DIANA’S FUNERAL STILL SO VIVID IN PEOPLE’S MINDS
f eporter he oured le eekend king ome ews nd s g r he e eaders coming to the o office in Cardiff to tell usu their stories, show us their memories of visits to Wales, to speaksp of their shock a and pay tribute. By the Friday thoughts had tu turned to the funeral and we left for London, unsure what to e expect. Not long after we arrivedarrive at KensingtonKen Gardens,Gar Diana’sDi sonsson William and HarryHa visitedite to see the sea of trt r i butes to their mo mother, shortly after returnin returning from Balmora Balmoral.
Accompanied by Prince Charles, they looked moved as they were welcomed by the crowds, while they read some of the tributes that had been left near the palace gates.
As the day turned to night the crowds didn’t get any smaller, and small huddles of people started lighting candles in the grass at the front of the gates.
Again, the silence was the most remarkable thing. It reminded me of the sort of quietness you get after a heavy snowfall.
Many people stayed there overnight waiting for the funeral to start early the next morning, but the crowds really started to build from 7am.
More than a million people lined the streets, while 31.5 million people in Britain watched the live television coverage, and around 2.5 billion around the world.
My role was to cover the start of the funeral as the cortège left Kensington Palace, before it was met by Prince Charles, their sons and her brother Charles.
There might have been thousands of people on the streets, but you could hear a pin drop.
Then, at eight minutes past nine the sound of the tenor bell being rung signalled the departure of the cortège from the Palace.
I couldn’t see the procession coming down the private road at the side, but we knew it had arrived on the main road when the wailing started, the sobs and cries of farewell.
Flowers, many of them the white lilies Diana loved, were strewn before the procession.
The coffin was being slowly carried past us on a gun carriage, before it went along Hyde Park to St James’ Palace, where it was met by William and Harry.
It was not a state funeral, but it had all the feel of one.
Diana’s coffin was draped with a royal standard and was accompanied by eight members of the Welsh Guards. On top of the coffin were three wreaths of white flowers from her brother and sons.
A simple plain white envelope on one of them just had the word “Mummy”.
After the funeral procession had made its solemn journey past us, it was time to file the copy back to the office in Cardiff from the nearest phone box (no laptops then).
After that I walked over to Hyde Park, where the funeral was being shown on giant television screens.
One of the most overpowering memories was hearing the searing address by Diana’s brother Charles Spencer, and then listening to the clapping that reverberated around as her coffin was carried from the Abbey.
The surreal atmosphere continued as the funeral procession left Westminister Abbey and headed towards Althorp.
At one point the front window of the hearse was obscured by the number of flowers that had been thrown at it.
It might have been two decades ago, but the scenes that had never been seen before and have not been seen since, are still vivid in people’s memories.
September 6, 1997: The coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales, is carried inside Westminster Abbey for her funeral service