The People’s Princess:
Diana & Ealing
By Dr. Piotr Stolarski
31 August 2017 marks 20 years since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales (1961-1997). First wife of Prince Charles, and mother of Princes William and Harry, Diana died in a car crash in Paris. Her untimely death shocked the nation and led to a huge outpouring of grief. Thousands of bouquets in her memory from ordinary people were deposited at Kensington Palace in the aftermath of her death, and around 32 million Britons watched her funeral on television. Known for her beauty, charm, and charitable work, Princess Diana was one of the most popular royals in recent history and also had links to Ealing, which this blog post explores through local newspaper reports.
Diana in Ealing
1982: ‘Princess makes it a magical day’
Above: Diana meets children in Ealing (November 1982)
“Even fairy tales can come true – as little Claire Cross found out when she met a radiant Princess Diana.
It was a magical day for promising young writers Claire, nine, of Hughenden Gardens, Northolt, George Cayley, 11, of Conolly Road, Hanwell, and Kate Scott, 10, of Briarbank Road, Hanwell, when they met the Princess at a special party on Tuesday.
They were three of 51 children whose stories were picked to make up a velvet-bound book called Tales for a Princess.
At the presentation, organised by Capital Radio, the Princess told the youngsters: “I am very touched and William says a big thank you too.”
At the presentation, organised by Capital Radio, the Princess told the youngsters: “I am very touched and William says a big thank you too.”
Claire, who wrote a story about a butterfly called Gardenia, said: “I did not believe it… when I first saw her. She looks so young and pretty. I did not feel shy at all.”
Kate Scott’s mum, Tina, said: “Kate was so excited it overwhelmed her, but Princess Diana was so charming it was worth all the waiting.”
The day was an extra special treat for George, because it was also his birthday on Tuesday.
George and Kate go to Christ Church Middle School, Ealing, and Claire us a pupil at Viking Middle School, Northolt.”
(Ealing Gazette, 26 November 1982, p. 1.)
1984: ‘Time off for Princess Di to meet fans’
Above: Diana visits a family centre for deaf and blind children,
Cleveland Road, Ealing (November 1984)
“When the Princess went walk-about, it brought smiles to hundreds of people who had waited patiently in the damp autumn air to catch a glimpse of their favourite royal.
The unscheduled walkabout followed Prince Di’s visit to a centre for deaf-blind children on Tuesday.
The new hairdo went down well with the crowds who jostled to get a closer look, and she was showered with flowers from young and old fans.
She was described by dad Gary Taylor as “A real lovely lady.”
The five-minutes stop-over was long enough for her to answer plenty of questions about her sons – she assured onlookers who packed Cleveland Road in Ealing that Prince William and Harry were just fine.”
(Ealing Gazette, 16 November 1984, p. 1.)
1988: ‘Salute to a princess’
Above: Princess Diana tours St. David’s Home for Disabled War
Veterans, Ealing (November 1988)
“Old Soldiers went on parade again when Princess Diana visited St. David’s Home for disabled servicemen yesterday.
Administrator Tom Connell said: “The old boys have all been putting their best bib and tucker on and polishing their medals.”
Princess Diana was greeted by Ealing Mayor Fred Dunckley and Mike O’Loughlin of British Aerospace, which has raised cash for the home for the past 40 years. He first invited Princess Diana to visit the home three years ago.
For more than an hour the Princess talked to the home’s 50 patients, many of them veterans of the first and second wars.
Cllr. Dunckley said: “I was a little anxious when I saw her laughing with one particular gentleman. He’d just told me a risqué story and I wouldn’t have out it past him telling it to Diana as well!”
She also made one or two jokes herself – asking one patient if the bottle of sherry at his elbow belonged to him. Drinking at this time of the morning, she said.
Sister Magdalene, who has worked at the home for 37 years, said: “It was wonderful to meet her and she had such a way with the patients. I asked her to bring Charles with her if she came again!”
Before she left she signed the visitor’s book and a photograph of herself.
She was given souvenirs – a small ornamental wheelbarrow filled with flowers and two concrete gnomes.
