Princess Diana’s Funeral: 27 Details (and Photos) from the Heartbreaking Day
In 1997, the entire world came together and mourned the People's Princess at Princess Diana's funeral.
Princess Diana’s funeral
As the most famous woman in the world, Princess Diana captivated people around the globe. So when her life tragically ended following a car accident in Paris on August 31, 1997, it was only natural that Princess Diana’s death would consume headlines. A week later, on September 6, 1997, her funeral in London was one of the most-watched TV events in history. Thousands lined the streets to pay their last respects, with millions of flowers laid at her home Kensington Palace as a way to say thank you and goodbye to the iconic People’s Princess.
Although it’s been more than 20 years since her death, Princess Diana conspiracy theories still proliferate, while stories about her short but impactful life continue to captivate. And this summer, on July 1st—what would have been Diana’s 60th birthday—her sons Prince William and Prince Harry plan to unveil a statue in her honor at Kensington Palace.
Here, photos from Princess Diana’s funeral, the tragic day when the world came together to mourn her loss.
The Queen and Prince Philip
Following the death of Princess Diana, the general public was angry with Queen Elizabeth for not issuing a public statement about her late, former daughter-in-law and her unwillingness to leave Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where she and Prince Philip were on their annual holiday along with Prince Charles, Prince William, and Prince Harry. Her emotional reserve appeared uncaring and callous, with one newspaper headline blaring “SHOW US YOU CARE.”
Finally, five days after Diana’s death, the Queen flew the Union Jack at half-mast at Buckingham Palace in her absence (an unprecedented double honor, as the royal standard did not fly when she was not in residence) and did a walkabout to see the flowers and messages of grief.
The following day, the day before Diana’s funeral, the Queen returned to London early and gave her first live broadcast in 50 years, paying tribute to Diana and saying the now-famous line: “what I say to you now, as your queen and as a grandmother, I say from my heart.”
Diana’s coffin leaving Buckingham Palace
Mourners outside Buckingham Palace grieve as Princess Diana’s casket is escorted by the Queen’s Life Guard, soldiers tasked soldiers charged with guarding the official royal residences in the United Kingdom.
Young William and Harry
The tragic image of young Prince William, 15, and Prince Harry, 12, walking forlornly behind their mother’s coffin is indelibly etched into the public consciousness. The two walked alongside their uncle Charles, Earl Spencer, with Prince Charles and Prince Philip flanking them for support. When Prince Philip died earlier this year, his daughter Princess Anne told reporters that Prince Philip helped support his grandsons, giving them the courage to walk together.
However, during an interview with Newsweek, Prince Harry confessed that even with his family by his side, it was a traumatic experience.
“My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television,” Harry said. “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”
Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer
One of the most memorable events of Princess Diana’s funeral was the thundering eulogy delivered by Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer. Diana’s younger brother by three years, he dubbed himself the “representative of a family in grief,” and spoke directly to Diana, saying, “on behalf of your mother and sisters, I pledge that we, your blood family, will do all we can to continue the imaginative way in which you were steering these two exceptional young men so that their souls are not simply immersed by duty and tradition but can sing openly as you planned.” Also, go through this heartfelt eulogy for a grandmother.
Many considered this a dig at the royal family, although Spencer saved choice words for the media, too, describing his sister as “the most hunted person of the modern age” and saying of Diana: “She would want us today to pledge ourselves to protecting her beloved boys William and Harry from a similar fate…we will not allow them to suffer the anguish that used regularly to drive you to tearful despair.”
A devastated Prince Charles
Although Prince Charles and Princess Diana had been formally divorced for a little over a year after a four-year separation, Charles was devasted by Diana’s death. “He was absolutely distraught. He fell apart,” Tina Brown, author of The Diana Chronicles, said in the 2017 TV documentary Diana: 7 Days That Shook the Windsors.
