Friday, September 1, 2017

'She touched the lives of millions' / Readers on Diana's death and funeral

Princess of Wales

'She touched the lives of millions': readers on Diana's death and funeral

To mark the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death we asked readers to share their memories of her, the funeral and the public reaction

Guardian readers and Rachel Obordo
Thursday 31 August 2017 08.00 BST

or many people, Diana’s sudden death – and the public outpouring of grief that followed – was an extraordinary time. In commemoration, we asked readers to share their memories of the day and her funeral 20 years on. Here’s what some of them said.
‘I was working with Mark Shand [Camilla’s brother] in Borneo when he found out’
Nigel Cole, 58, director of films such as Made in Dagenham and Calendar Girls, Lewes
I was shooting a documentary with Julia Roberts about orangutans in Borneo called In the Wild. We had been living rough in the jungle for four to five weeks. Mark Shand, Camilla’s brother, is a very experienced explorer and was working with us to smooth the way with the Indonesian royal family and advise us about jungle life. He had gone off to Jakarta to make arrangements and returned by helicopter. I could tell something was wrong. He looked a very different man; he’s normally very convivial and entertaining. But his body language was very different. He looked at me and simply said “Diana is dead”. It was hard to take in in such a place so far removed from the real world. I think he spent another day with us and then flew out to help his sister and be there for his family. When I returned to London 10 days later it seemed subdued and sober. It felt like the end of an era, and it was.

‘I had to do another paper round’

Paul Redmond, 34, content manager, London

Newspaper headlines announcing the death of Princess Diana And Dodi Fayed. Photograph: Tim Graham

I was 14 and living in Ilkeston, Derbyshire at the time. After finishing my paper round I went home but soon got a call from Terry, the owner of the newsagent, to say I had to come back to redeliver the route again. I didn’t understand but went back all the same. When I got there he explained that the papers had rushed out second editions because Diana had died. I delivered the route in a bit of a trance, poring over each paper before pushing it through the letterboxes. On the plus side I did get an extra two quid for delivering two paper rounds..

‘I wrote a letter to William and Harry expressing my sympathy’

Alice, 32, works for charity Coram, London
I was 12 years old when I found out about Diana’s death. I wrote William and Harry both a letter to express my sincere sympathy at the loss of their darling mum. The week after my grandma took me up to London, and we dressed in black and went to lay flowers and my letter at Kensington Palace. It was overwhelming; I had never seen anything else like it. A couple of weeks later I received a letter back from William and Harry thanking me for my sympathies.

‘Will Smith didn’t get a lot of airplay that week’

Martin Burgess-Moon, 45, executive producer for Fresh Air Studios, Plymouth

Paul Young and Martin Burgess-Moon in 1997.
 Paul Young and Martin Burgess-Moon in 1997

I worked at a local radio station called Plymouth Sound. I was the weekday evening show presenter but I also presented a morning show on Sundays. On my way to work I had seen the headline that Diana had been injured in an accident and that Dodi had died. When I got to the office the radio in reception was switched on and I could hear classical music. “That’s not right,” I immediately thought. We were a pop music station. I bolted down to the studio, opened the door and saw the breakfast show presenter, David Harber, sat there looking glum. “She’s died hasn’t she?” I said. “Yes,” said David. So for four hours I just had to sit there with the Independent Radio News fader open listening and doing nothing other than keep an eye on the studio desk in case the connection broke. That week was very peculiar. On my weekday evening show I had to think about what I played, what I said and make sure nothing was too upbeat or jovial. I remember at the time the biggest hit around was Men in Black by Will Smith. He didn’t get a lot of airplay that week.

‘I didn’t even know she was a princess’

Rinn Kachui, 27, aspiring writer, Bangalore, India
I grew up at a village in Manipur, which is located in northeast India. I was seven years old and I remember the elders of the village talking about it while we were hanging out in the local playground. I didn’t even know she was a princess back then as we just called her Lady Diana. I vividly remember thinking: “Wow, Lady Diana, she must be someone very important and popular.” I clearly remember feeling very sad about it, not sure why; I guess it’s because that was the first time I heard about the death of a person from the other side of the world.

My niece and I went to Kensington Palace and laid flowers’

Beverley Siddle, 57, works in adult social care, Hampshire

Beverley Siddle’s photo of flowers outside Kensington Palace in August, 1997
 Beverley Siddle’s photo of flowers outside Kensington Palace in August, 1997.

It was so strange how personal and real the grief felt for a woman that neither my mother or I had ever met and I still can’t fully explain it. Neither of us were royalists and had been critical of Diana many times but we were completely overcome with a sense of terrible loss. My niece and I went to Kensington Palace and laid flowers. There were hundreds of people there; some quiet, others crying. It felt like we were all in a bit of a daze. We then went to Harrods and queued up to sign the book of condolence there. It was a hot day and Harrods employees were walking along the line handing out bottles of water and biscuits. Everyone in the queue was talking to each other about Diana and comforting each other. 