Occupational therapist Linda Gomez, 39, said: “We wanted to give her the wheelbarrow and gnomes as presents because they were made by the patients. The gnomes are meant for Princes Harry and William but we decided not to paint their names on them!””
(Article by Sarah Page in Ealing Gazette, 4 November 1988, p. 3)
1989: ‘Princess told how drugs ruin lives’
Above: Diana meets crowds, having visited the Ealing Drugs Advisory Service
Centre, Alexandria Road, Ealing (July 1989)
“Two reformed drug addicts have told the Princess of Wales how they were forced to steal to feed their habit.
The Princess met addicts and staff when she opened the Ealing Drugs Advisory Service centre in Alexandria Road, Ealing, yesterday.
She listened sympathetically as Harry Golding, 37, and his wife Bridget, 31, of Fulham, told how they had shoplifted £200 a day to pay for their habit.
Bridget, who has been an addict for 16 years, said: “Diana showed a great understanding of the problem and seemed saddened by what we told her. She said: ‘It’s awful that people have to steal to keep the habit going’.”
Harry and Bridget are two of the people being helped by Turning Point, a voluntary care service for alcohol and drug addicts, responsible for running the new centre.
Centre manager Christine Clavering told the Princess of their 15-month battle to open the centre in Alexandria Road.
She said: “She seemed very concerned when we told her how we had met with a lot of opposition from neighbours in Alexandria Road and some Ealing councillors and said ‘Isn’t it a pity when there’s this sort of opposition – people forget that it could be their own sons and daughters who need help.””
(Ealing Gazette, 7 July 1989, p. 8.)
1990: ‘Praise from a princess’
Above: Diana receives flowers from a girl at Turning Point’s Southall
Alcohol Advisory Centre, Featherstone Terrace, Southall (July 1990)
“Experts hope that Princess Di has helped to put on the map a centre which helps people with drink problems.
The Princess took a keen interest in the work of Turning Point’s Southall Alcohol Advisory Centre in Featherstone Terrace which she visited last Thursday.
She praised the work of staff as she toured the centre and listened intently as she sat in on a group counselling session.
Naseem Ahmed, project manager, said: “We were delighted that her Royal Highness came to see the service in operation. Since opening six years ago we have been beset with problems concerning our funding and premises. We have recently moved to new premises but are still desperately short of money. We very much hope the Princess’ visit will help raise the profile of our work locally.”
The centre provides counselling, advice and information for people with alcohol-related problems and their families and friends.
It is the only one in the country which concentrates on helping people from the local black and in particular, Asian community.
The staff speak a number of Asian languages. Research has shown the need for a service aimed at the problems of the local Asian community as proportionally larger numbers of Asians are experiencing drink related problems than whites.
Turning Point is the largest national charity helping people with drink, drug and mental health problems. It has over 40 projects throughout the country.”
(Ealing Gazette, 27 July 1990, p. 6.)
1991: ‘The young Princess greets the elderly’
Above: Diana visiting Southall Day Centre (February 1991)
“A RADIANT princess braved snow and ice to meet Asian pensioners at a revamped day centre – their oasis of peace in a modern world.
As patron of Help the Aged, Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales met staff and OAPs at Southall Day Centre on Tuesday.
Her surprise royal visit was organised after a state visit to Help the Aged’s eye hospitals in India was cancelled because of the Gulf War.
The centre, unique in Britain, has just reopened its doors at Western Road after a £350,000 revamp partly funded by the charity.
Every day of the year it opens to offer support to Asian pensioners across West London who are struggling to come to terms with modern life in Britain.
As Princess Diana entered the centre, wearing an ivory two-piece suit and black polo-neck jumper, a garland of red and white carnations was placed around her neck by Squadron Leader Mohinder Singh Pujji DFC.
Mr. Pujji, the first Indian to be enrolled into the Royal Air Force in World War Two, was personal pilot to Lord Louis Mountbatten, Prince Charles’ great uncle, during the Burma campaign.
