What Kensington Palace Looked Like Right After Princess Diana’s Death
Mourners flocked to Kensington Palace from all over the world to pay their respects to the People's Princess.
The world wakes to the tragic news
Princess Diana died tragically in a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997, leaving the world in shock. Even after divorcing Prince Charles, the People’s Princess had continued capturing the hearts of millions and was regarded as the most famous woman in the world. Mourners visited London’s Kensington Palace immediately, dropping bouquets at the home where Lady Di would never return.
The pilgrimage to London
At the time of the 1997 tragedy, only 10 per cent of Brits had the Internet at home, so commenting on social media or changing a profile picture in memory of Diana wasn’t an option. Instead, mourners had to come to Kensington Palace in person if they wanted to pay their respects publicly, and the amount of support for the late princess was unprecedented.
Outpouring of support
Tens of thousands of bouquets were left at Kensington Palace, creating an impressive pile. The flowers reached 30 feet from the gates.
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A royal appearance
The royal family—including Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, 15-year-old Prince William, and 12-year-old Prince Harry—were in Balmoral, Scotland, when they heard the news about Princess Diana’s death. The royal family stayed there and were criticized for failing to fly a flag at half-mast in London’s Buckingham Palace (it’s custom for no flag to be flown when the Queen is out of town) or giving anything more than a brief statement of sorrow. It wasn’t until five days after Diana’s death that Diana’s grieving sons and ex-husband publicly faced the mourners at Kensington Palace. “It was amazing; it was incredibly moving to know, but at that point, I wasn’t there. I was still in shock,” Prince Harry said in a 2017 interview.
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Paying their respects
As crowds got bigger, London set up orderly queues. At times it took 6.5 hours to reach the gates of St. James’s Palace, where mourners could leave flowers and sign the books of condolences that were eventually moved to Kensington Palace.
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Bouquets and beyond
Aside from the flowers, admirers also left stuffed animals, handwritten notes, and original poems in the late princess’s honour. “I will miss your poise, your compassion and most of all your ability to be yourself and do what you believe in,” wrote one visitor.
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Turning to anger
A relentless paparazzi chase in Paris was often blamed for Princess Diana’s death. Her driver raced away at high speeds, trying to shake off photographers—and he ended up crashing outside a tunnel. That resentment toward the media continued long after Diana’s death. Some photographers were criticized for taking pictures of the tributes, with crowds calling, “You killed her.”
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On the day of Princess Diana’s funeral, more than a million mourners lined the streets between Kensington Palace and Westminster Abbey to watch the procession. Despite the large numbers, the streets stayed silent as the coffin made its way to the funeral. Not even planes were heard, as they’d been rerouted for the event. Princes Charles, William, Harry, and Philip joined Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer, in walking behind the coffin.
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