DIANA’S FU­NERAL STILL SO VIVID IN PEO­PLE’S MINDS

Wales On Sunday - - NEWS -

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

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