He said: “She said she was very honoured to meet me and I was very honoured to meet her too.”
During a leisurely tour, the princess found time to have a quick game of cards in the games room and watch a display of traditional Gidha folk dancing.
But she declined to join in, saying: “If you’d asked me to do some tap-dancing I could maybe have done a step or two but I don’t know anything else.”
Manager Tara Singh Dyal said: “She is a very gentle lady but also very enquiring.” [….] Princess Diana was visibly moved when she was presented with a bouquet by wheelchair-bound Dwarki Devi, who is in her 80s and lives at The Limes OAP home in Merrick Road.
The frail old woman, who greeted the princess from her wheelchair with a traditional satsiri-akal gesture, had her hands clasped in return.
Mrs. Dwarki said: “This will be one of my happiest memories ever. I was very, very honoured.””
(Ealing Gazette, 15 February 1991, p. 7.)
1996: ‘Is Princess Di seeking a new workout?’
Left: Diana leaves a gym in Chelsea. In 1996 the local paper reported her use of a health club based inside Ealing Broadway Centre.
The Princess of Wales was spotted by stunned shoppers making an impromptu visit to an Ealing health club on Tuesday.
With advisers resigning and controversy over alleged remarks she made to Royal nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke, the embattled Princess took refuge with a woman friend in Holmes Place Health Club in the Ealing Broadway Centre.
Wearing a long blue coat and carrying a black handbag, the Princess left Holmes Place at about 4pm with her friend. She drove off alone in her dark blue BMW 3-series car, which she had left on the fifth floor of the Broadway Centre car park.
A surprised shopper, who spotted the Princess getting into her car, said: “Her head was down, but her eyes were looking up as they often do.”
“She didn’t seem to be upset about everything that was happening to her. There was no stress on her face. She seemed quite jolly, in fact.”
Holmes Place manager Mario Pederzolli refused to confirm the Princess’ visit. He told the Gazette: “I am not answering that question. It is unfair, and you know why.”
The entrance to Holmes Place is on the fifth floor of the Broadway centre car park, visible to no-one except shoppers returning to their cars, and would present an ideal opportunity for the Princess to use its gym facilities without attracting attention.
The Princess visits the exclusive Harbour Club gymnasium in Chelsea every other day, but she is usually besieged by photographers and reporters.
She may now be considering a location like Ealing, which is outside central London but has excellent road and public transport links to her home in Kensington Palace.
(From an article by Ronan McGreevy in Ealing and Acton Gazette, 26 January 1996, p. 1.)
1997: ‘Charity’s dinner date with Diana’
Above: Diana in April 1997 visiting a child helped by the
Ealing-based Chain of Hope charity, which she
“The Gazette can exclusively reveal that Princess Diana has delighted Ealing-based charity Chain of Hope by agreeing to speak on its behalf at a prestigious dinner.
She will praise its work in saving the lives of Third World children in the Guildhall, central London, on September 16.
Her decision guarantees Chain of Hope priceless national newspaper exposure and should also encourage companies and wealthy businessmen to fund its campaign to bring children from developing countries to Britain for specialised hole-in-the-heart operations.
The dinner will mark the 50th anniversary of the private health insurer, Bupa, which has given an undisclosed sum to the Chain of Hope to pay for several operations.
It will be the Princess’s first public engagement for the Montpelier Road-based charity since her ill-fated visit to Harefield Hospital in May last year.
She was filmed watching an operation being performed on eight-year-old Arnaud Wamba. She was afterwards accused by the press of exploiting the boy’s illness to bolster her own public image.
Despite the controversy, the Princess has continued to take an interest in the Chain of Hope and has been in regular contact with Ealing heart surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub, who performs the operations.
Her spokeswoman told the Gazette: “Bad publicity does not change the Princess’ mind about any charitable work she undertakes.”
Her decision has been greeted with delight by the Chain of Hope. Diana is probably the most sought-after celebrity for such events in the world.
Co-ordinator Emma Scanlan said: “We are privileged to have her support. She will help raise awareness of what we are trying to do and encourage others to support us.”
