Wed | Nov 25, 2020

Public mourns Princess Diana on 20th anniversary of death

Published:Thursday | August 31, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Floras tribute to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, are placed near an ornamental gate outside Kensington Palace in London, yesterday. (AP)
Britain's Prince William, left, and Prince Harry walk away after placing flowers amongst the floral and pictorial tributes to their late mother Princess Diana placed on the gates of Kensington Palace, London, Wednesday. Princes William and Harry paid tribute to their mother, Princess Diana, on the eve of the 20th anniversary of her death by visiting the Sunken Garden to honor Diana's work with charities. (AP)


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

The 55-year-old Diana devotee vividly remembers August 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 sponge cake decorated with Diana's picture, which she shared with other royal fans.

"She was just the beautiful, warm, 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 build-up 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.

William and Harry weren't scheduled to take part in any events yesterday. 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 afterwards.

The 36-year-old princess died in the early hours of August 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 (100kph).

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