He wore a blue suit to Diana’s funeral, in contrast to the black suits William, Harry, Prince Philip, and Earl Spencer wore. However, it wasn’t just a casual sartorial decision but something more meaningful. According to royal author Brian Hoey, Charles chose the Savile Row suit because it was Diana’s favorite, and one that she selected for him.
Princess Diana’s sisters and mother
Diana’s brother Charles wasn’t the only family member who survived her. Her mother Frances Shand Kydd, as well as her two sisters Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, sadly had to attend her funeral. Frances and Diana had a difficult relationship and were not on speaking terms when Diana died, according to Diana’s butler Paul Burrell. Reportedly, Kydd said deeply insulting, bigoted, and racist things to Diana about her relationships with Pakistani heart surgeon Hasnat Khan and Egyptian Dodi Al Fayed, both Muslims, and Diana cut her out.
Here, Frances, Lady Sarah, and Diana’s nieces Eleanor and Laura Fellowes attend Diana’s funeral at Westminster Abbey.
Princess Diana’s stepmother Raine
Princess Diana had multiple maternal figures at her funeral: her stepmother Countess Raine Spencer also attended. Diana and Raine had a tumultuous relationship when Diana was younger, with the young Lady Diana nicknaming her Acid Raine and vilifying and playing pranks on her. At the height of Diana’s animosity toward her stepmother, she reportedly pushed her down the stairs. However, as Diana matured, so did their relationship and the two reconciled and formed a friendship before her death.
The Queen Mother
Despite being in her mid-90s, Queen Elizabeth’s mom, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, attended Princess Diana’s funeral—especially incredible considering Diana passed away at only 36 years of age.
Reportedly, the Queen Mother and Diana were not on the best of terms, with the Queen Mother resolutely supportive of her grandson Charles and fearful that Diana was another Wallis Simpson with the power to tear down the monarchy.
Queen Elizabeth’s colorful younger sister Princess Margaret was known for being a royal troublemaker and was, like Diana, divorced from an ex-husband she’d had a tumultuous and unfaithful relationship with. Princess Margaret attended Princess Diana’s funeral with her son Lord Linley and his wife Lady Serena Linley. Margaret later passed away from a stroke in 2002, less than five years later.
Diana’s sister-in-law Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, had a tumultuous relationship with Diana in the years before her death. While they were close earlier in their marriages to Prince Charles and Prince Andrew, their friendship was complicated and in fact, Diana was not speaking to Sarah when she died. Here, Sarah attends the funeral with her two young daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie, William and Harry’s first cousins.
Tony Blair and the People’s Princess
Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie Blair, seen here, were among the mourners at Princess Diana’s funeral. Blair coined the famous phrase indelibly linked with Diana, first calling her “the People’s Princess” while speaking to reporters outside his home.
“The people everywhere—not just here in Britain, everywhere—they kept faith with Princess Diana. They liked her, they loved her, they regarded her as one of the people. She was the ‘People’s Princess.’ And that’s how she will stay, how she will remain, in our hearts and in our memories, forever.”
Thousands of attendees
Among the 2,000 attendees at Princess Diana’s funeral were boldfaced names from the worlds of fashion, Hollywood, and politics. Here, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Steven Spielberg, Sting, and Trudie Styler are seen among the mourners, which also included Tom Hanks, Mariah Carey, Richard Branson, and Luciano Pavarotti.
Goodbye England’s Rose
Diana’s good friend Elton John performed his hit song “Candle in the Wind” at Diana’s funeral. John’s writing partner Bernie Taupin rewrote the lyrics at his request—originally about Marilyn Monroe—specifically for Princess Diana. The new lyrics repeated the phrase “Goodbye England’s rose,” and referenced “England’s greenest hills” and “the wings of your compassion” in Diana’s honor.
Hillary Clinton at the funeral
Among the 2,000 mourners at Princess Diana’s funeral were several political figures, including then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. Because it was not an official state funeral, her husband President Bill Clinton did not attend. However, Hillary was personally invited by both the royal family and the Spencer family due to her “close personal association with Diana, Princess of Wales,” according to then-White House Deputy Press Secretary Joe Lockhart.
