Princess Diana’s ‘inferiority complex’ after failing school exams was one of her biggest ‘problems’, says royal expert

Princess Diana suffered from feelings of inadequacy after failing to pass her O Level exams, according to a royal author

Diana, Princess of Wales (1961 - 1997) attends a dinner at the British Embassy in Washington, DC, November 1985. She is wearing an evening dress by Murray Arbeid and the Queen Mary tiara. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images))

Princess Diana felt alone in the Royal Family for many reasons, but it was an apparent 'inferiority complex' that cemented her isolation. 


Princess Diana was plagued by an 'inferiority complex' when she married Prince Charles, which only made her transition into the Royal Family harder. 

The late aristocrat was deeply insecure about her lack of academic qualifications after leaving school at 16, according to royal expert Mary Kenny. 

“I think one of the problems with Diana was that she never got a proper education. She had a terrible inferiority complex about that, and said that she was as thick as two planks,” explains the author of Crown and Shamrock: Love and Hate Between Ireland and the British Monarchy. 

Princess Diana's subpar grades and nonexistent qualifications became the subject of intense media attention after she married into the Royal Family at the tender age of 20 in 1981. Her academic history was often pivoted against that of Prince Charles, who was widely regarded as more intellectual than his younger wife. 

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 17: Lady Diana Spencer Age 19 At The Young England Kindergarden School At St.saviours Church Hall St. Georges Sq In London's Pimlico. She Is Working There As A Nursery Assistant. (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

Princess Diana felt insecure about her intelligence when she married into the Royal Family, according to royal expert Mary Kenny

(Image credit: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

While the newly appointed Duke of Edinburgh held a college degree in history, archaeology, and anthropology from Cambridge, Diana abandoned formal education after failing her O-Level exams twice. She went on to enroll in the Swiss finishing school, Institut Alpin Videmanette, where she received lessons on social customs rather than academic subjects. 

The emphasis on etiquette and dressmaking didn't appeal to Diana though, and she ended up dropping out after just one term. On return to London, she was hired as a teaching assistant at a local nursery school, where she worked part-time until she married Prince Charles. 

Her lack of education and preschool job was bound to make her stand out against her new in-laws at Kensington Palace. The Royal Family consisted of a number of intellectual individuals at this time, many of whom had sat formal exams and/or attended university. 

Prince Edward, the youngest child of the Queen and Prince Philip, followed in the footsteps of his eldest brother and went to Cambridge, where he earned a degree in history. Her Majesty's only daughter Princess Anne skipped university after deciding it wasn't for her, but she didn't enter the real world empty-handed. The Princess Royal graduated from secondary school with three A-levels in English, history, and politics, before joining her parents for a lifetime of royal service. 

The Queen surprisingly never sat any official academic exams, but that doesn't mean she didn't enjoy learning. Raised by a mother who valued fun over study and a father who didn't see the merit in school, Her Majesty was deprived of the opportunity to accomplish the qualifications achieved of her children. Other than tutoring from her governess and constitutional lessons that would prepare her to be Queen, she had little experience of traditional education. 

Emma Dooney
Emma Dooney

Emma is a news writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life. She covers the Royal Family and the entertainment world, as well as the occasional health or lifestyle story. When she's not reporting on the British monarchy and A-list celebs, you can find her whipping up vegan treats and running the roads to cheesy '90s pop music...but not at the same time, obviously.