It’s difficult to imagine how young Lady Diana Spencer was when she became Princess Diana. Just 20 years old when she married 32-year-old Prince Charles, heir to the throne. Such a massive responsibility and enormous change in lifestyle for someone so young. Barely the whisper of a chance to become an adult, as evidenced by these
pre-royal photos of Princess Diana living her very best life. But even all these years later, the joyful enthusiasm she clearly felt just being alive is palpable in those photos. She only lived to be 36 years old, but she made an indelible mark on the world around her in the short time that she had. Before she was a royal and beyond. Lady Diana Frances Spencer was born in 1961 at Park House, a home her family rented from Queen Elizabeth on her Sandringham Estate. She was the youngest daughter of Earl Spencer and Frances Shand Kydd, and as a young woman she worked as a kindergarten assistant at the Young England school in Pimlico.
Not for long, of course. By the time she was 20 years old, she was married to Prince Charles. She would go on to welcome her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, by the time she was 23 years old.
Before all that, she was simply Diana. A young woman with a whole life ahead of her.
Baby On A Blanket Princess Diana as a baby. Hulton Archive/Hulton Royals Collection/Getty Images Sweet Faced Toddler Diana Spencer as a little girl. Bettmann/Bettmann/Getty Images Stylish School Girl Princess Diana as a little girl. Fox Photos/Hulton Royals Collection/Getty Images A Princess & Her Pony Princess Diana with her pony. Hulton Archive/Hulton Royals Collection/Getty Images Rocking A Wide-Brimmed Hat Princess Diana on holiday. Central Press/Hulton Royals Collection/Getty Images
Look at the confidence of a
young Lady Diana Spencer rocking a wide-brimmed hat on holiday in West Sussex. Destined for greatness. Innate Love Of Kids Diana Spencer was a kindergarten helper. Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix/Getty Images Composure Of A Queen Diana Spencer in 1980. John Minihan/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Despite being immediately thrown into the spotlight by the paparazzi in 1980, often alone on the street,
Diana Spencer held it together. Far better than most, in my opinion. A Nanny & A Lady Diana Spencer was a nanny. Princess Diana Archive/Hulton Royals Collection/Getty Images Teacher’s Helper Diana Spencer in a sweater vest in 1980. Hulton Deutsch/Corbis Historical/Getty Images She’s Over It Diana Spencer in 1980. Tim Graham/Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images
As she was trying to
work at the school in 1980, Diana Spencer already looked like she was over the media attention. Which was bad news since she was still just dating Prince Charles at the time. Looking Uncomfortable Diana Spencer with Camilla Parker-Bowles in 1980. PA Images/PA Images/Getty Images Too Young For Such Troubles Diana Spencer having a bad day in 1980. PA Images/PA Images/Getty Images Followed Everywhere Diana Spencer being followed by the press. PA Images/PA Images/Getty Images
Diana Spencer found herself followed everywhere by the press once word got out she was
dating Prince Charles, and it looks like she was left alone to deal with it all. Quel Comedic Timing Diana Spencer had a strong sense of comedic timing. Tom Stoddart Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
As she was trying to slip past members of the media and hop in her car for a clean getaway,
Diana stalled her car. And the face she made was pure comedic genius. Handling It On Her Own Diana Spencer in 1980. Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
As the soon-to-be-fiancee of Prince Charles,
19-year-old Diana Spencer appeared to be left to her own devices with the media. Like here when she was asked to be interviewed by the Sunday Mirror. That Smile Speaks Volumes Diana Spencer looking happy to be engaged. Anwar Hussein/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images A Glimmer Of The People’s Princess Newly engaged Diana Spencer chats with a young fan. Tim Graham/Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images
After her engagement to Prince Charles, Diana gave royal watchers a preview of the princess to come. Someone with empathy, who always
makes time for children as she did on a visit to Tetbury in May 1981. Keeping It Light Diana Spencer looking cool at Balmoral in 1981. Tim Graham/Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images
During a photocall at Balmoral in Scotland before their wedding in 1981,
Diana kept it cool and casual with a fun sweater and rubber boots. Silly Faces In Scotland Diana Spencer goofing around with the future king. Princess Diana Archive/Hulton Royals Collection/Getty Images
On her honeymoon at Queen Elizabeth’s Scottish estate of Balmoral in 1981, she was still
new to being a royal with all of the strict rules such a role entails. New enough that she was still mugging for the camera. The Honeymoon Begins Diana Spencer shared a laugh with Prince Charles in 1981. Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
As she and her new husband Prince Charles left Gibraltar for their honeymoon cruise,
Diana Spencer looked to be in high spirits. Ready to start her life as a princess, a mother, and ultimately a legend who lives on for her kind heart and empathy decades later.