Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales

Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales
Funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales

The funeral cortege passing the Wellington Arch on Hyde Park Corner
Participants British Royal Family, Prime Minister Tony Blair, Lady Sarah McCorquodale, Lady Jane Fellowes, Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer, Elton John
Location Westminster Abbey, London (official ceremony)
Althorp (resting place)
Date Saturday, 6 September 1997 (1997-09-06)

The public funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales started on September 6, 1997 at 9:08 am in London, when the tenor bell sounded to signal the departure of the cortege from Kensington Palace. The coffin was carried from the palace on a gun carriage, along Hyde Park to St. James' Palace, where Diana's body had lain in state for five days before being taken to Kensington Palace. The Union Flag on top of the palace was lowered to half mast. The official ceremony was held at Westminster Abbey in London and finished at the resting place in Althorp.

2,000 people attended the ceremony in Westminster Abbey[1] while the British television audience peaked at 32.78 million, one of the United Kingdom's highest viewing figures ever.[2] Two billion people traced the event worldwide,[3] making it one of the most watched events in history.


The funeral

The event was not a state funeral, but a national public funeral that included royal pageantry and Anglican funeral liturgy.[4] A large pile of flowers was installed at the gates of Kensington Palace. Eight members of the Welsh Guards accompanied Diana's coffin, draped in the royal standard with an ermine border, on the one-hour-forty-seven-minute ride through London streets. At St. James' Palace, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry, and the Earl Spencer joined to walk behind. Five hundred representatives of various charities the Princess had been involved with joined behind them in the funeral cortege.

The ceremony at the Westminster Abbey opened at 11:00 BST and lasted one hour and ten minutes. The royal family placed wreaths alongside Diana's coffin in the presence of Princess Michael of Kent, former UK Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, James Callaghan and Edward Heath, and former Conservative MP Winston Churchill, the grandson of World War II-era Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill.[5] The guests included Sir Cliff Richard, Hillary Clinton, Henry Kissinger, William Crowe, Bernadette Chirac, Queen Noor of Jordan, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Elton John, George Michael, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.[5][6] The Prime Minister Tony Blair had read an excerpt from the First Epistle to the Corinthians: "And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love".[7] Among other invitees were Juan Carlos I of Spain, Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, Constantine II of Greece, Naruhito, Crown Prince of Japan with Crown Princess Masako and Nelson Mandela.[8]

The Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey and the Dean of Westminster Wesley Carr were also present in the abbey. The Anglican service opened with the traditional singing of "God Save the Queen". The pieces from Johann Sebastian Bach, Antonín Dvořák, Camille Saint-Saëns, Gustav Holst and other composers were played throughout the ceremony. Diana was to have been interred in the hamlet of Great Brington at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, along with her ancestors, but the Spencer family shifted the place to Althorp for private reasons. London's Foreign Press Association said it had received more than five hundred requests for credentials to cover the event.[5]

I thought it was very important to project it from a nation's standpoint. I wanted to make it sound like a country singing it. From the first couple of lines I wrote [which began "Goodbye England's Rose"], the rest sort of fell into place

Bernie Taupin on writing the lyrics for "Candle in the Wind 1997"[9]

During the service, Elton John sang "Candle in the Wind" which had been re-written in tribute to Diana.[10] He had contacted his writing partner Bernie Taupin, asking him to revise the lyrics of his 1973 song "Candle in the Wind" to honour Diana, and Taupin rewrote the song accordingly.[9] Only a month before Diana's death she had been photographed comforting John at the funeral of their mutual friend Gianni Versace.[11][12]

The burial

The burial occurred privately, later the same day. Diana's ex-husband, sons, mother, siblings, a close friend, and a clergyman were present. Diana's body was clothed in a black long-sleeved dress designed by Catherine Walker, which she had chosen some weeks before. A set of rosary beads was placed in her hands, a gift she had received from Mother Teresa, who died the same week as Diana. Her grave is on an island (52°16′59″N 1°00′01″W / 52.283082°N 1.000278°W / 52.283082; -1.000278) within the grounds of Althorp Park, the Spencer family home for centuries.[13]

The original plan was for Diana to be buried in the Spencer family vault at the local church in nearby Great Brington, but Lord Spencer said that he was concerned about public safety and security and the onslaught of visitors that might overwhelm Great Brington. He decided that he wanted Diana to be buried where her grave could be easily cared for and visited in privacy by William, Harry, and other Spencer relatives.

The island is in an ornamental lake known as The Round Oval within Althorp Park's gardens. A path with thirty-six oak trees, marking each year of her life, leads to the Oval. Four black swans swim in the lake. In the water there are water lilies, which, in addition to white roses, were Diana's favourite flowers. On the southern verge of the Round Oval sits the Summerhouse, previously in the gardens of Admiralty House, London, and now adapted to serve as a memorial to Diana.[14] An ancient arboretum stands nearby, which contains trees planted by Diana, William and Harry, and other members of the family.


  1. ^ Princess Diana Entertainment Weekly
  2. ^ Screen Digest, Wednesday, 1 October 1997
  3. ^ John Urry. Global complexity, Wiley-Blackwell, 2003 p. 134
  4. ^ Paul D. L. Avis. A church drawing near: spirituality and mission in a post-Christian culture, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003
  6. ^ Joal Ryan (Sat., 6 Sep. 1997) Farewell, "Mummy": Princess Diana's Funeral E!online
  7. ^ Brian MacArthur. Requiem: Diana, Princess of Wales 1961–1997 – Memories and Tributes, Arcade Publishing, 1998, p. 165
  8. ^ A Hot Ticket for a Sad Occasion Washington Post
  9. ^ a b "The songwriters idea book". Writer's Digest Books p.103. "I thought it was very important to project it from a nation's standpoint. I wanted to make it sound like a country singing it. From the first couple of lines i wrote [which began "Goodbye England's Rose"], the rest sort of fell into place." 
  10. ^ Barry Miles Massive Music Moments p.207. Anova Books, 2008
  11. ^ The Advocate 14 Oct 1997 Retrieved 25 December 2010
  12. ^ Fred Bronson The Billboard book of number one hits p.860. Billboard Books, 1997
  13. ^ "Diana Returns Home". Retrieved 13 October 2008. 
  14. ^ "Althorp Park, Home of Princess Diana". Retrieved 13 October 2008. 

External links

Further reading

  • Nigel Dacre. The funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales. Court Historian, 8:1 (2003), 85–90
  • Adrian Kear, Deborah Lynn Steinberg. Mourning Diana: nation, culture, and the performance of grief, Routledge, 1999
  • Tony Walter. The mourning for Diana, Berg Publishers, 1999

See also

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