UK

Princess Diana remembered: 'I left flowers in 1997'

Jason and Tasha Image copyright Phil Coomes
Image caption Jason and Tasha, from Australia, travelled to Kensington Palace to lay a single white rose

Bunches of flowers and handwritten notes to "our queen of hearts" have been laid by well-wishers at the gates of Diana's former home, Kensington Palace, for the 20th anniversary of her death.

A large banner strewn across the palace's Golden Gates reads: "20 years today, we remember the people's princess" and despite the rain, there is a steady trickle of people arriving to leave tributes.

It is a more muted affair than in 1997, when a sea of flowers formed outside the gates after Diana's death.

It was a moment when much of the country seemed united in grief - a time that her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, have said they struggled to understand.

But the end of August marks two decades since the princess died in a car crash in Paris, prompting some people to pay their respects once more.

In pictures: Diana, Princess of Wales

"I followed her life and felt like I could really relate to her," says Tasha Jane, who has come to London from Australia to lay a single white rose, 20 years after she first laid blooms outside the princess's London residence.

"It seemed like a fitting tribute, like the song," says Tasha, referring to the opening lines of Elton John's Candle in the Wind, which was rewritten in 1997 with the lines: "Goodbye England's rose, may you ever grow in our hearts".

Image caption Twenty years ago, the gates of Kensington Palace were surrounded by tributes

Tasha, a teacher from Melbourne, and her partner Jason Crane, are also travelling to Paris to lay flowers in Diana's memory. In France's capital, the Flame of Liberty statue has become an unofficial memorial to the princess.

"She was such a fun, beautiful person, and a humanitarian," Tasha says. "I teach teenagers and the anniversary has got a new generation interested in her life."

Tasha lived in London in the 1990s, and remembers Kensington Palace in the days after Diana's death as like a "fairyland".

"When I was here before, the tributes just grew and grew, [there were] cards and roses as far as you could see," she says.

Jason, whose father is from the UK, says he remembers Diana as "very glamorous - but with a mischievous side", and says he feels it is important to remember the princess for her charity work.

'Filled with sunshine'

Huddled under an umbrella with a bunch of sunflowers is Kareen, a teaching assistant from Tonbridge in Kent, who along with her partner Paul, from east London, recently laid tributes to Diana in Paris.

The couple say they feel a personal connection to the princess, because they met on the day she married Prince Charles, on 29 July 1981.

"Our anniversary is the same day as Diana's wedding - we met at a garden party in 1981," says Kareen.

"It's been an emotional couple of weeks, with all these programmes about Diana."

Image copyright Phil Coomes
Image caption Paul and Kareen left sunflowers for the princess, and recently went to Paris to leave a tribute

Today, large-scale public displays of mourning may not seem unusual, as terror attacks in London and Manchester draw people out onto the streets, but the public reaction to Diana's death was largely unprecedented.

Paul recalls his "disbelief" at seeing crowds of people laying flowers outside the palace in 1997. "People were devastated," he says.

"I should have brought roses - white roses," Paul adds, as he lays the sunflowers. "Diana was a person who was filled with sunshine so maybe it is fitting."

Angela Silva, 66, has briefly left her London restaurant to leave a bunch of coloured roses, "not as big as the bouquet I left before, 20 years ago," she says.

"I really did expect more people to be here, maybe more will come in the afternoon," she adds.

Image copyright Phil Coomes
Image copyright Phil Coomes

Twenty years ago, Angela was among more than one million people who lined the route of Diana's funeral cortege from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey.

"I stayed all night to be at the front, there were thousands of people," she says.

Image copyright Phil Coomes
Image caption Angela Silva says she was "surprised" that few people had left Diana tributes

She says her grandchildren - aged nine, 10 and 14 - all wanted to come with her but she told them to stay home because of the bad weather.

"They love Diana," she says. "I think she still has meaning for young people, a lot of their parents will have told them about her and what she did."

'Grandma Diana'

The palace and surrounding Hyde Park is a popular tourist destination, and several passers-by pause by the gates to read the tributes.

One man hurriedly leaves a bunch of roses, saying only: "She was a lovely lady."

Above the flowers, a rain-spattered banner shows pictures of Diana with her sons and the words: "Grandma Diana... Love always".

A smudged note, signed by the Gould family, from Egham in Surrey, reads: "Still not forgotten after 20 years", while another letter says that her "two boys are like you in so many ways".

Behind the closed gates are newly-planted gardens, which have been filled with Diana's favourite flowers: white roses, scented narcissi and a carpet of forget-me-nots.

Her sons William and Harry, and the Duchess of Cambridge, have visited the White Garden, which has been transformed for the anniversary, in their own private tribute to the mother that so many strangers remain anxious to remember.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kate, William and Harry have visited the newly-planted Kensington Palace gardens

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