Why Princess Diana Had to Learn to ‘Sink or Swim’ Early On

Princess Diana wasn’t born into royalty and she couldn’t have known what she was getting herself into when she agreed to marry Prince Charles. She had to learn really quickly what was expected of her without help from anyone. Diana had to “sink or swim,” and she swam.

Princess Diana was a unique member of the Royal Family

Princess Diana
Princess Diana | Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Princess Diana quickly became a cultural phenomenon and a world icon virtually overnight. People wanted to know what she was doing, where she was going, what she cared about, and what she was wearing. Women have impossible standards to uphold constantly. They must be beautiful at all times, but also smart yet passive. The standards for Diana to uphold were even higher. Diana was her own person and changed the royal precedent that was set.

The most photographed woman in the world

Princess Diana
Princess Diana | Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Diana quickly outshined everyone else including her jealous husband, Prince Charles. The media never left them alone and this was unchartered territory for the young Princess. She quickly learned that she was going to have to conform and learn her new place immediately.

Princess Diana learned her new role fast

Princess Diana and Prince Charles
Princess Diana and Prince Charles | Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Princess Diana took part in the now-famous Panorama Interview with the BBC’s Martin Bashir. She spoke very candidly about her time in the Royal Family and how difficult it all really was for her. She would learn very early on that she was on her own. She was under a constant microscope from the media and they wanted to know where she was every second of the day. One wrong step and she would fall off her royal pedestal.

“But then here was a situation which hadn’t ever happened before in history, in the sense that the media were everywhere, and here was a fairy story that everybody wanted to work,” Diana said. “And so it was, it was isolating, but it was also a situation where you couldn’t indulge in feeling sorry for yourself: you had to either sink or swim. And you had to learn that very fast.”

To hear Diana tell it, she “swam.” She spread her arms and started to swim and she realized she was a natural at it. The media couldn’t get enough and her star just kept getting brighter. She couldn’t understand why people were so fascinated by her every move. She was constantly judged and picked apart for every little thing. Of course, it got to her eventually.

The ‘pressure’ was on

Princess Diana felt enormous amounts of pressure to perform from everyone, especially from both the Royal Family and the media. In Andrew Morton’s biography about the Princess in which she was the secret source, it’s detailed how the media affected Diana. In Diana: Her True Story – In Her Own Words, it’s revealed that things were especially hard when she was pregnant with Prince William.

The couple was still newly married and the media attention was unbearable for Diana. They were following her and virtually taking control over her life. She couldn’t take it anymore and just wanted to give birth without all the hounding. On top of that, Diana had to find a suitable date for Prince Charles as well, which I’m sure stressed her out more.

“When we had William, we had to find a date in the diary that suited Charles and his polo,” Diana said. “William had to be induced because I couldn’t handle the press pressure any longer, it was becoming unbearable. It was as if everyone was monitoring every day for me.”

Princess Diana produced the long-awaited heir in Prince William and did what was expected of her. Prince Harry soon followed and Diana was still the media darling she had always been since becoming engaged to Prince Charles. She handled her position as the Princess of Wales with a smiling face and love for her people, even though at times she had no reason to smile.