Dozens of floral tributes, photos and personal messages have been laid at the gates of London’s Kensington Palace on Thursday as Britain remembered Princess Diana on the 20th anniversary of her death in a Paris car crash.
Royal fans gathered at the palace, Diana’s former home, to mark two decades since the princess’ death triggered a flood of grief across Britain and beyond. Her admirers began paying tribute to Diana before dawn, placing candles shaped in the letter “D” at the palace gates.
“We had never met her and been nowhere near her, but I think she touched so many people because of who she was, the way she conducted herself in the context of where she was living and who she became,” said Mara Klemich, 55, a royal well-wisher from Sydney, Australia.
Princes William and Harry honoured their mother Wednesday at Kensington Palace, visiting a garden where she would stroll by and ask the gardeners about their ever-changing displays.
The princes and the Duchess of Cambridge met with well-wishers afterward, but aren’t expected to take part in any engagements Thursday.
The weeks leading up to the anniversary have been met with reflection in Britain as the public remembers “the people’s princess” and considers her contributions to the country.
The 36-year-old princess died in the early hours of Aug. 31, 1997. Her Mercedes, pursued by paparazzi, crashed into a concrete pillar in the Alma Tunnel in Paris while travelling at more than 100 km/h.
Diana, her boyfriend Dodi Fayed and their driver Henri Paul were all killed. Her bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, was injured but survived.
In Paris, royal watchers also gathered at the Alma Tunnel to remember her life.
“It’s been 20 years now but there are people you don’t forget, and she is one of them,” said Sylviane Rives of Paris, who works nearby. “That is what I wrote on a little card for her.”
Many took to social media to express their grief and to recall her kindness.
The co-designer of Diana’s wedding dress, Elizabeth Emanuel, tweeted a picture of the princess shortly after her arrival at St. Paul’s Cathedral for her 1981 wedding.
“Thinking of the wonderful times we spent with Diana and the great joy she brought into our lives and all those who knew her,” Emanuel tweeted.
Rosa Monckton, a friend of Diana’s, told the Times of London that she “busted the myth of being a fairytale princess” and that Diana’s many troubles helped people relate to her.
“I think that given the life she had, when you think what she had to overcome, and all of this in the public eye, I think she was a truly extraordinary woman,” she said. “Very damaged, very flawed, as we all are, but underneath it all this incredible resilience.”
Associated Press writers Kevin Scott and Oleg Cetinic contributed to this story.