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1997: Mourning a Princess

There are very few people whose death can be said to have shocked the whole world.

President John Kennedy, former Beatle John Lennon and movie icon Marilyn Monroe all died suddenly and young - and were mourned by millions.

But the death of Princess Diana following a high-speed car crash in Paris on 31 August 1997 led to unprecedented displays of grief from around the globe.

An estimated 2.5 billion people watched her funeral six days after the crash - a testament to the popularity of this princess, celebrity and mother of a future king.

Your memories of Diana's death:

I would like to say that even though I didn't have the honour of meeting the princess in person, she will forever be remember as a caring, loving human being and mother.

She will forever be the people's princess, especially in my heart.
Joanne Ortiz, Puerto Rico/USA

I watched in disbelief as the entire country seemed to "mourn" the death of this oh-so-wonderful-messiah-like puppet of the royal family.

The very same person that the press and popular tabloids had mocked incessantly for her dress sense, and general lack of common sense.

I was genuinely mortified and embarrassed for the "outpouring" of grief for this cossetted stooge of the royal family.
Vince Bertonesi, Scotland

As the funeral drew near, there were adverts locally requiring stewards for the event.

As I held a Door Supervisors Licence, First Aid Certificate and I wanted to witness this event in British history, myself and some colleagues boarded a coach at four in the morning from High Wycombe arriving at London about an hour later.

We arrived at dawn, and walked to our allotted spot. For me, this was Horseguard's Parade.


" I know their grief was real, I just think that it was misplaced. I think the whole mass hysteria thing was totally not part of our general British character "

Shakey, UK

As we walked in our new shiny orange jackets I could not believe what I was seeing.

People everywhere camped out all along the route, in sleeping bags next to the temporary railings, flowers tied to the railings.

There were crude childlike hand-drawn posters on these temporary barriers about "Diana, Princess of Hearts" and the like.

There was an occasional but overpowering smell of flowers. Many of the women had young children with them, camping out on the street!

After a good 45/60 mins walk, we arrived at our destination.

I was next to one of the sound towers that had been erected to relay the church service live.

There was a wall on the side of the square, and I was told not to let people stand on it to get a better view for Health and Safety reasons.

As the square started to fill up, people started to stand on the wall.

After half a hour or so, I gave up. There were too many people and without physically throwing them down off the wall I couldn't stop them.

I just went round advising people that they were not to stand on the wall and no responsibilty would be assumed if they fell off.

Eventually, the funeral cortege arrived.

I could only glimpse it over the heads of the mourners, but the atmosphere was bizarre. It was quiet, really quiet, punctuated with the occasional sob and sometimes a cry of "Diana, Diana!"

Shortly after, as they relayed the service from the cathedral, the crowd were again silent but some were openly weeping and sobbing.

I remember being stood there, bored, thinking to myself: "You never even knew this woman. What will you be like when someone in your family dies? Or are you more upset about this woman than the death of your own parents or grandparents?"

I know their grief was real, I just think that it was misplaced. I think the whole mass hysteria thing was totally not part of our general British character.

After it was all over, we had a brief chat with a BBC film crew then got our coach back home.

For my 12 hours of witnessing history, I got paid 40.
Shakey, UK

I live in DC and went to the British Embassy to lay flowers at the gates. I was crying pretty hard: there were a lot of pictures and very sad people, and it was overwhelming just to see all of it.

A British national put her arm around me when she saw me crying and said, "Are you British?" I answered, "No." She hugged me and said "Well, you are today."
Anne Hainsworth, US

I had just returned to London from the US, waking up that Sunday morning to see Tony Blair speaking I was saddened to think that the Queen Mother had passed away.

When my husband told me that it was Princess Diana who had died I was in complete shock. My family, friends and people on the street were crying - I was just numb. In fact it was two hours before I realised that Dodi had also died.

It wasn't until we went to Kensington Palace that it hit me, the silence of everyone's grief is something I will remember for the rest of my life. I was so thankful to be in London at that time, some of my British friends in the US have never got over not being there.
Geraldine Scott, US

I heard of her horrid death at 0200 EST. I had just tried to go to bed, and I was able to tune in to some scratchy AM station in a rural part of coastal Maine. Her death hit me like a brick - it was surreal. It was as if time stopped. So young, and beautiful, and getting a second grasp on life.
Amanda Swartz-Miller, US

Everything closed, saturation TV coverage, no one at work and still most people chose to do something else other than watch her funeral.

It was a prime example of the media trying to set the agenda. The number of times I heard a media pundit say something like "Everyone in Britain is in mourning" was shocking; an Orwellian attempt to create the truth.

