Prince Charles, 32, marries Lady Diana Spencer, 20, in a lavish wedding at St. Paul's Cathedral with 750 million people tuning in worldwide. On June 21, 1982, the royals welcome their first son, His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis Windsor of Wales. The newborn is the second in line for the British throne following his father. Prince Charles tells PEOPLE of his son, "He has the good fortune not to look like me." Two years later, they welcome Prince Harry.
Princess Diana displays a hands-on parenting approach uncommon among the royals and takes nine-month-old William along when she and Prince Charles make an official visit to Australia.
As a young boy, William becomes his mother's closest confidant, "soul mate" and "chief comforter," according to Vanity Fair's Christopher Anderson in 2003. Anderson details an incident when 8-year-old William slips tissues under a bathroom door to his crying mother after she quarreled with Charles at Highgrove, the royal retreat in Gloucestershire.
Weeks before William, 10, and Harry, 8, return to boarding school, Charles and Diana announce their separation. The boys split the remainder of their Christmas holiday between their feuding parents. Charles tells the BBC in 1994 that he never loved his princess bride, and Diana tells journalist Martin Bashir, "There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded," referring to Charles' longtime love Camilla Parker Bowles. Throughout the marriage, Diana battled bulimia and depression, which she blames on Charles and the Royal Family's coldness.
Diana tries to give her sons as normal an upbringing as possible. She rejects Charles' alma mater, a boarding school in Scotland, for Eton College, a prestigious public boarding school near London, where Diana's father and brother both attended. The Royal Family and the British press strike a deal: the royals will provide information on William once every term in exchange for his privacy. "Prince William is not an institution; nor a soap star; nor a football hero," Lord Wakeham, chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, says to the press. "He is a child: in the next few years, perhaps the most important and sometimes painful of his life, he will grow up and become a man."
William and Harry hunt, fish, and go riding with their father. In their mother's company, they go to McDonald's and Disneyland, but also to AIDS clinics and homeless shelters. "I want them to have an understanding of people's emotions, of people's insecurities, of people's distress, of their hopes and dreams," she tells ABC's Martin Bashir in an interview.
After nearly 15 years of marriage, Charles and Diana's divorce is finalized. The royal exes agree to share custody of their sons, William, 14, and Harry, 11. In addition, the AP reports that Charles, 47, will pay Diana, 35, a lump sum of $26.35 million, and about $620,000 a year to run her private office. But the Princess loses the battle of keeping her title 'HRH' (Her Royal Highness), which is stripped from her. She will officially be known simply as Diana, Princess of Wales.
William tells his mom she should auction her dresses to raise money for charity. Diana loves the idea, and Christie's New York sells a collection of 79 gowns from her closet worn from 1981 to 1996. A crowd of 1,100 shows up at the auction, raising a total of $5.76 million for AIDS and breast cancer charities. The dress Diana wore at a 1985 White House dinner where she danced with John Travolta fetches the highest bid of $222,500.
Diana, 36, dies in a fatal car accident in Paris with her companion Dodi Fayed, heir to the owner of Harrods. The crash in the Place de l'Alma tunnel was the result of a 60-mph paparazzi car chase. Following her death, Prince Charles flies to Paris to bring her body to London for burial, and drapes the royal standard over her coffin, acknowledging in death her status as a member of the Royal Family. During this time Queen Elizabeth's silence is interpreted by the British press as indifferent and aloof. After a week of seclusion, the Queen returns with her grandsons from Balmoral Castle in Scotland to address the public.
The Queen breaks precedent to give Diana a royal funeral because she is the mother of the future king (According to the BBC, William says he intends to reinstate his mother's title when he is king). William, 15, and Harry, 12, walk behind their mother's coffin, while more than a million people line the route of Diana's funeral cortege. Earl Spencer uses his eulogy to criticize the media's hounding of his sister and Elton John sings a reworked version of his hit "Candle in the Wind."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Tim Graham/Getty; Tim Graham/AP; Kim Knott/Retna; Lionel Cherruault/Sipa