(From an article by Ronan McGreevy in Ealing and Acton Gazette, 25 July 1997, p. 7.)
Ealing and Diana’s Death
Above: Diana’s funeral cortege passing through the borough on its way to
Princess Diana’s promise to speak for the Ealing-based charity, Chain of Hope, unfortunately could not be kept. The event she was meant to attend at Guildhall, central London, on 16 September 1997, was foreshadowed by her tragic death in Paris on 31 August 1997.
Ealing, like many other parts of the UK, was full of mourners of all backgrounds. People responded in various ways. Some Ealing residents visited Kensington Palace to lay flowers and pay their respects. Local businesses and libraries opened late on the day of Diana’s funeral. A book of condolences in Ealing Town Hall was made available and signed by over 3,500 people in less than two weeks, before being sent to Kensington Palace. In December 1997, the Mayor of Ealing, Julia Clements-Elliott, planted a tulip tree in Walpole Park to commemorate Prince Diana’s life. Local politicians and residents wrote testimonies about Diana, published in the local newspaper, the Ealing and Acton Gazette. Sorrow and praise, it seems, were on everyone’s lips.
The following is a selection of extracts from the local press relating to Diana’s death, the reaction locally, and the tributes paid to her memory by local people.
‘She died in a tragic way – at least she was in love’
Above: Mayor of Ealing, Julia Clements-Elliott, with the memorial
plaque which accompanied the tulip tree planted by the borough in
Walpole Park in December 1997 in Diana’s memory
“Thousands of mourners have been queuing at Ealing Town Hall this week to pay tribute to Princess Diana in a book of condolence.
Mayor Julia Clements-Elliott made the first entry in the book, which was opened on Tuesday, and a constant stream of visitors have followed by adding their messages.
Kurdish refugee Karwan Bahjat, who lives in Southall, said he admired the princess for her crusade to outlaw landmines. He said: “Diana tried to help my people so I owe it to her to come here and pay my respects. She gave everyone the chance to enjoy world peace and happiness. She was always smiling and happy to talk to people. She died in a tragic way, but at least she was in love when it happened.”
Ruth Abernethy, who lives in Greenford, told the Gazette: “It was such a shock to hear that Diana had died. She’s always been seen as immortal, but it’s brought it home that if she can be suddenly killed that same thing can happen to anyone. She was the perfect person and she meant so much to people that I had to come and sign the book.”
John Costello, from Northolt, said: “Diana had an effect on people throughout the world. I was devastated to hear of her death. She had a great effect on me and I felt I had to honour her by signing the book.”
Sheila Maskell from West Ealing had already placed flowers at the gates of Kensington Palace to honour the Princess before she visited the town hall. She said: “I wasn’t able to sign the book in London but I was pleased Ealing started a book so we could get a chance to enter our messages. Diana has been a marvellous example to us all and was treated very badly by the Royal Family. She truly was the people’s princess.”
Others chose to pay their respects at RAF Northolt on Sunday when Diana’s body was returned to Britain.
Mark and Karen Gill from Northolt visited the airfield, that said, as a “mark of respect”.
Mrs. Gill said: “We are shocked, devastated. She was so popular, the most popular member of the Royal Family.”
Eleven-year-old Manmeet Soor of Lordship Road, Northolt, said: “I’m sad she died. I liked the way she went to other countries and cared for others. There will never be anyone like her.”
Michael Payne of Northolt reflected the mood of outrage against the press when he angrily asked a Gazette reporter: “Can’t you leave her alone? She was the only one to do any good for this country. She was not a toff, she really cared. She is the only one willing to touch Aids victims and she highlighted the problem.”
(Article by Mike Hartwell in Ealing and Acton Gazette, 5 September 1997, p. 4.)
‘A fitting memorial for our princess’
Above: Stephen Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North
since 1997, learned of Princess Diana’s death while
on holiday in Cornwall
“It started just like any other holiday Sunday as we drove into Newquay for morning mass. We planned to spend the rest of the day on the beach. But as soon as we arrived at the church we knew something was different […] This Sunday the church was crowded and people were crying. Instead of the usual white or green vestments the priest was wearing purple, and before the start of the service he asked us all to pray for Diana, Princess of Wales, who had died five hours before.
