Diana Clavering Collins, née Elliot, was born at Stutton Hall in Suffolk to a prosperous British family. She attended a girls' boarding school, finishing school in Paris, and came out as a debutante. She read English at Oxford University, where she met John Collins, then dean of Oriel College. They married in 1939. After World War II, her husband became canon of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. She was his partner in forming and leading Christian Action, a group that became the basis for their subsequent activities, notably the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and the British campaign against apartheid in South Africa. She wrote a memoir of their marriage, Partners in Protest (1998), and an acclaimed book about another couple, their friends J.B. Priestley and Jacquetta Hawkes, Time and the Priestleys (1994). She was made a DBE in 1999.