Almost everyone I know really was not interested in her in life or death.
Ian, UK

Her sons have turned out wonderfully. I wish them simply the very best, and to keep their mother's memory and works alive. The world lost a shining star that day.

I was just about to sleep after watching a late night movie on TV when I heard the news on CNN that Diana had been in an accident.

That night I really prayed to God to let her be alright because she was my idol and I even had her poster on my wall in my bedroom.

Of course I was devastated the next morning when I heard the news of her death on BBC. I cried like I had just lost my best friend and as for the funeral which I was lucky to watch on CNN, I cried throughout the whole thing and nobody in my family could understand me but for me I had lost the most beautiful and graceful human being I knew on this earth and I was also sad because all the dreams I had of meeeting her one day had come to an end.

I really felt for her sons whom I thought would miss out on growing up with such a stylish and fun loving mother who would have advised them on girlfriends and stuff. For me I will never forget August 31st.
Nana Fosua, Ghana

Seven years on and still the hysteria survives. She was not, and never was, the saintly Diana.

Diana was a manipulative, attention-seeking, self-centred woman who hid behind that famous 'chin down, eyes up' look.

The Royal family are better off without her.
Alison Bevin, UK

I was performing on a stage in Nashville, Tennessee when they stopped the music to announce that Diana had been in a fatal car accident.

We were stunned. People started crying. My first reaction, my immediate first thought was: "She's been murdered. She's pregnant." I still believe that and so do most of my friends.
Kathryn Alyn, USA

I remember waking up and my brother told me that "Diana has died". I was dumbfounded for a moment - I felt terrible - I couldn't think who he was talking about.

Was Diana a friend or relative I'd forgotten? I sheepishly asked "Diana, who?". "The princess. Car crash.". "Really? God, that's a shame... So what did you do last night?". And that was all I thought about it.

It's a shame when anyone dies, but she was hardly Mother Teresa now was she?

I found the scenes that were broadcast during the following weeks just distasteful and embarrassing for Britain. We made a collective fool of ourselves.

I know this is an unpopular view, but I feel the need to share it to speak up for the many people who also felt this way. Talking about Diana without using the word "Saint" seems to be the British equivalent of being "Un-American".
Alistair, Scotland.

Seven years on, it's a day which seems as it if were yesterday. Just before 8am the telephone rang at my Nan's house, it was my Auntie who said that Diana had been killed.

My first thought was that it was totally unbelievable. She's the most famous person in the world - how on earth has this happened?

Diana was the Queen of people's hearts and I shall never forget the cloud which stood over Great Britain on that fateful Sunday. Books of Condolences were immediately opened at our local St Edmundsbury Cathedral and for me personally, I was totally glued to the TV and to the internet all day.

Why was the question on so many people's minds - how could this have happened?

I often wondered what it would be like if Diana were still alive today - would her relationship with Dodi Al-Fayed have blossomed? Would the world be in the turmoil it is today?

All of this will never be known but what is known is that 31 August 1997 is a day which will stick in the minds of people for generations to come, a day that sparked a world in mourning, a nation in grief and our once future queen, destined for higher places. God bless Diana, Princess of Wales.
Ben Lord, England

I remember Diana today as a woman who lived her life to the fullest despite the monarchy's harsh conditions.

To me she will always be the young, restless, beautiful, bold, energetic, vibrant, sexual, hardworking, prudent, dignified, diligent and proudest British woman the monarchy ever had.

So let's celebrate her life and not mourn for her. I just wish I had met her before her tragic death and that will always be the regret I have to live with in my life.
Millicent Richards Elgon, Uganda

I felt just utterly shocked and so sad for Diana herself, knowing how upset she would be leaving her boys at such a young age without their mother. I couldn't get that thought out of my head that when she was dying at the scene and if she were conscious how stressed she would be thinking she was dying and leaving her boys, never to see them again.

It continues to annoy me how all the rubbish comes out about her mental state, you mean to tell me that no one person has ever done anything to gain attention when they have been hurt or let down by someone they loved?

I also resented our so-called "famous people" telling us we all had "blood on our hands" for her death because we bought the trashy magazines with the zoomed in photos of her somewhere with someone.

I thought Diana was beautiful and was happy that she seemed to have finally found happiness within herself and seemed to be enjoying life. I - yes - did buy the "hello" magazines which Diana featured in regularly as I loved to see the beautiful photos they would take of her attending functions.

I miss seeing her photos and will always feel sad for Diana that her life was cut so short and in such a cruel way. She was at her peak and who knows what life had to offer her in the future.
Colette Goodman, Australia

Seven years already passed since that day that would touch all our hearts so deeply.