The princess was so much a part of our national life that her loss was felt like a death in the family. No-one in the small Cornish church was untouched and the sense of shock and loss was expressed in tears or stunned silence.
After the mass, people seemed reluctant to leave and we milled outside comforting each other and sharing our memories.
I remember well the royal wedding street parties and the delight so many felt in 1981. Others spoke of the sadness that followed that fairytale wedding. We all agreed that, in the past few years, Diana had grown into a strong and compassionate woman who earned tributes from Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa.
Diana showed her compassion in many ways. Her work with the young homeless challenged the Government and forced changes in housing policy. Her work with children was an inspiration to us all. By embracing people with Aids she changed the public perception of the victims of this terrible disease.
Last week the princess was attacked for her crusade against landmines. I believe Diana was horrified by the slaughter and she had no compunction about using her celebrity status to force the world to address this issue. The Government’s landmine ban is only three months old, but the horror continues. A fitting memorial to Diana would be a world ban on these weapons, the clearance of the existing minefields and a global programme of support for the victims. Impossible? Dian didn’t think so.
Everyone of my generation remembers where they were when John Kennedy died. I will also always remember that Sunday in August when I heard of the death of Diana.
We drove back from the church aching with our sense of loss. I hope that I speak for all the people of Ealing North when I say that our thoughts and prayers are with Diana, the Royal Family and the families of Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul. She was our princess – the people’s princess.”
(Stephen Pound, Labour MP for Ealing North, in Ealing and Acton Gazette, 5 September 1997, p. 2.)
‘A woman of devotion who always remembered your name’
Above: Harry Greenway, Conservative MP for Ealing
North (1979-1997) had fond memories of Princess
Diana over the years
“I first met Diana before her engagement to Prince Charles, and I met her frequently after that on both formal and informal occasions. She always recognised people by name instantly.
She had an incredible interest in our common pursuit – horses and the proper riding of them.
We had another common interest in the abolition of landmines, and there was always talk of “the boys”, William and Harry, who were always in her thoughts wherever she was.
Diana was rather shy and uncertain as a teenager, but always brave in her ideas. My wife, Carol, and I felt a most special warmth for her at her first Buckingham Palace garden party. Both the Prince of Wales and Diana had been allocated to parallel lines of several hundred people. The Prince moved but a few feet down the line as he talked with those set to meet him, while Diana rushed down her side of the line, meeting the people officially presented to her and very many more, including Carol and me. “Do look at my ring. Isn’t it a lovely day?” she said, and added, more importantly, “How are you, how is the family and what are your problems and opportunities?” She had found a way to share herself with as many people as possible. This was a skill Diana was to turn into a fine art, delighting many thousands of people.
Diana had not been a great achiever at school, but she had done well enough and I saw her undertake some inspired teaching with little children. Her ability to communicate with them came from her warmth, her complete honesty and openness and that lack of pomposity which endeared her to the world’s millions. She found that touching and even embracing severely ill people could give them some life-enhancing moments, as I saw many times in leprosy sufferers, people with severe cancer, Aid[s] sufferers, victims of rubella and many other conditions. Like the Pope and Mother Teresa, Diana realised that the hands-on approach helped the distressed as well as giving her an inner peace and strength.”
(From a testimony by Harry Greenway (Conservative MP for Ealing North, 1979-1997) in Ealing and Acton Gazette, 5 September 1997, p. 4.)
‘Hindus and Sikhs observe devotions for Diana’
Above: Vishwa Hindu Kendra temple, Southall, said
special prayers for Princess Diana after her death
“Indian independence celebrations at the Vishwa Hindu Kendra temple in Lady Margaret Road, Southall, on Sunday turned to an event of remembrance after the death of Princess Diana.
