Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Tributes paid to princess Diana, 25 years after her death

Tributes paid to princess Diana, 25 years after her death

LONDON (AFP) - Flowers and other tributes were laid on Wednesday at princess Diana's former London home and above the Paris road tunnel where she lost her life, to mark the 25th anniversary of her death.

The former Lady Diana Spencer, whose fairytale marriage to Prince Charles captivated the world until it publicly unravelled with infidelity and divorce, died in a car crash in the French capital on August 31, 1997.

A trickle of well-wishers left flowers, flags and photographs for the self-styled "queen of people's hearts" at the gates of Kensington Palace, and at the Place Diana, above the Pont de l'Alma tunnel. At the Spencer family home, Althorp House, where Diana is buried in a lead-lined coffin on a secluded island on the estate, her brother Charles Spencer lowered the Union Jack to half mast.

"She was a global celebrity," retired camera operator Claude Gautier, 79, who came to pay his respects at the makeshift memorial in Paris, told AFP. "She was classy, sporty, elegant. Everyone's sad today. My flowers for her are on the inside," he said, touching the badge of his England football shirt. "The flowers here will wilt but mine will never die."

"It makes the hairs on my skin stand on end to think that she died underneath us," added German tourist Ulrike Plank, 64, from Munich. "We're really missing someone like her today. If you look around the world, there's no one like her."

Legacy

Diana, who was just 36 when she died, remains widely revered as a fashion icon and for having cut through stuffy royal convention, particularly after her very public divorce.

She was also praised for charity work highlighting the scourge of landmines and encouraging a change in attitudes to people with HIV/AIDS. In a sign of the enduring fascination with the royal, last weekend a sporty Ford Escort she once owned was sold for £737,000 ($864,000) at auction.

Her marital troubles will also feature in the latest series of the hit Netflix drama "The Crown" later this year. Joe Little, managing editor at Majesty Magazine, said Diana had influenced her sons, princes William and Harry, to be less formal than traditional royals.

"They are much more 'touchy feely' than they ever would have been," he said, pointing to William's hugs for England's women footballers after their Euro 2022 victory this month. "William can see there is no need for much of the formality in royal life that existed when his father was of a similar age."

Last week, Harry, who has admitted to mental health struggles because of his mother's death, said he would "share the spirit of my mum with my family, with my children, who I wished could have met her". 

"Every day I hope to do her proud," he told a fundraising dinner in the United States for his Sentebale charity, which supports young people in Africa with HIV. "I want it to be a day filled with memories of her incredible work and love for the way she did it," he added.

Rift 

Last year, the brothers unveiled a statue of her at Kensington Palace on what would have been her 60th birthday, remembering "her love, strength and character" and as a "force for good" around the world. This year, the brothers will not take part in any official commemorations, preferring instead to mark the occasion in private with their own families.

William, 40, recently announced a move from London to the Windsor estate west of London with his wife, Catherine, and their three young children. Harry, 37, now lives in California with his wife, Meghan, and their two children, after the couple quit the royal family in early 2020.

The Daily Telegraph said on Saturday that the brothers had "agreed to draw a line under their public commemorations" at the 20th anniversary five years ago. But the brothers, who at the age of just 15 and 12 walked, heads bowed, behind Diana's coffin at her funeral, are also reportedly on non-speaking terms.

William has angrily hit back at claims in a television interview from Harry and Meghan of racism in the royal family. The couple are due at a series of charity events in Britain next week, staying near William and Kate on the sprawling Windsor estate. There are reportedly no plans for the brothers to meet, nor for Harry to visit his ailing 96-year-old grandmother at her Balmoral retreat in Scotland.