Diana was very genuine, human with faults and qualities, but when she got up there... she kept looking back, helping everybody, regardless of their status which is far more than you can say for most nobles and famous people.

She defied the system, she went against old-fashioned prejudices to help so many people that never forgot her. That's why we all shed tears the day God sent an angel to embrace her with its wings and take her to heaven.

She made her country popular all over the world, and herself the most popular human being on the planet.

Whenever people all over the country would hear the word England in their minds Diana's face would come up.

Through her honest and so devoted actions, she earned the respect and love from people all over the world even if they had never met her.

Diana, thank you for being the wonderful person that you were. I'll never forget you and will always treasure every memory of you in my heart.
Pedro, Portugal

I will never forget the day that Diana died. It was my wedding the day before and I woke up to go on honeymoon early the next morning to hear that she had been killed in the accident.

It was a complete shock, she was a wonderful person and even seven years on I cannot believe that it happened.
Nikki Scotter, UK

Diana's memory will forever live in the hearts of people who really liked her for her kind effort to help people in need.

I will never forget the day I met Diana face-to-face when she visited our country and our city, Brno, in 1990 or 1991.

Among the places Diana visited in our city was a company producing instruments for handicapped people.
Karel Skopal, Czech Republic

Yes this is a sad day because Diana has been gone for seven years and it seemed like it all happened yesterday.

But we have to realise that she did well in her life. She did wonderful charity work, did her royal duties, and committed herself to Charles, William, Harry, the Windsors and Spencers.

She changed the Royals' ways in society. She left her work to be continued through Charles, William, Harry and us.

At the end of her funeral, I felt sad but, I also said JOB WELL DONE, Diana.
Claudius, USA

I was only seven-years-old when Diana died. It seemed like it was only yesterday. But she will be greatly missed. Diana did so much for charities and no-one will ever forget her.
Kayleigh, UK.

When Princess Diana died, I was only seven-years-old. I didn't know what was happening until my Mom turned on the news and started crying.

Now, I'm 13-years-old and now I know how much grief happened that day.

People use to call my mother Princess Diana when she was young because she had the same hairstyles and looks as Diana did. I had never seen my Mom show so much emotion that night and morning.

Now, every time I think about her I tear up, every time I hear something bad said about her I debate with them, every time I hear "Candle in the Wind" I cry.

I wish I had been older when she died so I could've sat there with my Mom and cried with her. Diana was my mother's role model, and now she is mine, forever and for always. She will always be my Royal Highness.
Nimra Rehan, USA

Sitting in church on a Sunday morning, my Mom leaned over and whispered: "Pray for Diana's family, Diana has passed away in a car accident".

Our pastor mentioned it that morning as well, with teary eyes, and in shock, we all quietly prayed.

Today, re-reading the accounts of what happened still brings tears to my eyes. Diana was such a respectable, beautiful human being. There are not enough people in this world like her and it is so sad to lose someone so remarkable.

Her family, especially her children, should be so proud to have had her as a mother. They should be so proud.
Elizabeth, Canada

I remember Diana's death very well. My girlfriend and I were on holiday in Ireland at the time, and the first we knew of it was when I spotted a headline outside a paper shop in Kenmare.

I thought it was a sick joke at first. Throughout our holiday, the Irish media gave it virtually blanket coverage. We drove home across Ireland listening to the funeral service on the car radio. We both had the strange feeling we should not have been out of the country - in fact we've never quite lost that even six years later.

The conspiracy theories started right away. I still feel the media were at least partly to blame for the accident - because if the paparazzi hadn't been hounding the couple every minute of the day, Henri Paul might not have been driving quite so fast, drunk or not.

As I had done so with her wedding, I woke up in the early hours of the morning to watch her funeral live. I just felt I needed to. And I felt an awkward strangeness, particularly that I had just returned from London two weeks before. It just did not seem real.
Mike Smith, UK


" We both had the strange feeling we should not have been out of the country. "

Mike Smith, UK

I was deeply saddened as I saw Prince William and Prince Harry walking solemnly in the procession. They lost such a special mother, and at so young an age.

The outpouring of emotion from the population was fitting - she lived in such a way that she will always be missed and never forgotten. May we all follow her example in seeking to better humanity and to make a difference in this world.
Ann Marie, Canada (Montreal)

I thought she was the most beautiful, kind Royal we had seen in a long time.

My marriage mirrored hers. I got engaged earlier in the same year, had the same style engagement ring and two sons born just after William and Harry, my marriage fell apart at around the same time and I got divorced in the same year.