Five hundred people who attended the events sang devotional songs for two hours and observed a minute’s silence. The Indian High Commissioner Dr. Laxmi Mal Singhvi, who had been due to attend, cancelled his visit but described the princess as “one of India’s most affectionate friends”.
Tomorrow (Saturday) at 11am the temple congregation will be saying special prayers for Princess Diana.
Prayers were said continuously for 48 hours at the Sikh Guru Granth Gurdwara temple in Villiers Road, Southall, from Monday to Wednesday in honour of Princess Diana.
Balbir Grewal, general secretary of the temple said: “She was an exceptional woman, so kind to the sick and needy.
“She did not deserve to die in the way that she did and we want to pay tribute to her. Princess Diana will be missed very much.”
Eight priests took it in turns to read out prayers from the [Sikh] holy book, the Guru Granth.
For the two days starting at 6pm on Monday.”
(Ealing and Acton Gazette, 5 September 1997, p. 5.)
‘She called herself the ultimate rebel’
Above: Clive Soley, Labour MP for Ealing,
Acton and Shepherd’s Bush (1997-2005),
believed that Diana crossed barriers of
race, class and religion
“Last week was a momentous one for Britain. It will be long remembered, and I think will bring in its wake many social and political changes. That is why it is wrong to dismiss the reaction to Diana’s death as hysteria.
I think it was a deep and genuine feeling, aroused by a unique person who became a symbol of a changing mood. For the Royal Family it is the culmination of a process that began in the 1960s.
It is clear that the people want the royals to express more emotion, but I am not sure they can so easily cast off the Victorian code of duty in the way. While it may be hard to imagine Prince Charles shooting down a water slide with the young princes in the way Diana did, I suspect he might love to.
But the applause which met Earl Spencer’s speech indicates that the Royal family must make some changes, or wither away.
[….] On the world stage Diana will be remembered for many things, but I think chiefly for her willingness to expose military assumptions about landmines, and highlight their devastating effect on civilians, especially children.
[….] Her message also had an international audience because she crossed barriers of race, class and religion. She pursued emotive and painful injustices, by challenging the stereotypes given to Aids and leprosy.
But perhaps most powerfully of all she showed that whatever your own adversities you can rise above them. Her eating disorder and other problems would have overwhelmed a lesser person. She met the challenge.
In earlier times a consort dismissed by a king-in-waiting would have accepted her fate and retired into anonymity. Diana reinvented herself with a new role and image and her message for women is particularly strong. She once described herself as the ultimate rebel, and I suspect history will credit her with significant change both here and abroad.
In my experience, those who most often call themselves revolutionaries turn out to be boring old conservatives. Diana was different.”
(Clive Soley, Labour MP for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd’s Bush, in Ealing and Acton Gazette, 12 September 1997, p. 2.)
‘God’s message for us in Diana’s death’
Above: Graham Dow, Anglican Bishop of
Willesden (1992-2000) said Diana brought
‘joy and hope’ to many people
“Only a belief in God can make sense of the tragedy of Princess Diana’s death, the Anglican Bishop of Willesden has said. Without a belief in God and the afterlife, there is no meaning in life or death, the Rt. Revd. Graham Dow said. The Bishop, whose diocese includes Ealing, said that since the princess’s death many people had asked why God allows such suffering. God, he believes, understands our suffering because he allowed Jesus to be crucified. “Gaze at the cross and we see a God who understands us, and who is alongside us in our suffering,” he said.
Bishop Dow praised Princess Diana as someone who brought “joy and hope” to many people. She had something of Jesus’s concern for the weak and vulnerable, he added.
The Roman Catholic Bishop in west London, Rev. Patrick O’Donoghue, who met the princess about 10 times through her work with the homeless in central London, said she was “a very impressive woman”.
He said: “She was a person who suffered greatly in her own life, but it brought out the best in her. She had a deep awareness of the suffering of others and an empathy with those who suffer, particularly the homeless.”
Two Nuns who represented Mother Teresa at Princess Diana’s funeral believe it was God’s plan that the 87-year-old Albanian nun died the day before Diana’s funeral at Westminster Abbey.
