Princess Diana’s memory was honoured today with an English Heritage blue plaque on the Earl’s Court flat she lived in before her wedding to the Prince of Wales in 1981.
The architectural accolade to Diana, who would have been 60 in July, is in honour of her ‘devotion to charity work’ and will mark out the late royal’s first home – gifted to her as a coming-of-age present by her parents – for tourists in the city.
Her former flatmate, Virginia Clarke, revealed today as the plaque was unveiled that she and Diana ‘had actually driven around London talking about blue plaques, so I knew that she would have really liked it’.
The plaque reads ‘Lady Diana Spencer later Princess of Wales lived here 1979 to 1981’.
Princess Diana was honoured today with an English Heritage blue plaque on the Earl’s Court flat she lived in before her wedding to the Prince of Wales in 1981. The late royal is pictured leaving her London flat in 1980
The accolade to the Princess of Wales , who would have been 60 in July, is in honour of her ‘devotion to charity work’
Princess Diana’s Edwardian flat at Coleherne Court (pictured) was given to her in 1979 as a coming-of-age present from her parents
She added: ‘I just thought it’s so nice to be able to come and celebrate the good times – I know that she was happy here.’
Asked to put into words the contributions made by Diana in her life, Virginia said: ‘She has done a lot. She was terribly good at remembering everybody and speaking to people one-to-one, and I think she really picked up many people’s lives all around the place wherever she travelled and just made them feel better.
‘I know there’s a lot of talk about her charities, and that was all wonderful, but just on a one-to-one basis, she was terribly good at that.
Princess Diana’s Edwardian flat at Coleherne Court was given to her in 1979 as a coming-of-age present from her parents.
She shared it with three close friends for two years – some of the happiest days of her life, she once said – until moving to Clarence House the night before her engagement in February 1981.
Diana shared her flat (pictured) with three close friends for two years – some of the happiest days of her life, she once said – until moving to Clarence House the night before her engagement in February 1981
Her former flatmate, Virginia Clarke, revealed today as the plaque was unveiled that she and Diana ‘had actually driven around London talking about blue plaques’
English Heritage, which manages more than 400 historic buildings and cultural sites across the country, said earlier this year they expect Diana’s plaque to be ‘very popular’, adding that she was an ‘inspiration and a cultural icon to many’.
Princess Diana’s Earl’s Court flat where she lived before marrying Prince Charles
Diana’s parents bought her 60 Coleherne Court, a property in a mansion block close to the fashionable King’s Road in Chelsea, when she settled in the capital as a young woman.
She shared the flat with a number of girlfriends and was said to have a sign above her bedroom door which read ‘Chief Chick’.
Diana described the few years she lived in the three-bed flat as ‘the happiest time of her life’, according to Andrew Morton’s book Diana, In Her Own Words.
‘It was juvenile, innocent, uncomplicated and above all fun. I laughed my head off there,’ Diana said, according to Andrew Morton’s book Diana, In Her Own Words.
When she began dating Charles, Diana was reportedly living with friends Anne Bolton and Virginia Pitman, was charging her flatmates £18 a week and was said to be a house proud young woman who set up a cleaning rota.
The apartment was reportedly bought by her parents for £50,000 when the princess – then Lady Diana Spencer – was 18 and working at Young England Kindergarten in Pimlico, central London.
Diana is the highest profile former member of the monarchy to be bestowed the honour, and was nominated by the London Assembly after the body ran a campaign asking Londoners to suggest women worthy of a blue plaque.
Blue plaques commemorate the link between a location and an individual who was regarded as ’eminent’ in their field.
Their achievements should have made an ‘exceptional impact in terms of public recognition’, and they must have been dead for at least 20 years.
Anna Eavis, English Heritage’s Curatorial Director, said: ‘[Diana] was an inspiration and cultural icon to many, raising awareness of issues including landmines and homelessness, and helping to destigmatise illnesses such as HIV, leprosy and depression.
‘It seems fitting that we should erect a plaque commemorating her work and influence in what would have been her 60th year.’
English Heritage launched a ‘plaques for women’ campaign five years ago and have received an increasing number of public nominations for female figures.
In 2021, half of the charity’s new plaques will be dedicated to women.
Other recipients included social reformer Caroline Norton, fashion designer Jean Muir, former slave and campaigner Ellen Craft and barrister Helena Normanton, as the charity aims to ‘address the gender imbalance’.
News of the plaque came in April this year, ahead of what would have been Diana’s 60th birthday – which was marked on July 1st with Princes William and Prince Harry unveiling a statue in the gardens of Kensington Palace in their mother’s memory.
The statue by Ian Rank-Broadley depicts Diana in the ‘more confident’ later years of her life and aims to reflect her ‘warmth, elegance and energy’, the sculptor said.
Princes William and Harry were seen chatting together during the monument’s unveiling as they put aside their feud to honour their mother.
The statue shows Diana wearing a sleek open-necked blouse, a wide belt and a pencil skirt, while her hands are gently placed on the shoulders of two of the children – a boy and a girl, with the girl holding the princess’s hand.
Mr Rank-Broadley may have taken inspiration from a 1993 Christmas card which shows the princess wearing the same top and belt, while one of her arms is also outstretched.
Rank-Broadley’s artwork was erected in the palace’s Sunken Garden, one of the places Diana loved most at the Palace.
The space has been redesigned during the past two years and features more than 4,000 individual flowers, including forget-me-nots which were adored by the princess.