Farewell, "Mummy": Princess Diana's Funeral

Di's brother attacks paparazzi in eulogy; billions watch ceremony on TV

By Joal Ryan Sep 06, 1997 6:20 PMTags

"Mummy." The card atop Princess Diana's flower-covered coffin read, "Mummy." A note from 12-year-old Prince Harry. An affecting and simple tribute--perhaps the simplest on a day of remarkable ones in Britain and across the world, as a million mourners in person and an estimated 2.5 billion via TV, said a final good-bye to the "people's princess."

"Diana was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of beauty," eulogized her brother, the ninth Earl Spencer. "...Today is our chance to say 'thank you' for the way you brightened our lives, even though God granted you but half a life."

Spencer's loving, surprisingly bold and sometimes angry address attacking the paparazzi and even, in a veiled manner, the royals themselves, came at a solemn assembly Saturday of 2,000 invited family members, friends and dignitaries at Westminster Abbey, the focal point of funeral services for Diana, killed last Sunday in a car crash with her companion, millionaire Dodi Fayed, and their chauffeur. Diana, the Princess of Wales, was but 36--with nearly half that brief life spent as the world's most photographed and famous woman.

The British may have been unprepared to let go of their favorite royal, but they did so with grace and style:

Queen Elizabeth bowed her head as Diana's casket was pulled by horse-drawn carriage past Buckingham Palace; Elton John offered a heartrending performance of "Candle in the Wind," sung to a special set of tribute lyrics. ("Your candle's burned out long before your legend ever will..."); Princes William and Harry, stoic, but not stone-faced, walked the last mile of their mother's funeral procession to Westminster Abbey, flanked by Earl Spencer, their father, Prince Charles, and their grandfather, Prince Philip; For the first time in a 1,000 years, a Union Jack flag flew at half-mast at the royal palace.

But nothing produced a bigger, more important moment than Earl Spencer's eulogy. Before the Queen and a global audience he dared to not mince words--speaking to everything from Diana's eating disorders, to the paparazzi accused of contributing to her fatal car crash, to the future upbringing of the two sons she left behind.

"...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 in the modern age," Spencer, 33, said, condemning the press that documented, or tried to, every moment of his older sister's adult life.

Spencer vowed that William, 15, and Harry would not be so besieged. He promised that the boys' "blood family," the Spencers, would ensure that they were brought up "so that their souls are not simply immersed by duty and tradition but can sing openly as [Diana] planned."

To the royals, Spencer took a swipe at the House of Windsor that stripped Diana of her "Royal Highness" title following her divorce from Prince Charles. He described his sister as having a "natural nobility...who proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular blend of magic."

If Spencer had breached protocol, the people didn't mind. Crowds outside the abbey broke into spontaneous applause.

The service concluded with a minute of silence--a thundering quiet heard across the isle. Later, the masses greeted Diana's hearse with showers of flowers as their princess made her final journey to her family's estate, 75 miles away in Althorp Park, for private burial. That service was private, attended by no more than 10 mourners, including Princes Charles, William and Harry.

A sizable Hollywood contingent, meanwhile, was present at Westminster Abbey: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Diana Ross and Sting. Also in attendance: Dodi Fayed's father, Mohammed, singer George Michael, tenor Luciano Pavarotti, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, designers Valentino, Karl Lagerfeld and Donatella Versace, sister of Gianni Versace, whose memorial service Diana attended herself just weeks ago.

(UPDATED AT 5:30 p.m., 9/6/97)