London grieves as procession begins for Princess Diana
September 6, 1997
Web posted at: 4:55 a.m. EDT (0855 GMT)
LONDON (CNN) -- A grieving nation began its final farewell to Diana, the Princess of Wales, Saturday as the cortege bearing her coffin began its solemn, measured trip through packed London streets.
People hugged one another and gazed in tearful silence as the coffin, draped in the maroon, yellow and blue royal standard and topped with white lilies, was escorted by soldiers through the streets on a carriage drawn by six horses.
A L S O :
The official schedule for Princess Diana's funeral
The funeral route: an interactive tour
Despite the throngs, the predominant sounds were those of the horse hooves striking the pavement and of a bell tolling, once a minute.
Some people held the British flag. A few tossed flowers and some held lit candles in the bright morning sunlight.
The 3 1/2-mile processional route began at Kensington Palace, Diana's London home at the west end of Hyde Park, and wound through major streets en route to Westminster Abbey.
Several million people were expected to fill London's streets to say goodbye to the popular princess, and huge television screens were set up in Hyde Park and Regent's Park to try to ease the anticipated crush.
The route included many of the capital's primary landmarks, including the official royal residence of Buckingham Palace, the Prince of Wales home of St. James's Palace, the prime minister's home at Downing Street, and the Houses of Parliament.
As the cortege passed St. James's, invited guests were to move into position behind the coffin. Representatives of some of Diana's favorite charities were included.
Joining the march at that point for the final mile will be Prince Charles, Prince William, Diana's brother Earl Spencer and the Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Harry, three years younger than William, will not walk that mile.
The day's events were spelled out in detail. During the two-hour procession, guests were beginning to arrive at Westminster Abbey for admission, in scheduled sequence, for the 11 a.m. funeral.
Spencer family members were to arrive at 10:35 a.m., followed by members of the royal family.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were to leave Buckingham Palace at 10:45 a.m., when the royal standard is to be lowered and replaced by a Union Jack at half-staff. They were to arrive at the Abbey five minutes ahead of the coffin and flowers.
Before the service, the Abbey's tenor bell was tolling each minute as the cortege proceeded.
Buckingham Palace and the Spencer's invited 2,000 people to the service. To accommodate them all, some were to be ushered into St. Margaret's Church, next door to the Abbey, where they would be able to watch on a video link.
The funeral was "a chance to show to the whole world the British nation united in grief and respect," the queen said Friday in a rare public address.
"May those who died rest in peace and may we, each and every
one of us, thank God for someone who made many, many people
Tens of thousands of mourners signed condolence books at St. James's Palace through the week. Those were closed Friday, but were to be reopened Saturday afternoon at Kensington Palace.
The coffin containing the body of the princess was brought Friday evening from St. James's, where it was kept privately in the Chapel Royal, to Kensington Palace.
Princess Diana died early on the morning of August 31 after a car crash in Paris. Also killed were her companion, Dodi Al Fayed, and the driver of their car.