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British RoyalsFeatures

“I’ll never forget” – Royal Central’s editorial team and readers share the moment they learned about the death of Diana

It was a defining moment of its generation – a time when the world stopped to collectively grieve the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, following the tragic car crash in Paris that claimed her life in the early hours of 31 August 1997.

Twenty-five years later, the memory of where and when people heard the sad news remains as vivid as if it were yesterday.

Here, the editorial team and readers of Royal Central share the moment they heard the shocking news.

Kylie Wallace, Royal Central Reporter, Australia

I was 17 and working a weekend shift at my after-school job as a checkout operator at an Australian variety store called Big W. Shortly after I started, a customer told me that Princess Diana had died, and I remember saying back to her, “Don’t be stupid.” As time when on, customers in the store started to cry. A few hours later, I headed on my lunch break and stopped when I noticed a crowd of 50 people staring at the TVs in the entertainment department. They were all showing montages of Diana’s life to a soundtrack of the original Marilyn Monroe version of “Candle in the Wind,” which Elton John later rewrote for the Princess’s funeral. Everyone was watching in complete disbelief. In the fortnight that followed, I bought many commemorative magazines that I still own.

Brittani Barger, Royal Central Deputy Editor, USA

I was only five-years-old when Diana died. As an American, her death was announced in the evening. I was at the lake with my family and remember the news. I still can hear my mother say, “Those poor boys.” I always loved fairytales as a little girl and couldn’t understand, at that time, how a princess could die. I remember how sad my mother was and watching the funeral with her a few days later. I do remember feeling sad watching the funeral – again because, to me, a fairytale princess had died. I didn’t grasp at the time how important Diana was to the UK and the world.

Julie, USA

I’d made plans for a dinner out in the city with my college friends, and then [we] were staying at one of their aunt and uncles. When we got to their house after dinner, the news was just breaking about the accident. We sat glued to the TV until it was announced that she had died. I cried and called my mum. I was truly in shock. We stayed up very, very late that night watching TV and talking about Diana. I remember getting up super early in the morning and watching her funeral, just sitting in the chair in the corner of our living room and quietly crying the entire time. It’s really hard to believe it has been so long, so many of those days are vivid memories. I’m still so sad at all that she didn’t get to do; I feel like she was just beginning to really find herself and starting to figure out how to do the work that was important to her. I’m now almost 10 years older than she was when she died, and every time I think of all that she had yet to accomplish or experience, it makes me so sad.

Heather, USA

I remember I was 7, and we were on a family vacation and my dad and I were watching TV. There was a high-speed chase, and it ended suddenly with breaking news – Princess Diana has died. It felt like the whole world was silenced, and I remember my mum being so shocked and sad. They were the same age. Diana’s memory has forever lived on!

Jessica, New Zealand

I inherited my love of royal watching from my mum. We both spent many hours together poring over images of the Princess of Wales in magazines and watching her on the news. My mum died in March, a few months before Diana. When Diana died, the grief was intense. Without her to watch, it felt like I’d lost that last final connection to my mum. I still feel that loss each year on the anniversary.

Remy, USA

I was five. My mum had talked about Princess Diana before, and I knew of her as much as a five-year-old can understand. I remember getting up in the morning and going into my parents’ room. My mum told me she died. My admiration of Diana grew from there. I did a fifth-grade project on Princess Diana. I loved learning about her at that time. I used stunning pictures of her and made a Queen of Hearts card as a representation of her being our ‘queen of people’s hearts.’ The footage of her car being dragged away on the news is forever etched in my memory.

Robin, USA

I’ve long admired how strong and extremely caring Diana was, she tried to make a positive difference in the world. Until I heard the news, it was a wonderful day. We’d taken the family on a visit to Sea World. After returning back to the hotel room to get ready for dinner, I started bathing my son, and my husband called out to watch the news. I remember sinking onto the bed in shock and sadness. It was such a strange and sad feeling. Later we went to Paris and saw how narrow the accident site was.

Charlotte, England

As a trainee reporter, I was meant to be working the afternoon shift, but as soon as I saw the news, I headed into work early, knowing they’d need the extra help. Everyone on the Tube was crying.

Rachel, Canada

I was in a taxi when the news came over the radio. When I got home, I ran into the house to turn on the TV. My mum, dad and I watched the footage for hours in disbelief. It’s the only time I’ve ever seen my father shed a tear.

Sarah, USA

I remember being at home in the evening when a special news report came on about Princess Diana being in a car accident. At the time, they didn’t really have much information about how serious it was so I went to bed thinking everything would be fine. When I woke, the news of her death was all over the news. The feeling of shock took over me and I felt heartbroken for William and Harry. I don’t think it really it me until I watched the funeral the following weekend. The minute I saw her sons’ faces, I sobbed uncontrollably. I’ll never forget that moment in time.

Pamela, USA

My mother was visiting that weekend and when I woke up she was standing in my doorway. I asked her if everything was OK as I got up and she told me the news that Diana had died overnight in Paris. My first thought was it must be a mistake, the news seemed impossible to believe. She was so young! I turned on the TV to watch the coverage and couldn’t stop crying. I’ll never forget seeing her in person in 1985 when she visited Washington DC. She was so much lovelier in person and I’ll always be grateful for that experience.

Susannah, USA

I was just six and I remember sitting on the couch next to my mum watching the funeral. She cried the whole time. This was the first time I really found out about there being a royal family.

About author

Kylie is a writer, editor and royal commentator. She has written about the royals for some of Australia's best loved magazines including Marie Claire, Who, Royals Monthly and New Idea. When not writing, you'll find her searching for Sydney's best high tea spot. Follow her on Instagram @kyliewallacewrites