Text of funeral oration by 9th Earl Spencer
September 6, 1997
Web posted at: 9:42 a.m. EDT (1342 GMT)
I stand before you today the representative of a family in
grief, in a country in mourning before a world in shock.
We are all united not only in our desire to pay our respects to
Diana but rather in our need to do so.
For such was her extraordinary appeal that the tens of millions
of people taking part in this service all over the world via
television and radio who never actually met her, feel that they,
too, lost someone close to them in the early hours of Sunday
morning. It is a more remarkable tribute to Diana than I can ever
hope to offer her today.
Diana was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of
beauty. All over the world she was a symbol of selfless humanity, a
standard-bearer for the rights of the truly downtrodden, a truly
British girl who transcended nationality, someone with a natural
nobility who was classless, who proved in the last year that she
needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand
Today is our chance to say "thank you" for the way you
brightened our lives, even though God granted you but half a life.
We will all feel cheated that you were taken from us so young and
yet we must learn to be grateful that you came along at all.
Only now you are gone do we truly appreciate what we are now
without and we want you to know that life without you is very, very
We have all despaired at our loss over the past week and only
the strength of the message you gave us through your years of
giving has afforded us the strength to move forward.
There is a temptation to rush to canonize your memory. There is
no need to do so. You stand tall enough as a human being of unique
qualities not to need to be seen as a saint. Indeed to sanctify
your memory would be to miss out on the very core of your being,
your wonderfully mischievous sense of humor with the laugh that
bent you double, your joy for life transmitted wherever you took
your smile, and the sparkle in those unforgettable eyes, your
boundless energy which you could barely contain.
But your greatest gift was your intuition, and it was a gift you
used wisely. This is what underpinned all your wonderful
attributes. And if we look to analyze what it was about you that
had such a wide appeal, we find it in your instinctive feel for
what was really important in all our lives.
Without your God-given sensitivity, we would be immersed in
greater ignorance at the anguish of AIDS and HIV sufferers, the
plight of the homeless, the isolation of lepers, the random
destruction of land mines. Diana explained to me once that it was
her innermost feelings of suffering that made it possible for her
to connect with her constituency of the rejected.
And here we come to another truth about her. For all the status,
the glamour, the applause, Diana remained throughout a very
insecure person at heart, almost childlike in her desire to do good
for others so she could release herself from deep feelings of
unworthiness of which her eating disorders were merely a symptom.
The world sensed this part of her character and cherished her
for her vulnerability, whilst admiring her for her honesty. The
last time I saw Diana was on July the first, her birthday, in
London, when typically she was not taking time to celebrate her
special day with friends but was guest of honor at a charity
She sparkled of course, but I would rather cherish the days I
spent with her in March when she came to visit me and my children
in our home in South Africa. I am proud of the fact that apart from
when she was on public display meeting President Mandela, we
managed to contrive to stop the ever-present paparazzi from getting
a single picture of her.
That meant a lot to her.
These are days I will always treasure. It was as if we'd been
transported back to our childhood, when we spent such an enormous
amount of time together, the two youngest in the family.
Fundamentally she hadn't changed at all from the big sister who
mothered me as a baby, fought with me at school and endured those
long train journeys between our parents' homes with me at weekends.
It is a tribute to her level-headedness and strength that despite
the most bizarre life imaginable after her childhood, she remained
intact, true to herself.
There is no doubt that she was looking for a new direction in
her life at this time. She talked endlessly of getting away from
England, mainly because of the treatment she received at the hands
of the newspapers.
I don't think she ever understood why her genuinely good
intentions were sneered at by the media, why there appeared to be a
permanent quest on their behalf to bring her down. It is baffling.
My own, and only, explanation is that genuine goodness is
threatening to those at the opposite end of the moral spectrum.
It is a point to remember that of all the ironies about Diana,
perhaps the greatest is this; that a girl given the name of the
ancient goddess of hunting was, in the end, the most hunted person
of the modern age.
She would want us today to pledge ourselves to protecting her
beloved boys William and Harry from a similar fate. And I do this
here, Diana, on your behalf. We will not allow them to suffer the
anguish that used regularly to drive you to tearful despair.
Beyond that, on behalf of your mother and sisters, I pledge that
we, your blood family, will do all we can to continue the
imaginative and loving way in which you were steering these two
exceptional young men, so that their souls are not simply immersed
by duty and tradition but can sing openly as you planned.
We fully respect the heritage into which they have both been
born, and will always respect and encourage them in their royal
role. But we, like you, recognize the need for them to experience
as many different aspects of life as possible, to arm them
spiritually and emotionally for the years ahead. I know you would
have expected nothing less from us.
William and Harry, we all care desperately for you today. We are
all chewed up with sadness at the loss of a woman who wasn't even
our mother. How great your suffering is we cannot even imagine.
I would like to end by thanking God for the small mercies he has
shown us at this dreadful time; for taking Diana at her most
beautiful and radiant and when she had so much joy in her private
Above all, we give thanks for the life of a woman I am so proud
to be able to call my sister: the unique the complex, the
extraordinary and irreplaceable Diana, whose beauty, both internal
and external, will never be extinguished from our minds.