Princess Diana mourned on 20th anniversary of death

Thousands of visitors paid tribute outside the gates of Kensington Palace

LONDON — Kathy Martin joined the stream of visitors laying tributes to Princess Diana outside the gates of Kensington Palace on Thursday, just as she did 20 years ago.

The 55-year-old Diana devotee vividly remembers Aug. 31, 1997. She was wakened by an early morning phone call from family in Australia telling her the princess had died in a Paris car accident, then raced to the palace with her daughter and was among the first to leave a floral tribute. Throngs of people began arriving 10 minutes later, adding cards, teddy bears and mountains of flowers.

Martin returns to Kensington Palace, where Diana once lived, every year on the anniversary of her death, on Christmas and on the princess’ birthday. On Thursday, she brought picture collages, poems and a Victorian spongecake decorated with Diana’s picture, which she shared with other royal fans.

“She was just the beautiful, warming, caring humanitarian,” Martin said. “She touched all walks of life. Diana always put a smile on the face and that’s something for people.”

The weeks leading up to the anniversary have been filled with television documentaries and newspaper stories reflecting on the princess and her contributions to the country and to the monarchy. Diana’s sons, Princes William and Harry, added to the buildup with a series of heart-wrenching interviews in which they talked about their mother’s love and the pain of her death.

On Thursday though, it was the public’s turn to recall “The People’s Princess.” Fans like Martin gathered at the palace to mark the two decades since Diana’s death triggered a flood of grief across Britain and beyond. Her admirers began paying tribute to the princess before dawn, placing candles shaped in the letter “D” at the palace gates.

“We had never met her and been nowhere near her, but I think she touched so many people because of who she was, the way she conducted herself in the context of where she was living and who she became,” said Mara Klemich, 55, a well-wisher from Sydney.

William and Harry weren’t scheduled to take part in any events Thursday. They honoured their mother Wednesday, visiting a garden at Kensington Palace where she used to stroll and talk to gardeners about their ever-changing displays. The princes and the Duchess of Cambridge, William’s wife, met with well-wishers afterward.

The 36-year-old princess died in the early hours of Aug. 31, 1997. Her Mercedes, pursued by paparazzi, crashed into a concrete pillar in the Alma Tunnel in Paris while travelling at more than 60 mph (100 kph).

Diana, her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and their driver Henri Paul were all killed. Her bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was injured but survived.

In Paris, royal watchers gathered at the tunnel Thursday to remember Diana’s life. Some wept.

“It’s been 20 years now, but there are people you don’t forget, and she is one of them,” said Sylviane Rives, who works nearby. “That is what I wrote on a little card for her.”

Those who didn’t go to the palace or to the tunnel took to social media to express their grief and to recall her kindness.

The co-designer of Diana’s wedding dress, Elizabeth Emanuel, tweeted a picture of the princess shortly after her arrival at St. Paul’s Cathedral for her 1981 wedding. In the image, the designers and bridesmaids straighten the dress’ immense train, unfurling a sea of white that flowed in her wake.

“Thinking of the wonderful times we spent with Diana and the great joy she brought into our lives and all those who knew her,” Emanuel said.

Elton John offered a tribute, posting an image on social media with his hand on her shoulder. Both are smiling.

The pop icon, who memorably performed his moving song “Candle In The Wind” at Diana’s funeral, wrote “20 years ago today, the world lost an angel. #RIP.”

As the day wore on, images of the day two decades ago ran on the television newscasts and websites, reminding the nation of events long past. Aerial photographs offered reminders of the carpet of flowers that people brought to the palace, one bouquet at a time.

The intense outpouring will likely not be the final time the country mourns for Diana, said Pauline Maclaran, co-author of “Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture.” Like other cultural icons, such as Marilyn Monroe or James Dean, Diana will live on — even if the royals may have said all they wish on the subject.

“Maybe a new generation doesn’t relate to her that much,” Maclaran said. “But that will change. … The media will find new and innovative ways to reinvent her.”

Here is a timeline of the key moments in Princess Diana’s life:

—July 1, 1961: Diana Frances Spencer is born into an aristocratic family.

—February 24, 1981: Lady Diana’s engagement to Prince Charles, 32, is announced.

—July 29, 1981: Diana, 20, marries Prince Charles at St Paul’s Cathedral in London. The wedding was broadcast around the world, watched by hundreds of millions on television.

—June 21, 1982: Princess Diana’s first son, William Arthur Philip Louis, is born. He is known as Prince William.

—September 15, 1984: The royal couple’s second son, Henry Charles Albert David, is born. He is known as Prince Harry.

—June 1992: Andrew Morton’s book, “Diana, Her True Story,” is published. It reveals she attempted suicide and suffered from an eating disorder.

—December 9, 1992: Charles and Diana’s formal separation is announced to Parliament by Prime Minister John Major

—November 20, 1995: Diana speaks about her marital problems, affairs, postnatal depression, and tensions with the royal family in a widely-watched interview on the BBC.

—December 20, 1995: Buckingham Palace says the Queen wrote to the couple earlier that week calling on them to divorce.

—August 28, 1996: Diana and Charles divorce.

—August 31, 1997: Diana and her companion Dodi Fayed die in a high-speed car crash in Paris.

—September 6, 1997: Thousands attend Diana’s funeral in London.

The Associated Press

Just Posted

UPDATED: Gunfire erupts in quiet Langley neighbourhood early this morning

Police have 79A Avenue cordoned off after reports of shots just before 5 a.m.

PHOTOS: Langley City residents given audience with council and staff

Mayor and councillors share successes and plans, while listening to public at three City meetings.

Langley Spartans enjoy multiple wins and a tie Friday

First-year rookie puts five points on the scoreboard for Trinity Western’s Spartans.

Langley’s own Vancouver Giants fall in Prairies during overtime

G-Men fell 6-5 to the Brandon Wheat Kings Friday night.

Body located near Langley fire

A corpse was found near a mall off the Langley Bypass Friday morning.

VIDEO: Sears liquidation sales continue across B.C.

Sales are expected to continue into the New Year

WATCH: 10,000 signatures gained to stop ‘no pets’ rental policy

Pets OK BC said about 1,700 animals were surrendered to the BC SPCA last year due to housing issues

Silver Creek reacts after remains found, man arrested

Neighbours of property where remains were found say man arrested was sweet and polite

VIDEO: Oprah Winfrey and a celebrities attend ‘B.C. Miracle Concert’

Fundraiser featured Foster, Steven Tyler, The Tenors, Matteo Bocelli, Laura Bretan, Carly Rae Jepsen

Human remains found at Silver Creek property

RCMP have been searching the property in the 2200 block of Salmon River Road for the past three days

New B.C. acute care centre opens for young patients, expectant mothers

Facility aims to make B.C. Children’s Hospital visits more comfortable

Search ramps up for B.C. woman after dog, car found near Ashcroft

Jenny Lynn Larocque’s vehicle and dog were found in Venables Valley, but there is no sign of her

Holy Heritage Rail Batman: Superheros come to Cloverdale historic train

The Fraser Valley Heritage Rail is hosting its third annual Halloween rail adventure Oct 28, 29

Police officer hit by car, stabbed in Edmonton attack back on job

Const. Mike Chernyk, 48, returned to work Thursday

Most Read