12 Small But Poignant Details From Princess Diana’s Funeral

On September 6, 1997, the funeral of Diana Princess of Wales was broadcast to billions of people around the world. Celebrity funerals always attract the public's attention, but this was different. In contrast to the staggering scope of the event, small details from Princess Diana's funeral reveal the event for what it fundamentally was: a time to mourn one of the most beloved public figures in the world, a woman who was also a mother, friend, and compassionate global citizen.

Princess Diana tragically passed on August 31, 1997, at the age of 36. Though estranged from the British royal family - her disastrous marriage to Prince Charles officially ended in 1996 after years of pain, betrayal, and separation - she left behind two adored sons, Princes William and Harry, who deeply loved her. Diana's passing was also a loss for people around the world who felt they connected with her vulnerability, compassion, and philanthropic spirit.

Behind the pomp and ceremony of the Princess Diana funeral - including her burial dress and the funeral music that stayed on the airwaves for months after the event - were small moments of heartbreak, tension, and poignancy from a family, nation, and world grieving the loss of the so-called "People's Princess."


  • Prince Harry Hated Walking Behind His Mother's Casket

    One of the lasting images of Princess Diana's funerals is of her grief-stricken sons - 15-year-old William and 12-year-old Harry - bravely walking behind the carriage bearing their mother's casket. Accompanied by their father Prince Charles, grandfather Prince Philip, and uncle Earl Spencer, the princes walked the distance from St. James's Palace to Westminster Abbey, where the funeral was held.

    Being part of the procession was incredibly difficult for the young princes. As Harry later remembered:

    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. I don't think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don't think it would happen today.

    William reportedly didn't want to make the walk, either, and only agreed to it when Prince Philip assured him he would be at his side.

  • The Queen Lowered Her Head As A Sign Of Respect As Diana's Casket Passed Her During The Procession

    As Princess Diana's casket journeyed via carriage from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey - which hosted the funeral - thousands of mourners lined the street to solemnly watch the procession and pay their respects. Among them: Queen Elizabeth II. She stood outside Buckingham Palace, and, as Diana's casket passed by, she lowered her head as a sign of respect for her former daughter-in-law.

    Queen Elizabeth II's bow was no small thing. As the head of the United Kingdom, she bows to no one. But Elizabeth made an exception for Diana. In that, the queen strayed from protocol

  • Diana's Brother Delivered A Daring, Controversial Eulogy

    Diana's younger brother Charles, Earl Spencer, delivered his sister's eulogy at her high-profile funeral at Westminster Abbey. Speaking in front of the queen, royal family, and billions of viewers around the world, Earl Spencer didn't mince words when he defiantly took shots at the monarchy, stirring controversy.

    Earl Spencer described Diana as being a person "with a natural nobility who was classless and who proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic." In other words, Diana thrived outside of the monarchy.

    He also assured his grieving nephews that the Spencer family would always be there for them, "so that their souls are not simply immersed by duty and tradition, but can sing openly as [Diana] planned." In this, he positioned the "duty and tradition" of the monarchy as fundamentally constraining and suffocating.

    Mourners inside Westminster Abbey could hear contagious applause from the crowds outside the funeral as Earl Spencer spoke, and the applause rippled inside the abbey. The eulogy also struck a chord with a public who was still resentful that Queen Elizabeth II had been slow to publicly respond to Diana's passing. Newspapers demanded, "Where is the queen when the country needs her?" The crux of the matter was that, at first, the queen and the royal family viewed Diana's passing as a private matter, not a public one.

    Earl Spencer denied he was trying to insult the monarchy:

    I don't feel I said many pointed things. I believe that every word I said was true and it was important for me to be honest. I wasn't looking to make any jabs at anyone actually, I was trying to celebrate Diana.

  • Harry Left A Card Marked 'Mummy' On Her Casket

    In the days following Diana's passing, thousands of mourners lefts cards, gifts, and flowers outside of Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace. But one particularly heartbreaking card caught the world's attention: Prince Harry placed a card addressed to "Mummy" atop a specially chosen bouquet on her casket.

    The simplicity of the card - a final note from a boy to his deceased mother - seemed to capture the pain and heartbreak of the moment. As Lisa Webb, the florist who provided the flowers, later recalled:

    I felt extremely emotional seeing "Mummy" on the card. It was in Prince Harry's own handwriting. The young boy was sending those [flowers] to his mother. The flowers were chosen by the princes because their mum loved white roses and also tulips.

  • Millions Of Bouquets Were Left Outside Of Kensington Palace And Buckingham Palace

    After news of Princess Diana's passing was reported in the early morning of August 31, 1997, mourners began to gather in front of Kensington Palace - which had been the Princess of Wales's London address - and Buckingham Palace. They came together to cry and remember a woman few of them had actually met but all of them had felt they somehow had known. Mourner Tasha Jane, for example, brought a white rose to Kensington Palace: "I followed her life and felt like I could really relate to her." 

    Indeed, mourners didn't come empty-handed - they brought cards, mementos, and flowers. In total, mourners left an estimated more than 60 million flowers on royal property.

  • Prime Minister Tony Blair First Dubbed Her 'The People's Princess' Shortly After Her Passing

    Prime Minister Tony Blair correctly gauged the public mood in the wake of Princess Diana's passing. According to one-time Blair adviser Anji Hunter:

    People felt so emotional about Diana because she had an extraordinary connection with everybody. People felt kinship with her; it was like your own beloved friend, mother, sister had died.

    Blair tapped into these feelings and acknowledged the princess's undeniable connection with ordinary people around the world. In an official statement following Diana's passing, Blair paid tribute to her and bestowed her with a new title:

    She touched the lives of so many others in Britain and throughout the world with joy and with comfort. How many times shall we remember her in how many different ways - with the sick, the dying, with children, with the needy? With just a look or a gesture that spoke so much more than words, she would reveal to all of us the depth of her compassion and her humanity. We know how difficult things were for her from time to time. I am sure we can only guess that. But people everywhere, not just here in Britain, 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 is how she will stay, how she will remain in our hearts and our memories for ever.