Despite being one of the most prominent figures in the history of the British Royal Family, there are still some lesser known facts about Princess Diana.
She dreamt of being a ballerina
From a young age, Princess Diana harboured a dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer. However, there was one crucial hindrance that would scupper her ambitions; her height. At 5’10, she was taller than the vast majority of professional dancers in a world known for its strict physical requirements. Most ballet companies require their dancers to be no more than 5’8. Due to her acknowledged struggles with bulimia, it may have been a blessing in disguise as research has shown that ballet dancers are three times more likely to suffer from an eating disorder than other athletes.
Coming from an aristocratic family, there were reported murmurings of discontent at the prospect of Diana pursuing what was considered an “improper job”. Despite the disappointment of her thwarted ambition, Diana would reconnect with her love of dancing as an adult.
In December 1985, the VIP audience – including Prince Charles – at the Royal Opera House’s Annual Show would have been expecting a celebrity guest performance. What they certainly would not have been expecting, however, was for Princess Diana to stroll out with the diminutive British dancer Wayne Sleep in tow. Standing at just 5’2, he is the shortest male dancer to be admitted into the Royal Ballet School. Sleep confessed his reservations regarding their vertical disparity to The Telegraph : “I said to Princess Diana – this will never work, Ma’am. You’re so much taller than me.”
The pair went on to perform a short modern routine to Billy Joel’s 80’s hit ‘Uptown Girl’, to rapturous applause and demands for an encore from the audience. Prince Charles, however, was reported to have appeared satisfied with just the single rendition. It was speculated that he found the performance to be in breach of royal etiquette, but Wayne Sleep’s version of events was quite different. According to Tina Brown’s Princess Diana biography, Sleep was of the opinion that Charles’s muted response stemmed from a resentment at not being involved himself.
Jobs before her marriage to Prince Charles
On her return to London after attending finishing school in Switzerland, Diana had a number of jobs while sharing her mother’s flat with two school friends. She worked as a dance instructor and a hostess at parties before eventually finding work and greater satisfaction as a nursery teacher’s assistant at the Young England School in Pimlico. It was here that Diana taught painting, drawing and dancing to around 50 children and was said to be a natural at the job.
In September 1980, five months before her engagement to Prince Charles, the press got wind of the relationship and the first public pictures of Diana appeared. She was followed to and from her work, and any semblance of a normal life was behind her. As with every working member of the Royal Family, she had to relinquish the job following her marriage in order to carry out official duties, but its legacy would be seen in her future work with numerous children’s charities.