Royal Rebel: 12 Ways Princess Diana Broke with Tradition and Paved a New Path for the Royal Family
From a hands-on approach to parenting to getting real about mental health, the People's Princess did things her way
PRINCESS DIANA WAS FIRST TO HAVE A PAYING JOB BEFORE HER MARRIAGE
Despite being Lady Diana Spencer — her father was 8th Earl Spencer — the young beauty worked as a nanny and a nursery school teacher in London, making her the first royal bride to have had a paying job before her engagement.
SHE CHOSE HER OWN ENGAGEMENT RING — FROM A CATALOGUE
Prince Charles gave Diana perhaps her most iconic piece of jewelry: her sapphire and diamond engagement ring. However, rather than create a custom band for his bride, as is royal tradition, Diana chose stunner from the jeweler Garrard's catalog.
DIANA CHANGED HER WEDDING VOWS
Even after Queen Elizabeth insisted on including that she would "obey" Prince Philip in their wedding vows, Diana omitted the line from their 1981 nuptials. Instead, she promised to ''love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health.''
The decision was controversial at the time, and others after her did vow obedience when they married into the royal family, including Sarah Ferguson and Sophie Rhys-Jones in 1986 and 1999, respectively.
SHE GAVE BIRTH IN A HOSPITAL
Up until the 1977 birth of the first of Queen Elizabeth's grandchildren, Peter Phillips, royal births occurred at home. (Queen Elizabeth gave birth to all four of her children at home at Buckingham Palace!)
The post-birth appearance outside the Lindo Wing of St. Mary's Hospital has become something of a royal tradition — started by Diana. She and Prince Charles introduced their sons to the world, and William and Kate followed in their footsteps.
DIANA WAS A HANDS-ON PARENT
While raising young royals was often left to nannies while the parents took on their duties, Princess Diana made sure to make being a mother her top priorty.
She and Charles even took then 9-month-year-old William with them on an official visit to Australia and New Zealand in March 1983, a decision that was unprecedented at the time.
Now, her eldest son is keeping that tradition alive with his three little ones.
"[William] can do all the things that he thinks are important for family life and make sure that his children have that loving, caring, fun home that his mother was trying to create," a royal source previously told PEOPLE.
SHE SENT HER KIDS TO PUBLIC SCHOOL
No royal tutors and homeschooling for Diana's son! Prince William became the first heir to the British throne to attend public school, at the urging of his mom.
"The decision to have William, 3, develop his finger-painting skills among commoners showed the influence of Diana, Princess of Wales, who had worked in a nursery school herself when she was just a Lady," George Hackett wrote in Newsweek in 1985 of William going to Jane Mynor's nursery school.
SHE GAVE HER KIDS REAL WORLD EXPERIENCES
In addition to attending school with regular kids, Princess Diana made sure they had experiences that would ensure her boys had a sense of a "normal" childhood. This included trips to theme parks, using public transportation and enjoying hamburgers from McDonald's.
THE ROYAL WAS CANDID WITH THE PRESS
While other royals kept a stiff upper lip, Diana was honest about the less-than-glamorous parts of her life — especially when her marriage fell apart.
Charles and Diana separated in 1992. That same year, Diana gave an explosive interview to BBC's Panorama, in which she is candid about the affair, saying, "Well, there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," referring to Philip's then-mistress and second wife, Camilla.
SHE CHOSE NOT TO WEAR HATS OR GLOVES
The Queen is often seen in one of her signature hats and almost always wears gloves while shaking hands at events. However, Diana dropped the practice.
"She abandoned the royal protocol of wearing gloves because she liked to hold hands when visiting people or shake hands and have direct contact," Eleri Lynn, the curator of an exhibit on Diana's style, previously told PEOPLE. "She also stopped wearing hats because she said, 'You can't cuddle a child in a hat.'"
SHE WORE BLACK
Diana is known as a fashion icon, and even wearing the most basic colors was a statement. Queen Elizabeth typically wears a rainbow of bright clothes so her royal fans can easily spot her in a crowd, and black is reserved for somber occasions. Diana wore her fair share of bold shades — however, she knew there was nothing quite like a little black dress or a cool neutral.
DIANA DESTIGMATIZED AIDS
At the height of the AIDS epidemic in 1987, Princess Diana did something truly remarkable: She shook hands with an AIDS patient in London, a simple act that reverberated around the globe and smashed stigmas at a time when public fears about catching the disease were prevalent.
"She was very real and very about human contact," her brother Charles, 9th Earl Spencer, previously told PEOPLE. "And what really mattered that day was to get across a very clear message that, 'I'm going to touch this gentleman — and you can all exist in a community with people who are suffering, and we must help."
Today her sons Prince William and Prince Harry have carried on the mantle of her work of breaking down barriers toward public health, with Harry taking an HIV test alongside Grammy winner Rihanna in 2017.
SHE GOT REAL ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH
In 1992, Andrew Morton published Diana: Her True Story, which revealed that the princess was living with the eating disorder. In an 1995 interview with BBC, she described bulimia as a "symptom of what was going on in my marriage."
Her sons have continued her work to destigmatize mental health issues.
"We need to normalize the conversation about mental health," Prince William said in the documentary Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia. "We need to be matter-of-fact about it, and not hide it in the dark where it festers."