Britain remembers Princess Diana

At 10th anniversary of her death, tone has grown muted

September 01, 2007|By Kim Murphy | Kim Murphy,Los Angeles Times

LONDON -- There were the familiar clusters of wilting flowers propped in the fence, the poems, the sniffles, yet another replaying of Elton John's "Goodbye, England's Rose." But in the end, a nation still fractured by 10 years of grief and accusations over a dead princess showed signs yesterday of moving on.

There were two memorial tributes to commemorate the fiery end of Princess Diana in a car crash a decade ago. One, at the Guards Chapel near Buckingham Palace, was for the upper-crust: the royals, the prime ministers, the rock stars and film directors, and the various lords and baronesses - women in intimidating hats.

The other, outside Kensington Palace, was for those in the wider public whose sharp grief had turned Diana's death into a referendum on Britain's distant, chilly monarchs.

At both events, there were more wistful smiles than tears.

An initial, embarrassing dust-up over whether Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, the mistress who went on to marry the Prince of Wales, would attend faded when she demurred at the last minute amid a hiss of public disapproval.

The message at both commemorations was one of letting bygones finally be bygones.

"Ten years after her tragic death, there are still regular reports of fury ... at this or that incident, and the princess's memory is used for scoring points. Let it end here," the bishop of London, Richard Chartres, told the almost 500 family members, friends and dignitaries gathered at the home of the Royal Guardsmen, filled for the occasion with sweet-voiced choirs, fresh roses and rosemary.

"Let this service mark the point at which we let her rest in peace, and dwell on her memory with thanksgiving and compassion," he entreated.

Outside Diana's former residence at Kensington Palace, mourners filed for a week in grief past a redolently decaying mass of floral tributes.

This time, there were fewer flowers, along with a few dozen letters, poems and photos of Diana, alternately smiling enigmatically, and giggling with her boys.

Here, at the informal service, the Rev. Frank Julian Gelli, former curate of the neighborhood church Diana occasionally attended, also called for an end to a decade of recriminations.

"You cannot enter the kingdom of heaven unless you forgive. And so, we must forgive," he said.

A tousle-haired Prince Harry was the one who most poignantly set the tone at the Guards Chapel ceremony, when he drew a personal portrait not of a nation's icon, but the mother of two sons.

"When she was alive, we completely took for granted her unrivaled love of life, laughter, fun and folly. ... She never once allowed her unfaltering love for us to go unspoken or undemonstrated," he said.

"She kissed us last thing at night. Her beaming smile greeted us from school. She laughed hysterically and uncontrollably when sharing something silly she might have said or done that day," he said.

"Put simply, she made us, and so many other people, happy. May this be the way that she is remembered."

Kim Murphy writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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