Britain’s Princess Diana was mourned, honored and remembered at various events Thursday — the 20th anniversary of her death.
Diana’s death in a Paris car accident on Aug. 31, 1997, one year after her divorce from Prince Charles, stunned Britain and the world. The outpouring of grief was exceptional by British standards, and her Westminster Abbey funeral was watched on television by half the British population and 2.5 billion people around the world.
Hundreds of mourners left flowers and photographs at London’s Kensington Palace this week as tributes. Many gathered Thursday at the palace gates with candles and homemade signs of remembrance, as well as stories about her impact on the world — notably her philanthropic works.
Her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, were 15 and 12, respectively, at the time of her death. Now in their 30s — and with William married to Britain’s current princess and former commoner, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge — they visited a memorial to Diana at Kensington Gardens near the palace on Wednesday.
They later met with representatives of Diana’s favorite causes, mostly British hospitals and international charities devoted to conquering AIDS. Prince William has become a patron of some of those organizations.
“I couldn’t understand why everyone wanted to cry as loud as they did and show such emotion as they did when they didn’t really know our mother. Looking back over the last few years, I’ve learned to understand what it was that she gave the world and what she gave a lot of people,” William said in a BBC documentary on Diana’s death.
Elton John, her philathropic partner in AIDS activism, tweeted Thursday, “20 years ago today, the world lost an angel.”
Although Diana often spoke of the burden that comes with being part of the British royal family, a display of her effects is available to tourists visiting Buckingham Palace until Oct. 1. A room containing her desk, briefcase and favorite cassette recordings was installed in her honor.
The palace also features an exhibit, “Diana: Her Fashion Story,” offering examples of the sense of glamour and style that captivated the world’s fashion fans.
It was announced in January that a statue of Diana would be installed outside Kensington Palace. Her sons said in a statement that “It has been 20 years since our mother’s death and the time is right to recognize her positive impact in the U.K. and around the world with a permanent statue.”
Diana remains a cultural touchstone, the “People’s Princess,” as then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair called her.
Diana’s legacy, though, is fading with time. The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, established shortly after her death, raised $145 million to spend on charitable causes before it closed in 2012.