The People’s Princess: 30 Ways Princess Diana Broke From Royal Tradition
In 1981, Diana Spencer married Prince Charles and became a member of a royal family that held traditions which had remained unchanged for years, and in some cases, centuries. She was quoted as saying "I do things differently, because I don’t go by a rule book, because I lead from the heart, not the head." While her rebellious ways landed her in trouble at times, Princess Diana forever changed the royal family. Let’s take a look at 30 ways Princess Diana broke with tradition.
She Picked Out Her Own Engagement Ring
Traditionally, engagement rings for the royal family are custom made. They’re designed specifically for the bride or they’re passed down within the royal family. But Princess Diana decided to do something a little different; she picked out her ring herself and she chose it from a catalog.
She Wrote Her Own Wedding Vows
Besides her engagement ring, Princess Diana also broke the rules when it came to her actual wedding. Traditionally, wedding vows include promises to love, cherish and to obey. However, Princess Diana had a slight issue with the language. She did not like the word "obey" and decided to omit it completely.
She Broke Fashion Rules
Princess Diana wasn’t one to shy away from fashion, but as a royal, there were certain standards to which she was expected to adhere. But being the rebel that she was, she often didn’t play by the royal fashion rules. For her first official appearance with Prince Charles, Diana stepped out in a strapless gown, which wasn’t exactly in the royal dress code.
She Was a Hands-on Mom
Princess Diana preferred to do things her way, and parenting was no exception. She hugged her children, she breastfed them as infants, and while she did employ nannies she preferred to do most things herself. She took her sons out and spent as much time with them as possible. While they were future heirs to the throne, they were first and foremost, her children.
She Showed Her Kids Life Outside the Palace
While many royals prefer the confines of the palace, Princess Diana wanted to show her children that there was more to life outside those walls. She took them to homeless shelters and to visit hospitals. While they were royal by blood, she wanted them to be aware of the rest of the world.
She Was Open About Her Marriage Troubles
Diana certainly wasn't one to hide the truth. She was very open about her personal life and didn’t shy away from commenting on her marital troubles during public interviews, saying that she didn't want a divorce, but she was awaiting her husband's decision.
She Chose Her Sons’ Names
In the past, the task of naming royal youngsters fell to the father. Furthermore, the names were usually picked from a pool of monikers with family or historical significance. According to this tradition, it would have been customary for Prince Charles to choose the names for the couples’ two sons.
She Put Her Family Before Her Royal Duties
Princess Diana was a princess married to the direct heir to the throne, and thus was shouldered with many duties expected of someone in her position. And while she did sometimes leave her children with a nanny, she did her best to rearrange her schedule in order to spend as much time with the boys as possible.
She Sent Her Kids to a Public School
Royal children have traditionally been tutored at home, their parents employing the best scholars as tutors. Royal heirs didn't often intermingle with children that were not royal by blood. In fact, Prince Charles broke the mold by attending a private college years earlier.
She Spoke Out About Mental Health
Not only did the princess speak openly about her marriage and the issues she faced with her husband, she also spoke openly about mental health. She specifically opened up to the public and the press about her personal struggle with bulimia.
She Enjoyed a Public Life After Her Divorce
While others who have left the royal family have stepped out of the public eye, Princess Diana did not. For the upbeat princess, life in the spotlight went on after her divorce from Prince Charles. She continued to remain in the news because reporters and the public adored her.
She Went Out in Disguise
Princess Diana was a mischievous royal. According to her friend, actress Cleo Rocos, the princess wanted to go out one night with Rocos, Freddie Mercury of Queen and comedian Kenny Everett. Of course, it was highly discouraged as palace officials were sure she would be recognized.
She Got Down to Kid-level
Diana was relatable to everyone, especially children. She reveled in mingling with the public, and the littlest members of society were no exception. While traditionally, the royal family was supposed to be visually separated and differential from the public, Diana ignored the rule.
She Publicly Supported Charities
Princess Diana was nicknamed the People's Princess, and for good reason. She was probably best known for her loving nature and compassion. The princess was one of the first royals who publicly supported charities with her presence and her heart, not just with her money and status.
