It was a fine day in February 1981 when Prince Charles announced his engagement to Lady Diana Spencer. Hundreds of photographers lined up in the garden of Buckingham Palace, taking thousands of pictures for front pages all over the world. The weeks leading up to it had been a scrum. Diana was besieged at her flat in Earl’s Court, west London, and at the kindergarten where she worked. She consoled herself with the thought that, once the wedding was over, she would return to a life of relative obscurity. The royal family, too, believed that the fame of this shy, teenage virgin would be transitory. More to the point, as far as the royal family were concerned, Prince Charles was 32 and in need of an heir. Diana was 19.
“Everyone,” Andrew Morton wrote in his biography of Diana years later, “even newspaper editors, was caught unawares by the Princess Diana phenomenon. Their readers could not get enough of Diana.”