Elegant equines and equestrian activities have been part of royal tradition for countless generations. From medieval jousting to modern polo matches, from festivities to funerals, and from coronations to contests, horses have played an important role in royal history.
How did the late Lady Diana, Princess of Wales (and first wife of British Prince Charles), feel about horses? Was the princess a willing participant in equestrian activities?
Here are seven intriguing facts about Lady Diana, the late Princess of Wales, and how she related to horses.
As a child, Princess Diana grew up around horses.
Lady Diana Francis Spencer grew up on a country estate, where she had her own pony. Her family had stables filled with equines and practiced both horseback riding and equestrian driving.
As a schoolgirl, Diana received an honorary award for caring for her pet guinea pig. The British schoolgirl became a kindergarten teacher in her late teen years before marrying 33-year-old British royal Prince Charles of Wales at age 19.
Princess Diana of Wales loved animals, but she hated horseback riding.
Although Prince Charles of Wales has been an avid polo player and fan, his first wife Diana did not share his passion for the ponies. In fact, she curtailed her equestrian pursuits as a teenager after suffering a nasty spill from the back of a horse.
Even so, Princess Diana did encourage her sons (Prince William and Prince Harry) to learn to ride and to enjoy horses.
For her own fitness and recreation, Princess Diana preferred aerobic exercises, roller skating, running, skiing, swimming and other sports pursuits over equestrian activities.
Despite her reluctance to mount up and ride a horse, either sidesaddle or astride, the 5’10” and photogenic Princess Diana was frequently photographed in equestrian carriages, particularly on official and high-society occasions for the British royals.
Of course, Lady Diana Spencer did not do the driving.
Lady Diana Spencer rode in a horse-drawn carriage to her wedding to Prince Charles.
On July 29, 1981, with most of the world watching, Lady Diana Spencer (with her 25-foot lace bridal train) was carried by coach to London’s St. Paul Cathedral for her fairy tale wedding to British Prince Charles. Elegant light grey horses pranced through the streets of London.
After their nuptials, the royal couple shared a regal horse-drawn carriage, pulled by two pairs of grey horses.
An equestrian carriage annually carried Princess Diana to Royal Ascot horse races.
Each June, during her tenure as Princess of Wales, Lady Diana attended the high-fashion Royal Ascot horse races. A horse-drawn carriage traditionally carries decked out royals to the Ascot Racecourse, located about six miles from Windsor Castle, for the famous Ascot Gold Cup.
Princess Diana was photographed riding in a fancy carriage, drawn by spit-shined bay horses, in a regal procession on the Ascot track. In addition, the fashion-plate princess (who was more than once tagged as a clothes horse herself) eagerly cheered for her favorite horses in the Ascot races.
Princess Diana was linked by rumors of romance to her equestrian trainer.
Tabloid rumors swirled around Princess Diana when she began spending extended hours at the riding stables, where Captain James Hewitt instructed her sons (Prince William and Prince Harry) in horseback riding.
The princess claimed she enjoyed the company of the horses and that she did not actually mount up – at least, not in the saddle. Still, paparazzi persisted in their claims that a certain amount of horsing around did actually occur between Diana and Captain Hewitt.
Horses pulled the funereal wagon for Princess Diana.
Princess Diana died in a tragic Paris car crash on August 31, 1997, along with her paramour, Harrad’s Department Store heir Dodi Fayed, and the Mercedes’ driver Henri Paul. But this crash had everything to do with automotive horsepower and nothing to do with actual horses.
On September 6, 1997, the body of Lady Diana Spencer (by then divorced from Prince Charles of Wales) was transported by parade from London’s Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey. Six bay horses from the King’s Troop stables drew the gun carriage carrying the late Princess for the procession, accompanied by the Metropolitan Police Mounted Branch of London.
Princess Diana’s family auctioned equestrian valuables in 2010.
Thirteen years after Lady Diana Spencer’s death, her family sold a considerable collection (approximately £21.1 million) of art and treasures of Althorp House. The three-day sale included more than a dozen vintage equestrian carriages that once belonged to members of the British aristocracy.