She Stopped and Chatted with the Public
When out in public, it had been customary for royals to go through the crowd without stopping to interact, preferring to keep a distinction between themselves and the common public. However, this started changing when Queen Elizabeth II started doing walkabouts, or casual strolls, in the 1970s.
She Didn’t Shy Away From Public Displays of Affection
The royal family has always been proper — no touching, kissing or hand holding. In fact, even recently, news outlets picked up on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle holding hands, exclaiming how out of the ordinary such intimate public contact was.
She Flew With Her Kids
What might seem like a simple thing - flying - for the royal family is different from what you or I are used to. Traditionally, direct heirs to the throne did not fly in the same airplane. This was a precaution — in case something tragic should happen, two heirs would not be lost at once. A little morbid but the reasoning behind it is understandable.
She Gave Birth in a Hospital
One tradition that Diana broke stretched all the way back to the 1800s. Royal births were traditionally carried out at home. Moms were put to sleep,with babies birthed using forceps. This allowed for an easy, drama-free birth on the mother's part, with little injury to the child.
She Broke the Barrier Between Royals and Staff
In the past, there was always a distinction between the royal family and their staff, a line between boss and employee. This tradition was meant to emphasize the divide between the royal family and their employees. But this changed with Diana.
She Took Her Kids With Her
Royal children didn't often accompany their parents on their work and leisure trips, especially out of the country or when the children were very young. But Princess Diana, being the mother she was, couldn’t bear to be apart from her boys for long.
She Gave Out Hugs
We already mentioned the way Diana took the time to interact warmly with the public, but she did more than just chat. In the past, it was forbidden to touch someone in the royal family. This tradition was meant to underline the divide between the royals and the public.
She Influenced the Way the Queen Did Things
Surprisingly, the rebellious princess had an affect on the Queen, as well. It seems that once Diana came to the palace, the royal family had eased up on some of their rules regarding royal attire, travel conventions and interactions with the public.
She Allowed Her Boys to Experience “Normal” Things
Yes, they went to public - albeit still prestigious - schools and they mingled with their staff. But Diana went above and beyond to make sure her boys led normal lives. Well, as normal as possible for heirs to the throne of England.
She Held a Paid Position Before Becoming a Princess
Before becoming a princess, Diana Spencer was born into a family of British nobility, her father being an Earl. However, her status didn't stop her from leading a regular life before her marriage to Prince Charles, and encouraging her sons to carry on this legacy.
She Didn’t Often Use Nannies
As previously mentioned, Diana preferred to not use nannies. It’s important to point out how much of a contrast this was to previous royal mothers. Historically, child rearing was often left to the nanny, or a team of nannies, while the mother tended primarily to her royal duties.
She Didn’t Usually Wear Hats or Gloves
Even now, you rarely see the Queen without a hat or gloves on. In fact, she almost always has on gloves, especially when she is shaking hands. And while this could be a style choice, it also looks more formal, which the Queen has always been fond of.
She Wore Black
Princess Diana was known for her bold and fun fashion choices, but not everyone realizes just how rebellious her clothing was. Traditionally, royals wear colorful but understated clothing, with solid black and darker hues reserved for more serious, somber occasions.
She Accidentally Broke a Christmas Tradition
While most of her rule breaking was intentional, there was an instance where she accidentally broke a royal rule. In fact, her accidental break with tradition happened on her first Christmas as a member of the royal family.
She Played with her Makeup
Along with not wearing anything too flashy or colorful, royal women of the past were required to keep their makeup looking natural. Wearing only a small amount of mascara, eyeliner, blush and foundation was the norm. But, of course, Diana wasn’t keen on traditions.
She Wore Bold Nail Polish
Like makeup, royal tradition held that nails were also to be kept natural. In fact, it was the preference of Queen Elizabeth II that royal women stick to nude colors for their nails, like beige and pale pinks. Diana wasn’t afraid to break with this tradition in a big way.