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Some still come to remember Diana

In this story:

As the world watched

Letting bygones be bygones

Children's park London's only tribute

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LONDON -- Three years ago, ripples of shock surged into a tidal wave of grief as England and the world mourned the death of Princess Diana.

The gates of Kensington Palace, where Diana lived, became a gathering place for the tens of thousands who came to express their sadness.

Their sorrow was shown through flowers, heartfelt messages, and gifts -- but mostly just by being there.

That was three years ago. It's different now. The "field of flowers" that overflowed into the street outside Kensington Palace is long gone but people still come to pay tribute to Diana.

The Death of Princess Diana

But there are fewer people with each passing month.

Diana and her companion, Dodi Fayed, died Aug. 31, 1997, in an automobile accident in Paris. Also killed was driver Henri Paul. Bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, the only person in the car wearing a seatbelt, was seriously injured.

Tests later revealed that the alcohol in the driver's bloodstream was three times higher than the level at which one is considered to be drunk under French law.

As the world watched

Seven days after her death, Diana's coffin was drawn on a gun carriage through central London to Westminster Abbey, where the royal and Spencer families gathered for the funeral service. Her remains were later buried on her family's estate in Northamptonshire.

The capital's streets were densely lined with millions of mourners, who watched largely in silence as the cortege proceeded from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey. Some tossed flowers into the road. Many wept openly.

To the public, the cause-minded Diana seemed a refreshing alternative to those occupying the House of Windsor -- an early 1997 London opinion poll showed that only 21 percent of those surveyed believed the royal family was "concerned about people in real need."

Today, some believe the reaction to Diana's death was out of proportion.

"I don't think anybody, even Diana's closest friends ... would regard what happened ... after the crash as anything other than a hysterical reaction," said historian and author Ben Pimlott. "It was way, way over the top."

Pimlott, author of "The Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth II" says the public has a more sober view now.

"To the extent people think about her at all, they think about her fondly and perhaps with a touch of sadness on the event of the anniversary. But really, it is past history; it is not something people have carried with them."

Letting bygones be bygones

If the public has moved on, so too have most of the major players in the drama that was not only Diana's life, but her death as well.

Prince Charles was vilified by some press and public after Diana died as the uncaring ex-husband who rejected her.

Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed appear on surveillance tape taken at the Ritz Hotel in Paris the night of the fatal crash  

But in a sign of the changing times, he enjoys a growing popularity, even an increasing acceptance of his longtime love Camilla Parker Bowles, although most still say they don't want to see a Queen Camilla.

"I think there is forgiveness," said Dennis O'Keeffe of the University of North London. "I think there is willingness of the public to forgive this poor dead girl for her few sins. And there is a willingness to forgive Charles for his youthful indiscretions, and let bygones be bygones."

But one player has not moved on. Mohamed Al Fayed, the father of Dodi Fayed, said on Wednesday he will sue United States authorities to force access to what he says are secret documents that may prove his son and Diana were murdered.

Fayed says he suspects "evil and racist forces" working through Britain's security service killed the couple to prevent their marrying.

Children's park London's only tribute

Diana's brother, Charles, the Ninth Earl Spencer, was hailed for his fiery funeral oratory, but he was subsequently criticized for opening up the Spencer ancestral estate, where Diana is buried, to tourists every summer.

Spencer says there is nowhere else for people to pay their respects. Indeed, the only public tribute to Diana's memory is a children's park in London.

Still, it is Kensington Palace, Diana's last home, that many associate with her memory. And although the public turnout may dwindle a little more each year, there are some who say they will always remember.

Judge clears paparazzi in Princess Diana's fatal crash
September 9, 1999
Princess Diana's ex-lover reportedly auctioning memoir rights
September 4, 1999

Official Site of British Monarchy
  •  Diana, Princess of Wales

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