Sister Tanya and Sister Theresina from the Missionaries of Charity convent in Villiers Road, Southall, were invited to the funeral as the only representatives of Mother Teresa, a close friend of the princess and a great source of inspiration for her.
Sister Tanya said Diana visited the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s order of nuns, five years ago to see some of the work being carried out in Southall.
The convent, one of five in the UK, was set up in 1970 to help Southall’s most needy residents.
The four sisters run a soup kitchen and make visits to deprived areas.”
(Piece by Ronan McGreevy in Ealing and Acton Gazette, 19 September 1997, p. 4.)
Poems from the Ealing and Acton Gazette letters pages:
“Oooh… Princess Diana!
I loved you, but you didn’t know.
I love you with all my heart
And I hope we will never part
This forever I will pray
Oooh… please stay in me Diana”
(Poem by B. Jaffree, of West Ealing, in Ealing and Acton Gazette, 12 September 1997, p.12.)
Why oh why did you have to depart?
The shock and sorrow deep in my heart
An ill-fated end to a sad journey through life, The pain you felt as a betrayed wife.
Tributes by tens of thousands for your warmth and sense of fun,
An icon, a beacon, a tender loving mum.
Happiness at last with your new found love,
They you went with Dodi to heaven above,
Cut down in your prime, and as your life ebbed away,
Paparazzi taking photos in their notorious way.
The whole world shocked by your tragic end,
Everyone felt they’d lost a friend.
Disbelief at our loss – completely stunned,
Anger at the way that you were shunned.
But now the love that was felt for you,
Displayed by the carpets of flowers, a magnificent hue –
A million or more and little teddies – so cherished
Convey how we felt when you perished.
With heart aching and such sad messages galore,
Because dearest Diana we’ll see you no more.
Your last journey perceived by the eye
Every man, woman and child, O how they will cry.
The tears that were shed would fill an ocean,
That you would go so suddenly we hadn’t a notion.
They came in their droves, camped out through the night
To attend your funeral. And as we caught sight
Of that gun carriage followed by your two beloved boys,
Heads bowed – we admired their dignity and poise.
People hugging together in desperate sorrow,
Because for you there will be no tomorrow.
Through the loudspeakers the solemn service was relayed,
So poignant, our feelings unashamedly displayed.
Earl Spencer’s eulogy to his adored sister,
Brought spontaneous applause – a veritable vista.
In Westminster Abbey, Elton John’s tribute song
Moved us all to tears: the morning throng
Who laid lilies, roses, sunflowers and a carnation,
Bearing witness to the grief felt by the nation.
Children, lepers, Aids victims, land mine limbless and the homeless
All the objects of your watchful regard – sweet Princess!
Back to your childhood home on your last journey,
The time I shook your hand is imprinted on my memory.
I’ll never forget your bewitching smile,
No wonder so many people you did beguile.
Sixty million flowers – their sweet fragrance unbelievable.
Farewell England’s Rose, whose sudden demise was so tragic,
Forever in our hearts, thank you for your irrepressible magic.
(Poem by Terrie Martin of Hanwell, in Ealing and Acton Gazette, 3 October 1997, p. 12.)
Twenty years have passed since Princess Diana’s death. She is not much spoken about today, but many people can remember her death and aspects of her life. In a sense her approach to public service has been taken up by her sons, William and Harry. Both have adopted the informal, warm and personal style which made their mother so popular, as well as supporting charities close to her heart. In this sense a new generation of royals much influenced by Princess Diana has emerged and now stands confidently centre stage. Yet Prince Harry himself has spoken of the pain of dealing with Princess Diana’s death. Our society is more open and socially liberal than even 20 years ago – there have been big changes – which not everyone necessarily agrees with. At the same time, there is much greater cynicism about celebrity and royalty than 20 years ago, with the advent of the Internet and social media. Princess Diana nevertheless remains a cherished figure for many, whose example continues to echo down the years.
For further information on Princess Diana’s visits to Ealing, and the reaction to her death, consult the Newspaper Card Index and Photograph collection at Ealing Local History Centre.