THE DEATH OF DIANA, PRINCESS OF WALES
(August 31, 1997 — Paris, France)
Princess Diana’s Island
The Official Story
(West Northamptonshire, England)
Althorp is a Grade I listed stately home and estate in the civil parish of Althorp, in West Northamptonshire, England of about 13,000 acres (5,300 ha). By road it is about 6 miles (9.7 km) northwest of the county town of Northampton and about 75 miles (121 km) northwest of central London, situated between the villages of Great Brington and Harlestone. It has been held by the prominent aristocratic Spencer family for more than 500 years, and has been owned by Charles Spencer, 9th Earl Spencer since 1992. It was also the home of Lady Diana Spencer (later Princess of Wales) from her parents’ divorce until her marriage to Charles, Prince of Wales.
Burial of Diana, Princess Of Wales
The burial occurred privately later the same day. Diana’s former husband, sons, mother, siblings, a close friend, and a clergyman were present. Diana’s body was clothed in a black long-sleeved, three-quarter length woolen cocktail dress designed by Catherine Walker which she had chosen some weeks before, a pair of black pantyhose, and a pair of black shoes. A set of rosary beads was placed in her hands, a gift she had received from Mother Teresa, who died the same week as Diana. In her hands there was also a photograph of her sons, a photo which travelled around with her and had been found in her handbag. Paul Burrell reportedly also took some pictures of Prince Harry and Prince William from under her glass dressing table from her Kensington Palace apartment and put them in her coffin as well. Her grave is on an island (52.283082°N 1.000278°W) within the grounds of Althorp Park, the Spencer family home for centuries. The ground was consecrated by the Bishop of Peterborough prior to the burial.
At the ceremony, the Royal Standard which had covered the coffin was removed. Paul Burrell, Diana’s former butler, claimed that the standard had been removed by Diana’s brother moments before she was buried, and replaced with the Spencer family flag. He claimed the Earl said that “She (Diana) is a Spencer now.” Burrell also condemned the move, telling the Daily Mirror that “It had more to do with his Spencer v Windsor war than doing what Diana would have wanted. It was inappropriate and disrespectful. I knew it was not what Diana would have wanted. With that act, her brother was depriving the Princess of her proper status in life – a status of which she was proud.” Earl Spencer called Burrell’s comments “hurtful lies” and said in a statement: “The Queen’s standard was removed as part of the ceremony by her own officer in a dignified and pre-agreed manner”.
The original plan was for Diana to be buried in the Spencer family vault at the local church in nearby Great Brington, but Lord Spencer said that he was concerned about public safety and security and the onslaught of visitors that might overwhelm Great Brington. He decided that Diana would be buried where her grave could be easily cared for and visited in privacy by William, Harry, and other Spencer relatives.
The island is in an ornamental lake known as The Round Oval within Althorp Park’s gardens. A path with thirty-six oak trees, marking each year of her life, leads to the Oval. Four black swans swim in the lake. In the water there are water lilies, which, in addition to white roses, were Diana’s favourite flowers. On the southern verge of the Round Oval sits the Summerhouse, previously in the gardens of Admiralty House, London, and now adapted to serve as a memorial to Diana. An ancient arboretum stands nearby, which contains trees planted by the family. The Spencer family’s decision to bury the Princess in this secluded—and private—location has enabled them to visit her grave in private.
The burial party was provided by the 2nd Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (Queen’s and Royal Hampshires), who were given the honour of carrying the Princess across to the island and laying her to rest. Diana was the Regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief from 1992 to 1996.
Diana, Princess of Wales was interred on a small island in the middle of the ornamental Round Oval lake, which was created by Teulon in 1868. The island was decided as the best place to lay her to rest because the water would, according to Spencer, “act as a buffer against the interventions of the insane and ghoulish, the thick mud presenting a further line of defence. We all agreed that, with its beauty and tranquillity, this was the place for Diana to be”. The ground was consecrated by the Bishop of Peterborough prior to the burial. Her burial place is marked with a white memorial plinth and urn.