth Emanuel, after a chance meeting through an editor at Vogue. “We knew it had to be something that was going to go down in history, but also something that Diana loved,” Elizabeth said. “And we knew it was going to be at St. Paul’s so it had to be something that would fill the aisle and be quite dramatic.” Throughout five months of fittings—newspapers at the time dubbed the event the most closely guarded secret in fashion history—the windows of the Emanuel’s Mayfair couture shop were covered with blinds and security guards were hired to protect the silk-taffeta creation that reportedly cost $115,000. On the morning of the big day, details were released in sealed envelopes to be opened the moment the 20-year-old bride stepped into the glass coach on her way to the cathedral. But, in case news leaked early, there was an emergency backup gown: “We didn’t try it on Diana. We never even discussed it,” Elizabeth told reporters in 2011 when the sketch of the alternate design was revealed. “We wanted to make sure that we had something there; it was for our own peace of mind, really.”
3. The education of young royalty was traditionally conducted by private tutors and governesses, however, Princess Diana changed that after she insisted Prince William attend nursery school in London; when she enrolled him at Mrs. Mynors’, he became the first member of the royal family to ever go to preschool outside the palace walls. While it was important to Diana that her children have the most normal upbringing possible, there were the notable exceptions. For instance, she once invited Cindy Crawford to Buckingham Palace for dinner, because 13-year-old Prince William had a crush on the supermodel. “It was a little awkward,” Crawford later said. “He was a boy, so I didn’t want to look too trampy. But I didn’t want to look dowdy either. I somehow had to look supermodel for a kid.”
4. Diana preferred round tables to the usual grand regal banquets that sat 10 people so she could connect with her dinner guests; however, if she were on her own for lunch, she would often eat in the kitchen and up on the counter top—decidedly down-to-earth behavior for monarchy. “The rest of the royals would never do that,” Darren McGrady, her personal chef, said in 2014. To put it in perspective, when HRH the Queen entered the room, all staff was expected to stop what they were doing, move pots and pans to the side of the stove, step three paces back, and bow. Diana, perhaps unsurprisingly, had a more casual approach. “[She would say,] ‘Darren, I need a coffee. Oh, you’re busy. I’ll make it. Do you want one?’” Although she was a regular in the kitchen at Kensington, cooking was not exactly her forte, and much like Kate Middleton—why should it be? McGrady prepared meals for Diana Monday through Friday and, for his days off, stocked the royal refrigerator with microwavable options. “It was just that basic cooking with the princess,” he said.
5. Diana selected her 18-carat sapphire engagement ring from a catalog, instead of having one custom made, which caused a minor scandal. At the time, the Garrard jewelry collection catalog sold the ring for $60,000 and anyone could buy it. “A ring like Diana’s became the thing to have,” Cartier’s Bill San Filippo told The New York Times. The “commoner’s sapphire” has become synonymous with Princess Diana ever since. Following her death, Prince Harry inherited the ring, and allegedly gifted the heirloom to Prince William for his proposal to Kate Middleton in 2010. William reportedly took the the ring (which is estimated to be worth almost ten times its original value) from the royal safe and supposedly carried it around in his rucksack for three weeks during a trip to Africa before popping the question.