29 JUNE 1992 PRINCESS DIANA VISITS BELFAST TO ATTEND THE OPENING OF THE ASSEMBLY BUILDINGS

29 JUNE 1992 PRINCESS DIANA VISITS BELFAST TO ATTEND THE OPENING OF THE ASSEMBLY BUILDINGS

image With its unique setting and superb facilities, Assembly Buildings is one of the finest conference and exhibition venues in the city of Belfast. Following an £8million refurbishment in 2010, the facility offers state-of-the-art technology in a historically rich environment. Princess Diana attended the re-opening of the buildings on 29 June 1992, after its first refurbishment due to a bomb blast. image The stained glass windows, seen below, were removed for safe keeping at the height of the terrorist bombing of Belfast and were only replaced at the time of the re-opening. On the right at the front of the Assembly Hall is a plaque unveiled by Diana, Princess of Wales on the occasion of her visit to Church House on June 29, 1992. imageWith its high-tech facilities and a ten room conference suite capable of accommodating up to 1150, the Assembly Buildings is now regarded as one of Belfast’s premier conference, concert and exhibition venues. imageBuilt in 1905 as the headquarters of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Assembly Buildings Conference Centre is one of the most impressive buildings in Belfast’s city centre. imageDesigned in the architectural style of a Scottish baronial castle, the gothic structure boasts a 40m high clock tower, a bell tower housing Belfast’s only operational peal of 12 bells, and several exquisite stain glass windows. For almost 80 years the Assembly Buildings, or Church House, as it was then exclusively known, operated entirely as the headquarters and General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. In 1992, however, after its first significant refurbishment, the building took on a commercial use, providing both a retail facility, Spires Mall, on the ground floor and offering the majestic Main Hall as an outside conference venue. imageOver the years the Assembly Buildings has welcomed a host of distinguished visitors including Diana, Princess of Wales, President Mary McAleese, Prime Minister John Major and First Lady, Hilary Clinton. image imagePrincess Diana’s visit that day defied the IRA and she was rewarded with crowds of up to 20,000 people in Belfast during her stay in the city. It was said to be the largest crowd at a royal engagement in Ulster for years and they chanted, shouted and yelled ‘We Want Di!’

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She also visited Hillsborough Castle, County Down, that same day and planted a tree in commemoration of her visit.  She attended a garden party at the Castle given by the Right Hon. Patrick Mayhew and mingled with the guests in the garden.  Hillsborough Castle is an official government residence in Northern Ireland. imageIt is the residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the official residence in Northern Ireland of Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the British Royal Family when they visit the region, as well as a guest house for prominent international visitors. image

1 JULY 1961: HAPPY BIRTHDAY PRINCESS DIANA

imageDiana Frances Spencer was born on 1 July 1961, in Park House, Sandringham, Norfolk. She was the fourth of five children of John Spencer, Viscount Althorp (1924–1992) and his first wife, Frances, Viscountess Althorp (née Roche; 1936–2004). The Spencers have been closely allied with the Royal Family for several generations. They were hoping for a boy to carry on the family line, and no name was chosen for a week, until they settled on Diana Frances, after her mother and Diana Russell, Duchess of Bedford, seen below. The Duchess was a distant relative who was also known as “Lady Diana Spencer” before marriage and was a prospective Princess of Wales.
imageOn 30 August 1961, Diana was baptised at St. Mary Magdalene Church, Sandringham, by the Clerk of the Closet, Percy Herbert.
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Her godparents were John Floyd (chairman of Christie’s and a friend of her father), Alexander Gilmour (her father’s first cousin), Lady Mary Colman (née Bowes-Lyon; niece of the Queen Mother), Sarah Pratt (friend and neighbour of her parents) and Carol Fox (another friend and neighbour of her parents).

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Diana had three siblings: Sarah, Jane, and Charles. She also had an infant brother, John, who died only a year before she was born.
imageThe desire for an heir added strain to the Spencers’ marriage, and Lady Althorp was reportedly sent to Harley Street clinics in London to determine the cause of the “problem.”
imageThe experience was described as “humiliating” by Diana’s younger brother, Charles: “It was a dreadful time for my parents and probably the root of their divorce because I don’t think they ever got over it.” Diana grew up in Park House, seen below, which was situated near the Sandringham estate.
imageDiana was eight years old when her parents divorced, before which her mother had had an affair with Peter Shand Kydd.
image imageIn his book, Morton describes Diana’s remembrance of Lord Althorp loading suitcases in the car and Lady Althorp crunching across the gravel forecourt and driving away through the gates of Park House. Diana lived with her mother in London during her parents’ separation.
imageDuring Christmas holidays, however, Lord Althorp refused to let Lady Althorp return to London with Diana. His own bouts of depression, however, left him sullen and withdrawn, and he would close himself in his private rooms for days without speaking to anyone, including his children.
imageShortly afterwards, however, Lord Althorp won custody of Diana and her siblings with support from his former mother-in-law, Ruth Roche, Baroness Fermoy.
imageDiana was first educated at Sidley, then Riddlesworth Hall near Diss, Norfolk, and later attended boarding school at The New School at West Heath, in Sevenoaks, Kent.
imageIn 1973, Lord Althorp began a relationship with Raine, Countess of Dartmouth, the only daughter of Alexander McCorquodale and Barbara Cartland.
image imageDiana soon became known as Lady Diana after her father later inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975. Despite her unpopularity with Diana, Lady Darmouth married Lord Spencer at Caxton Hall, London in 1976.

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Diana was often noted for her shyness while growing up, but she did take an interest in both music and dancing with training in classical ballet. She also had a great interest in children and adored her pet pony, Souffle and guinea pig, Peanuts.
image imageAfter attending finishing school at the Institut Alpin Videmanette in Switzerland, she moved to London.
imageShe began working with children, eventually becoming a nursery assistant at the Young England School.
imageDiana grew up around the Royal Family and had played with Princes Andrew and Edward as a child while her family rented Park House, a property owned by Queen Elizabeth II and situated on the Sandringham Estate.
image imageimage In 1981, at the age of 20 years and 28 days she married the heir to the British Throne, HRH Prince Charles.
imageThey had two sons Princes William and Harry.  The marriage lasted until 1992. No one in 1981 would have believed that she would ever divorce and later die tragically at the age of 36.
imageHad she lived, Princess Diana would have been 54 years old today.