With so much attention focused on Princess Diana, it sometimes flies under the radar that three people tragically died that night in Paris, including Diana’s boyfriend Dodi Fayed. His father, billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed, then-owner of Harrods, Fulham Football Club, and the Ritz Paris, was among the mourners at the funeral. However, it was one of the last times Al Fayed was comfortably in the royal family’s presence, as he later accused several members of the family of plotting to kill Diana and Dodi.
Diana’s bond with George Michael
One of Princess Diana’s favorite singers, George Michael, attended her funeral, alongside her friend Elton John and his husband David Furnish. Michael and Diana had formed a tight bond and he once said she was one of the only people who made him feel like an ordinary person.
Members of the fashion industry
As arguably the most fashionable woman on the planet, it’s not surprising that Diana’s funeral attracted several high-profile members of the fashion elite. Mourners included Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, several of Diana’s favorite designers, including Catherine Walker, Karl Lagerfeld, and Donatella Versace, who was still mourning the death of her brother Gianni, a funeral Diana had attended mere weeks earlier.
Mourners lining the streets
Even though most of the billions of people mourning Diana around the world never met her, she had a unique charisma that made people feel as if they truly knew her, which made her death that much more devastating.
With crowds continuing to grow, officials set up lines to help control the flow as her casket went by. At its height, the queue to reach St. James Palace and sign the condolence book took six and a half hours.
Flowers outside Kensington Palace
People flocked to Kensington Palace following the death of Princess Diana, naturally migrating to her London home in grief and to pay their respects in person. Tens of thousands of flowers were left at Kensington Palace, with the mass of bouquets extending 30 feet from the gates.
Small shrines to Princess Diana
The once-in-a-lifetime impact felt by Diana’s death could be seen all over England, in impromptu shines created by the public to mourn her loss. Here, one such shrine in London. Elsewhere, mourners left heartfelt notes, hand-drawn cards, funeral poems, and stuffed animals.
Flowers as far as the eye can see
An aerial shot of the thousands upon thousands of flowers lining the grounds of Kensington Palace bidding farewell to Princess Diana. Wondering why so many people felt compelled to leave notes and tributes in person? Back in 1997, only 10 percent of British people had home Internet, meaning a heartfelt tribute on Instagram or Facebook wasn’t an option—expressing their grief in-person was their only outlet.
The outpouring of grief following Princess Diana’s death was unlike anything the world had ever seen. It was certainly novel and unexpected in England, a country known for its reserved lack of emotion. “You saw people weeping openly in the streets in a way I had never seen before and that was a real change,” James Rodgers, head of international journalism studies at City, University of London, was quoted as saying in TIME magazine. “If anyone asked me when Britain’s stiff upper lip ended, I would have said then.”
Here, mourners are seen weeping in the crowd as Princess Diana’s funeral procession goes along Whitehall.
She treated everybody like human beings
Diana was beloved for having a common touch and genuinely relating to and connecting with everybody, regardless of their station in life. Here, a sign from prisoners in the HM Prison Dartmoor thanks her for “treating us like human beings, not criminals.”
Billions of viewers
According to estimates, roughly 2.5 billion people watched Princess Diana’s funeral worldwide on TV—nearly half of the world’s population at the time. Because the ceremony began just after 9 a.m. in London, many Americans woke up in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning to view it. Here, an American woman named Christine Couture watches Diana’s funeral in her living room in Arlington, Massachusetts.
Diana’s final resting spot
While Diana’s funeral was decidedly public, her burial was a quiet, private affair, taking place on the same day. Reportedly only a few people, including Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Harry, Diana’s mother, her three siblings, a friend, and a clergyman, were present as Diana was laid to rest at her childhood home, Althorp in Northamptonshire. The grave remains there to this day, on an island in the middle of a lake on the estate, but is not open to the public, although guests can visit the estate.
- Newsweek: Prince Harry on Chaos After Diana’s Death and Why the World Needs “the Magic” of the Royal Family