The funeral of the late Diana, Princess of Wales, was one of the largest in recent history, with an estimated viewing audience of 2.5 billion people worldwide, but according to reports, it was not meant to be that way.
After Diana’s death on 31 August 1997 following a car accident in Paris, her body was returned to England and taken to St James’s Palace, where it remained for five days before the funeral.
As she was no longer a member of the Royal Family, it was reported that her funeral was meant to be a private, family funeral.
CNN reported on 8 September 1997 that a senior official told Channel Four that “it was made very clear to Prince Charles that Princess Diana’s body was on no accounts to be brought to any of the royal palaces. The Queens desire was for her to be taken to a private mortuary and then to a private funeral.”
CNN also reported that it was not until Prince Charles was on the plane to Paris to bring back his ex-wife’s body that he spoke to Prime Minister Tony Blair, and they decided to take her to St James’s Palace and to hold the funeral at Westminster Abbey.
Diana’s funeral took place on 6 September 1997. Guests included Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, James Callaghan and Edward Heath; Hillary Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Bernadette Chirac, Nelson Mandela, Queen Noor of Jordan, King Juan Carlos of Spain, King Constantine II of Greece, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Japan, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and Richard Branson.
Elton John performed a new version of “Candle in the Wind” with lyrics reflecting Diana’s life, and her brother, the Earl of Spencer, gave a scathing eulogy that targeted the press and the Royal Family for their treatment of his sister.
Diana was buried privately later that day on an island at the Spencer estate, Althorp, in Northamptonshire.