People’s Princess loved Tyneside
HOW HER ROYAL HIGHNESS TOUCHED OUR REGION
TWENTY years ago today, the world woke to the shocking news that Diana, Princess of Wales, had died in a car crash in the heart of Paris.
Diana had been a frequent visitor to the North East.
Here at the Chronicle, staff had first-hand experience of the ‘Queen of Hearts’ or the ‘People’s Princess,’ as she came to be known.
On April 3, 1991, during part of an official visit to the region, she officially opened the Chronicle and Journal’s new colour printing press.
Under the headline, Princess of Smiles, the paper reported on her visit as she charmed the workers at the then Thomson House.
Down in the confines of the Press Hall, Diana offered to shake the hand of one of the printers.
When the press man held up his hand which was covered in ink, the Princess joked: “I don’t mind if you don’t.”
Diana’s first solo visit to the region saw her arrive in Newcastle on May 18, 1983.
We reported: “Princess Diana warmed the hearts of thousands of Geordies when she opened the new Redheugh Bridge.”
Then, leaving behind the shiny, newly-opened structure spanning the Tyne, the party travelled on to Longbenton, North Tyneside.
“From tiny tots to grandparents,” said the Chronicle, “they lined the route to be taken by the Princess who was opening the £30m Findus factory.”
Again there were thousands waiting to see her.
In 1988, Diana warmed hearts at Dr Barnardo’s, Whitley Bay.
In 1989, she was at the Percy Hedley School in Forest Hall, Newcastle, and at the city’s Freeman Hospital.
In August, 1992, she travelled to St Oswald’s Hospice in Gosforth, Newcastle. In the same year, she also opened St Peter’s Basin in Newcastle, and the Interconnections Systems factory in South Shields. In June 1993, another visit to Newcastle saw her visit Relate in Ridley Place. There were many more visits to the region. In the North East, as elsewhere, the Princess’s death was keenly felt by many.
In an era before social media, large queues formed at the Chronicle’s headquarters of readers keen to express their grief by signing our book of condolence, and leave cards and dedications. Several books and thousands of tributes would later be sent on to Kensington Palace.
See pages 22 and 23 for memories of Diana
Above, Princess Diana at St Oswald’s Hospice, Gosforth, 1992 and below at the Chronicle and Journal offices in 1991