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Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales
The funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales started on Saturday 6 September 1997 at 9:08 am in London, when the tenor bell of Westminster Abbey started tolling to signal the departure of the cortège from Kensington Palace. The coffin was carried from the palace on a gun carriage by riders of the King‘s Troop and escorted by mounted police, along Hyde Park to St James’s Palace, where Diana’s body had remained for five days before being taken to Kensington Palace. The Union Flag on top of the palace was lowered to half mast. The official ceremony was held at Westminster Abbey in London and finished at the resting place in Althorp.
Two thousand people attended the ceremony in Westminster Abbey while the British television audience peaked at 32.10 million, one of the United Kingdom’s highest viewing figures ever. An estimated 2 to 2.5 billion people watched the event worldwide, making it one of the biggest televised events in history.
‘The People’s Princess’ Lady Diana Spencer was killed in a horrific car accident in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel that saw the driver, Henri Paul, and Diana’s lover Dodi Fayed pronounced dead at the scene.
Diana taken to hospital and later died from the injuries she sustained in the crash.
The poignant memories of Diana’s funeral still ingrained in the minds of people across he world.
Many will remember the sight of the coffin decked in flowers and the royal standard flag draped over the coffin, but also the apparent weight of the coffin and how tough the job was for the Welsh guards who carried it.
The fact that she so famous and so loved among the public in the UK and worldwide meant that she garnered a state funeral and given the lead coffin of a royal.
Lead coffins preserve a body for up to a year, they can sealed airtight and slow the decomposition of the body.
Lead lining a coffin seals the coffin, it keeps out moisture and preserves the body for longer, it also makes sure that the smell and any toxins from a dead body can’t escape and harm the environment.
It law in the UK for a coffin to sealed if it is for internment above ground.
She was interred on an island in the middle of the estate’s Round Oval lake. Diana’s brother, Earl Charles Spencer, wrote in his book Althorp: The Story of an English House that the spot was chosen to “act as a buffer against the interventions of the insane and ghoulish, the thick mud presenting a further line of defence. We all agreed that, with its beauty and tranquillity, this was the place for Diana to be”.
This wasn’t to be, however. Shockingly, on at least four occasions, grave-robbers have targeted Diana’s coffin. This confirmed by her brother, who told BBC Radio 4: “We have four attempted break-ins towards her body in the last 20 years. I am very glad that we have seen all of them off.” He confirmed, however, that he still considered the site the safest place for Diana’s remains to be.
Diana’s coffin is resting on a trestle in Kensington Palace, surrounded by flowers and candles. Her butler Paul Burrell sits with his left hand resting on the coffin, his right hand holding a book of prayers. In a corridor outside, the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, sits and prays. Diana dressed in a black Catherine Walker coat-dress that she bought in July and never wore when she alive.
Outside the palace and all along the funeral route, thousands of people are sleeping on pavements. Half-way down the Mall are David and Diana Thompson and their two young children. They set off from Canterbury early yesterday evening to secure their place. Sixteen years earlier David and Diana were in the exact same spot for Charles and Diana’s wedding.
Where were William and Harry when Princess Diana died?
The car accident that took Princess Diana’s life occurred shortly after midnight on August 31, 1997, in Paris. Diana alive when she rushed to hospital, but eventually succumbed to her injuries and pronounced dead hours later.
The Queen was vacationing with William and Harry, ages 15 and 12 at the time, at their Balmoral estate in Scotland at the time. In the middle of the night, she informed of the accident through her secretary, but she decided to not wake the boys.
Instead, the Queen instructed her staff to remove all TVs and radios from the castle to ensure the young princes wouldn’t hear the traumatic details surrounding the accident. When the boys finally learned of Diana’s death, Harry begged Charles to allow him to accompany him to Paris to retrieve her body, but he told to stay behind.
To the public’s dismay, Her Majesty and the family stayed at Balmoral until Prince Charles returned and boarded a plane to London with the young princes on September 5. Although the princes typically allowed to fly together, the Queen granted special permission considering the devastating circumstances.
When they arrived at Buckingham Palace, Prince Charles walked around with the young princes. They shook hands with the mourning crowd and watched people wipe away tears.
Harry later recalled thinking, as he stared at the thousands of flowers and the grief-stricken crowd, ‘How is it that so many people that never met my mother can be feeling more emotion than I am?’
Later that day, the Queen addressed the nation. It marked the second time in her reign that she has made a special address – the first was on February 1991 during the first Gulf War. She offered her condolences for the passing of her former daughter-in-law and explained that the family had delayed their return to London to allow William and Harry to grieve privately in Scotland. That night, Princess Diana’s casket brought into the palace, the place she called home since 1981.
The film states that the Queen also ordered all TVs and radios in her Balmoral residence to moved or hidden, fearing the young princes may be traumatised by hearing the harrowing details of their mother’s final moments. That approach of ‘carrying on as normal’ left Prince Harry confused and wondering if his mother had actually died. Diana’s biographer Tina Brown told the documentary: “Prince Harry actually asked his father, ‘Is it true that Mummy’s dead?’ “The children couldn’t understand why everything as normal, except a couple of hours earlier they’d told their mother had died.”
A committee including people from Kensington, Buckingham and St James’ Palaces, representatives from Number 10, the police and the Spencer family set up to plan her funeral. Prince Charles initially barred by the Queen from taking the Royal Flight private plane to Paris to retrieve his ex-wife’s body.
It reported that Prince Harry begged to go with his dad but ordered to stay at home. Diana’s former butler Paul Burrell also travelled to Paris to make arrangements for her repatriation, along with Colin Tebbutt, her chauffeur and security consultant.
Adviser to the Prime Minister
Anji Hunter, who was then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s adviser, told how there was tension over several aspects of the funeral arrangements — including who should walk behind the coffin. She said William and Harry were initially reluctant, explaining: “I can remember and it sends a tingle up my back thinking about it. “We talking and then, from the speakerphone on the table, came Prince Philip’s voice, and it anguished: ‘These are the boys here, we are talking about these boys, they have lost their mum.’ It brought it all home to us.”
Diana’s body placed in a 50-stone lead lined coffin, and her pallbearers practised using two concrete kerb stones inside Westminster Abbey. One pallbearer, ex-Welsh Guardsman Philip Bartlett, recalled: “We got told we going to try and simulate the weight with a kerb stone. “We were wearing metal studs and the Abbey’s marble floor was like an ice-skating rink. “We went up and down but you could feel with each step it slipping and you had to be careful.”
Following the funeral, Diana’s body taken to the Spencer family home at Althorp for a private burial. That “fairy-tale” marriage, between an awkwardly beautiful young woman just out of her teens and a prince 12 years her senior, deteriorated year by year. Diana complained he was cold and the royal family unfeeling. Charles’ friends said she was a moody, difficult wife. Both eventually admitted to extramarital affairs.
But, meanwhile, the free-spirited, radiant Princess of Wales had won a rapt following worldwide, people who admired her style and spunk. In the year since her divorce, which the queen had demanded, Diana seemed to be rebuilding her life. Then, last Sunday, it all ended in the twisted wreckage of a Mercedes sedan in a Paris tunnel, when she killed her with her new beau, Dodi Fayed, and their driver in a high-speed flight from paparazzi photographers.
Many blamed the photographers. Later it also reported by prosecutors that a blood test showed the driver legally drunk. At least six photographers and one press motorcyclist are under formal investigation in Paris on possible charges of manslaughter and failure to aid accident victims.
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