I followed her life closely and with interest and was devastated when she died so tragically. Her sons were my main concern, they would miss such a wonderfully, loving mother.
Pat Grice, England

The day after this, I was in a coach party travelling to Luton, along the M1 motorway. It was a poignant reminder of the previous day to see along the road flowers fallen from the hearse that had carried the Princess to Althorp.
John Barton, UK

I had already had enough of the exaggerated reactions to Diana's accident. On the day of the funeral I went and climbed Ingleborough in the Yorkshire Dales. There were a few other people around, but not many.
Herbert, UK


" I had to walk from Charing Cross to Kensington and it took me past scenes of unbelievable grief "

Deb Chapman, UK

I was working at the time for Kensington & Chelsea Library Service, and it had been decided that all branch libraries would open for the morning of the funeral.

I had to journey from South London into the West End and on to Kensington. It was quite the most extraordinary journey I have ever made across London.

I had to walk from Charing Cross to Kensington and it took me past scenes of unbelievable grief - it was as though all of these people had lost someone incredibly dear to them and their emotion was genuine.

It worried me hugely - especially after days of mounting hysteria on the streets of Kensington, people walking into the road blinded by tears etc. - people appeared to be losing their grip on reality.

I am aware of course of the good she did and how loved she was, but London during those weeks was unlike any London I knew, and I felt that most people around me were in need of a good talking to.

Diana was not a close relative or friend and in my opinion it took something away from her sons when at such a young age, having lost their mother, they had to absorb this vast amount of grief as well. It may not be a very popular opinion, but I felt shame.
Deb Chapman, UK

I visited Di's horseshoe fountain memorial last weekend and was amazed by the numbers visiting. It brought everything back.

Everyone has their own memories of the day, but for me it was a massive shock because two weeks earlier I dreamt that I attended her funeral.

My wife and I went to the garden centre to get some plants and were surprised that each radio channel I tuned to the music was solemn and morbid. You can imagine my surprise when a new update gave details of Prince Charles visiting the hospital in Paris.

We dashed home and were glued to the TV. Neither of us was a Di fan, probably because she seemd to milk the publicity and there was scarcely a day without pictures of her in the paper.

But like a large number of people I have changed my mind about her and find the story of her life to be such a tragedy, especially following all the revelations about Charles and Camilla. Camilla will never replace Princes Di, who was truly our Queen of Hearts.
Ralph Terry, Portsmouth

I remember the day she died. It was the day after my wedding and I was devastated.

She was a beautiful, unreal being that epitomized beauty, grace and the very essence of royalty or what it should be. She was an absolutley stunning woman who will never be forgotten and certainly not replaced.

It was an honour to live in the same era as such a legend much less have such important dates shared. Unfortunately that same marriage only lasted 2.5 years as if it was doomed from the beginning.
Jessica, USA

I will never forget the morning of 31 August 1997 when I was driving a coach on an overnight journey from Lourdes to London.

The time was shortly after midnight and I was driving on the southern part of the Paris peripherique [ring road] when I saw a number of gendarmerie and CRS police vehicles traveling at great speed along this road.

I just thought to myself that there must have been a road accident somewhere in the area although I did not see anything to confirm that. It was only after we had left the ferry just after 0500 hours and arrived at the coach control centre in Dover docks that the duty controller informed me of the accident in Paris, and that Diana had died.

The news hit me like a thunderbolt and for the next few minutes I struggled to get my thoughts together. I eventually made my way back to the coach and told my co-driver the news. He was just as stunned as I was.

Then with a lump in my throat, I picked up the michrophone for the coach PA and choking on my words I informed a packed coach of the sad news. I had just dropped a bombshell, the silence was deafening for what seemed an age.

Then the questions, where? when? how? some thought I was joking. I had to tell them it was certainly no joke and the news was confirmed when I turned on the coach radio. This was one of my most memorable journeys for all the wrong reasons.

On the day of Diana's funeral, I was heading out of the UK to Milan. At 1100 hours I was parked on Maidstone services on the M20 and observing the two minutes silence along with most of the country.

I lit a candle and mounted it in a holder which I fixed to the top of the coaches front bulkhead. This candle was supposed to burn for about two hours or so. During the ferry crossing it was extinguished and then re-lit when we left the ferry in Calais.

I was expecting it to burn out before we reached Paris, but no, it continued to burn, Lyon...still burning. Accross the alps and down to Turin in continued to burn.

That candle did eventually burn out, the flame flickered and died at exactly the same time as I applied the hand brake at our final stop in Milan, 0830 hours the following morning. Hard to believe I know, but it is true.
Malcolm Weinberg, England


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