Diana, Princess of Wales

Snowdon / Vogue 1981 © Condé Nast Publications Ltd

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Diana, Princess of Wales

by Lord Snowdon
cibachrome print, 1981
20 in. x 16 in. (508 mm x 406 mm)
Given by Vogue on behalf of Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones, Earl of Snowdon, 1982
Primary Collection
NPG P218

Sitterback to top

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This portraitback to top

The publication of this portrait in Vogue magazine in February 1981 coincided with the official announcement of the engagement of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Commissioned by Vogue as part of a 'Portrait Portfolio' of young aristocratic women by the photographer Lord Snowdon, it was used by several magazines and newspapers when the engagement was announced. Lady Diana wears a chiffon blouse by Emanuel, the designers who went on to create her wedding dress.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Faces of the Century, 1999 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 22 October 1999 to 30 January 2000), p. 115
  • Cooper, John, Great Britons: The Great Debate, 2002, p. 157 Read entry

    These two photographs (NPG P218 and NPG P716(2)) illustrate the transformation in Diana's appearance from newly engaged teenager to sophisticated Princess. Lord Snowdon has caught the freshness and naturalness of her early image; although recently divorced from Princess Margaret he was still favoured with family commissions. Diana became very fond of the bantering Terence Donovan, who once coaxed a smile from her by pulling a wad of notes from his back pocket and asking 'Recognise any of yer rellies [relations], love?' Donovan's photograph shows the effects of expensive grooming and the greater definition of her face caused by the slimming effects of bulimia and the strain of an unhappy marrige. During these years, Diana developed her understanding of both portrait and press photographers, and learned how to collude successfully with both.

  • Edited by Rab MacGibbon and Tanya Bentley, Icons and Identities, 2021, p. 35
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 177

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Events of 1981back to top

Current affairs

Prince Charles marries Lady Diana Spencer at St Paul's Cathedral. A crowd of 600,000 spectators filled the streets to catch a glimpse of the Royal couple, and 750 million viewers watched the event on television. The iconic moment came when Charles and Diana appeased the crowds by breaking royal protocol and kissing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

Art and science

Andrew Lloyd-Webber's musical Cats, based on T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, opens in the West End. The show ran for 21 years.
Brideshead Revisited, the 1945 novel by Evelyn Waugh, is adapted for television by John Mortimer. The lavish production featured an all-star cast of Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, Laurence Olivier, Claire Bloom and John Gielgud, setting the bar high for future TV costume dramas.


Pope John Paul II is shot by a Turkish gunman in St Peter's Square in Rome. John Paul was rushed to hospital where he recovered, and Mehmet Ali Agca was caught and sentenced to life imprisonment.
HIV AIDS is identified in five men in Los Angeles.

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