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Princess Diana mourners gather outside Kensington Palace

The patterns are well-established for the marking of most royal landmarks, be they jubilees, weddings, funerals or a new addition to the line of succession.

Diehard royalists dig out the camping gear, the media erect their stepladders and the cops put up crowd barriers.

But what’s the correct form for the 20th anniversary of a death – particularly one as tragically premature and as loaded with conflicting emotions as that of Diana, Princess of Wales?

No one seemed entirely sure yesterday as the crowds gathered outside Kensington Palace.

 

What’s the correct form for the 20th anniversary of a death – particularly one as tragically premature and as loaded with conflicting emotions as that of Diana, Princess of Wales? No one seemed entirely sure yesterday as the crowds gathered outside Kensington Palace

Some had come to celebrate her life – with cake and even the odd bottle of champagne. Some unexpectedly found themselves in tears and in mourning all over again. Many, when pushed, agreed that they had been driven by a combination of curiosity and deep affection

Some had come to celebrate her life – with cake and even the odd bottle of champagne. Some unexpectedly found themselves in tears and in mourning all over again. Many, when pushed, agreed that they had been driven by a combination of curiosity and deep affection

A steady flow of visitors – a few hundred at any moment, many thousands in the course of the day – were shepherded between the royal fencing and a long line of police barriers

They spanned all ages and nationalities but the majority were female, British and within a decade of the late Princess in terms of age

A steady flow of visitors – a few hundred at any moment, many thousands in the course of the day – were shepherded between the royal fencing and a long line of police barriers. They spanned all ages and nationalities but the majority were female, British and within a decade of the late Princess in terms of age

Roughly one in ten had brought a bouquet or card of their own to add to the display. Above, crowds gather around the gates of Kensington Palace

Roughly one in ten had brought a bouquet or card of their own to add to the display. Above, crowds gather around the gates of Kensington Palace

Some had come to celebrate her life – with cake and even the odd bottle of champagne.

Some unexpectedly found themselves in tears and in mourning all over again. Many, when pushed, agreed that they had been driven by a combination of curiosity and deep affection.

Yes, they wanted to pay their respects. But they were also intrigued to revisit the site of that shimmering floral homage in front of the Palace railings which became the defining image of ‘Diana week’ in 1997.

Yesterday was nothing like that, of course. But they still found the same stretch of royal railings decorated with a generous spread of shop-bought flowers, several bouquets deep.

A steady flow of visitors – a few hundred at any moment, many thousands in the course of the day – were shepherded between the royal fencing and a long line of police barriers.

They spanned all ages and nationalities but the majority were female, British and within a decade of the late Princess in terms of age. They worked their way slowly along the line of flowers and messages, absorbing the cards and poems.

Royal enthusiast Terry Hutt (second left) spent much of the day being interviewed by television crews from all over the world, proudly wearing the same Union flag suit he wore when Princess Charlotte was born in 2015

Royal enthusiast Terry Hutt (second left) spent much of the day being interviewed by television crews from all over the world, proudly wearing the same Union flag suit he wore when Princess Charlotte was born in 2015

Though mobile phones had been been commonplace 20 years ago, they were not video recorders too. Back then, people still took the odd snap on the family camera and moved on

Though mobile phones had been been commonplace 20 years ago, they were not video recorders too. Back then, people still took the odd snap on the family camera and moved on

Roughly one in ten had brought a bouquet or card of their own to add to the display.

There were some notable differences from 1997 – no teddies, fewer candles and selfies galore.

Though mobile phones had been been commonplace 20 years ago, they were not video recorders too. Back then, people still took the odd snap on the family camera and moved on.

Yesterday, they were busy snapping themselves from all angles with a selfie stick or, in a few cases, recording their own documentaries.

Sharon Irons had travelled from her home near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, with a beautiful bunch of lilies – ‘I believe they were one of her favourites’ – and leaned them against the fast-growing stack of rustling plastic.

Like everyone yesterday, Sharon could pinpoint the exact moment she had learned the dreadful news. ‘We were on holiday at Disneyland in Florida with our daughters, who were nine and seven back then, and I’ll never forget the way all the Americans were so kind to us, as if we’d suffered a personal loss. It was incredibly moving.’

Tributes at Kensington Palace on August 31, 1997 (above). Compared to the febrile mood 20 years ago, there seemed to be no residual bitterness towards the rest of the Royal Family yesterday

Tributes at Kensington Palace on August 31, 1997 (above). Compared to the febrile mood 20 years ago, there seemed to be no residual bitterness towards the rest of the Royal Family yesterday

And her reflections after 20 years? Her response mirrored that of almost everyone else here yesterday: ‘Diana would have been so proud of her boys.’