I remember us all gasping when Earl Spencer mentioned that Diana “needed no royal title” and talking about her “blood family”. We could not believe that he was standing in front of the Queen making such obvious digs, but he was saying what we all thought and it was incredibly brave of him. We also felt that he was speaking for Diana. The most moving and incredible moment came at the end when the wave of applause swept in from outside and everyone in the abbey started clapping. Who had ever heard of applause at a funeral? And a state funeral?! It was unprecedented and all the more moving and incredible for that. That applause showed the public’s mood. I seriously thought that it could bring down the monarchy.

‘An extra 2,000 registered for our bike ride in support of Aids awareness’

Pam Beddard, publicist, Bristol
I was sad at the death of such a young woman and then surprised at the public’s reaction. The next day I was involved with a London to Windsor bike ride in aid of the London Lighthouse, one of Diana’s favourite Aids charities. It was always going to be big but we must have registered an extra 2,000 or so on the day and the route was lined pretty much throughout with well-wishers and press people. As a result, the mood was quite buoyant. Both riders and onlookers seemed glad to be honouring Diana’s commitment to Aids awareness, fundraising and support.

‘Her funeral was on our wedding day’

Jenny Funnell, actress, Hove

Jenny Funnell and her husband on their wedding day, September 1997. Photograph: Jenny Funnell

We were under a lot of pressure to cancel our wedding. The registrar who was going to marry us in Morden Park actually rang my husband-to-be Sam in the week to ask if we had considered cancelling. I (wrongly) felt as though I needed to justify our decision not to and said that Diana would not have wanted people to cancel their weddings. On the day the roads were quiet and completely empty. The registrar marrying us was wearing a sombre suit and a black tie. I asked him if he could take the tie off as it was our wedding and not a funeral. He refused saying it was protocol, which upset me a little. Driving from the registrar’s office I remember a car pulling up next to us at the traffic lights at the top of Purley Way in Croydon. The person unwound their window and shook their heads at us in disgust. 
It was strangely surreal. We had no post or telegrams on our wedding day as the post had been cancelled. We had no flowers as all the flowers that the florists had were sweltering away in the cellophane fields outside Buckingham and Kensington Palaces. At the bottom of my parents’ house is Haliloo valley, farming and fields. My mum, twin sister and friends rallied around and went into the fields and picked wild flowers, grasses, hops, cow parsley and wild roses and decorated the marquee with them. It looked beautiful. We had a lovely day even though for some it was tinged with sadness. Though we are still happily married and looking forward to celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary.

‘I queued for 11 hours to sign the condolence book’

Diana, 49, aspiring writer, Sussex
I had been teased at school about being lady Di by staff and teachers alike. Her style, her life in the public eye had significantly impacted on my life from my teenage years onwards. When I was in London I felt I wanted to join the queue to sign the condolence book. It was about 4pm. I had a little money, a cardigan and a thin waterproof coat. And nowhere else I needed to be. Which is just as well as I got to the front of the queue at St James’ Palace at some time around 3am. The queue adopted a WW2 vibe. People kept each other going, taking turns to mind each other’s place so people could go to the toilet or pop to the one and only food shop off Trafalgar Square that stayed open all night. It took forever, but I discovered that despite being cold and unbelievably tired I had no intention of giving up. I felt I had to stay.

‘We were correspondents and there were plans for her to visit’

Dr V Craig Jordan OBE, 70, cancer research scientist known for developing the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen, Houston, Texas 
My connection to Diana started when she accepted my invitation to be the keynote speaker at a breast cancer conference in Chicago in 1996. We became correspondents and there were plans for her and her boys to return to Chicago. For me, the week following her death and the funeral was devastating. My mother phoned me from England and said: “I have lived through WW2 and never seen this; there are men crying in the streets everywhere”. The impact of her life and untimely death were now to have a direct effect on my academic career. 
A sizable donation was made to the Lurie Cancer Center in Chicago to create the Diana Princess of Wales Professor of Cancer Research to be bestowed upon me. This was approved by her sister on behalf of Diana’s whole family, Lady Sarah McCorquadale, and I received a letter from her brother, Earl Spencer stating: “I am sure she would have been more than delighted at your success and to have been linked with your achievements, both past and future”. 
The professorship in Diana’s name included a fine engraved medal with my name but it was stated by Northwestern university that no other copies could be made. It was unique. Nevertheless, I insisted that copies of my medal were made each to William and Harry, and to my daughters, Helen and Alexandra. These medals for Diana’s boys were sent to St James’ Palace in May 2000. I received a reply saying: “The two Princes greatly appreciated your thoughtfulness in sending them such a beautiful gift and they send on their best wishes”. During her life, Diana touched the lives of millions, but through her untimely death it was my life that was touched by hers.



No comments:

Post a Comment