Compared to the febrile mood in 1997, there seemed to be no residual bitterness towards the rest of the Royal Family yesterday.

‘The monarchy’s as strong as ever. Whatever else happened, Charles has done a good job with those boys and you have to admit he did right by Diana when she died,’ said Nicky Surridge, a 41-year-old credit controller from Tring, Hertfordshire. 

An ardent fan of the Princess since the royal wedding in 1981, she had been so distraught in 1997 that she had chucked in her job to spend the days immediately after the Princess’s death sitting in Kensington Gardens.

‘I don’t think I stopped crying all week,’ she recalled. Her house is still a shrine to the Princess with two signed Christmas cards among her proudest possessions.

‘After ten years, we decided to make each anniversary a celebration of her life.

‘But this year has made me feel sadder. Watching her sons in these programmes lately has brought it all back.’

Nicky was sitting with other members of Diana’s ‘inner circle’, her self-styled praetorian guard. They gather annually at the western side of the gates, not just for the anniversary of the Princess’s death but for her birthday, too. They always bring chairs, food and drink and make a day of it.

This year, ardent Windsor-watcher John Loughrey had come armed with a huge cake bearing a portrait of the Princess and a trestle table on which to put it.

Other members of the group had brought pink champagne.

Fellow royal enthusiast Terry Hutt spent much of the day being interviewed by television crews from all over the world, proudly wearing the same Union flag suit he wore when Princess Charlotte was born in 2015. 

Retired Church of England curate the Rev Frank Gelli had once been part of the ministry at nearby St Mary Abbots’ Church, meeting the Princess when she dropped in privately. Yesterday he held a brief service outside the gates, sprinkling this impromptu congregation with holy water

Retired Church of England curate the Rev Frank Gelli had once been part of the ministry at nearby St Mary Abbots’ Church, meeting the Princess when she dropped in privately. Yesterday he held a brief service outside the gates, sprinkling this impromptu congregation with holy water

Back then, he had spent a fortnight sleeping rough on a bench outside the maternity hospital at St Mary’s in Paddington, celebrating his 80th birthday and having his sleeping bag pinched in the process.

Yesterday’s commemoration had been rather easier, though he had still had to clamber over the park railings to be present for the candle-lit vigil at 2.45am, the moment the Princess died. If this colourfully-dressed little gang brought a sense of levity and fun to proceedings, others brought solemnity.

Retired Church of England curate the Rev Frank Gelli had once been part of the ministry at nearby St Mary Abbots’ Church, meeting the Princess when she dropped in privately. 

Yesterday he held a brief service outside the gates, sprinkling this impromptu congregation with holy water. The experience reduced Linda Roy, 55, to tears. She had come with a bunch of white roses from her home in Bedfordshire to be here.

‘I was only a little bit younger than Diana and I remember watching her wedding and wanting that fairytale, too,’ she said.

‘There were a few frogs along the way but I got my prince in the end. He passed away ten months ago, so this has been quite an emotional day.’

After this anniversary, one in which her sons have played such a central role, it is clear how deeply the Princess remains etched in the national consciousness. No one can possibly suggest that, 20 years on, Diana has been forgotten.

Some may feel that it is now time to move on. Her sons have certainly said that they will not speak so openly again.

That, it must be said, was not the prevailing view in Kensington Gardens yesterday. Many here were already making plans for the 25th.

Sir Elton: The world lost an angel

Sir Elton John led the tributes to Diana yesterday. The 70-year-old singer posted a picture on Instagram of them together

Sir Elton John led the tributes to Diana yesterday. The 70-year-old singer posted a picture on Instagram of them together

Sir Elton John led the tributes to Diana yesterday. The 70-year-old singer posted a picture on Instagram of them together, with the caption: ‘20 years ago today, the world lost an angel.’

The pair were close friends and Sir Elton performed Goodbye England’s Rose, a reworked version of Candle In The Wind, at her funeral.

Elizabeth Emanuel, co-designer of her wedding dress in 1981, tweeted: ‘Thinking of the wonderful times we spent with Diana and the great joy she brought into our lives.’ 

Diana’s close friend Rosa Monckton described her in an interview with The Times as a ‘truly extraordinary woman’ who ‘busted the myth of being a fairytale princess’.

Former royal press secretary Dickie Arbiter said: ‘Diana’s legacy is William and Harry. That’s it, they’re carrying on her work. She was a brilliant parent… they’re well-rounded.’

Supermodel Cindy Crawford posted a picture of herself with Diana at Kensington Palace. She wrote: ‘She was a class act. Remembering this inspiring woman today.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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