Associated Press – August 31, 2007
LONDON – Princess Diana’s family solemnly marked the 10th anniversary of her death Friday, with her younger son eulogizing her as “the best mother in the world.”
The bishop of London used his sermon at a memorial service to call for an end to the sniping between Diana’s fans and detractors, and a priest who has led an annual remembrance said it may now be time to let go.
“To lose a parent so suddenly at such a young age, as others have experienced, is indescribably shocking and sad,” Prince Harry said at the memorial service at the Guards’ Chapel near Buckingham Palace.
“It was an event which changed our lives forever, as it must have done for everyone who lost someone that night,” said Harry, who was 12 when Diana died.
“But what is far more important to us now and into the future is that we remember our mother as she would wish to be remembered, as she was: fun-loving, generous, down to earth and entirely genuine,” he said.
Diana’s admirers, many of them suspicious of the cause of her death and resentful of Prince Charles, tied bouquets, poems and portraits to the gates of her former home.
Friday was a day for broadcasting video snippets of her wedding and funeral, for rehashing the rights and wrongs of her failed marriage.
It was one more day for dredging up questions about how Diana came to die in a car crash in Paris with her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed, and for the Daily Telegraph to publish an essay explaining “why we were right to weep for Diana.”
For Harry and his older brother, Prince William, it was a simple tribute to an adored mother.
“To us, just two loving children, she was quite simply the best mother in the world,” Harry said. “When she was alive, we completely took for granted her unrivaled love of life, laughter, fun and folly.
“She was our guardian, friend and protector,” Harry said. “She never once allowed her unfaltering love for us to go unspoken or undemonstrated.”
Harry and William were credited with organizing the noontime service, but Charles was blamed by many for the furor over an invitation to his current wife.
Camilla, whom Diana blamed for breaking up her marriage, decided to stay home. That decision followed quickly after the Mail on Sunday published a commentary by Diana’s friend, Rosa Monckton, saying the princess would have been “astonished” that Camilla was invited.
“Actually, she would have been astonished to learn that her former husband had married his longtime mistress,” Monckton wrote.
Bishop Chartres, who was also a target of Monckton’s attack, called for an end to the sniping.
“Still 10 years after her tragic death, there are regular reports of ‘fury’ at this or that incident and the princess’ memory is used for scoring points. Let it end here,” Chartres said. “Let this service mark the point at which we let her rest in peace and dwell on her memory with thanksgiving and compassion.”
A few hundred people gathered outside – a smaller crowd than the masses that lined the route of Diana’s funeral procession to Westminster Abbey.
“She reached our lives deeply, even in America. She brought life to the palace and warmth, and that’s what the monarchy needed,” said Arlene Fitch, 54, of Boston.
Diana “got married the same year as me, she had children the same year as me and, as her boys have grown up, they have done just the same kind of things as our boys would do,” said Fitch’s sister, Marie Schofield, 46, from Florida.
The Rev. Frank Gelli, who has led an informal service outside Kensington Palace every year, said this probably would be the last.
“It would be good if the princess was allowed to rest,” he told a reporter.
Eileen Neathey, 56, of London, recalled a chance encounter with Diana at a hospital, where Neathey’s mother was a patient.
“I had been up all night and was very upset, and when I bumped into Diana, I burst into tears,” said Neathey, outside Kensington Palace. “She put her arm round me and comforted me – that’s the way she was.”
John Loughrey, 52, had painted “Diana” on his forehead and “the truth?” on his cheek. “We must get to the bottom of how she died,” he said.
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were among the 500 people in the chapel. Prince Edward, Charles’ younger brother, and his sister, Princess Anne, also were there, as were Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former prime minister John Major and Tony Blair, and representatives of 110 charities Diana supported.
Sir Elton John came, but did not perform. His reworking of “Candle in the Wind,” was a poignant moment for many at Diana’s funeral.
Mohamed al Fayed, who accused Prince Philip of masterminding a plot to kill Diana and Dodi Fayed, was not on the guest list. He observed his own two minutes of silence at Harrods, his department store, an hour before the memorial service. However, his daughter, Camilla al Fayed, did attend the official service.
“There’s definitely something more to it than meets the eye, and I think Mr. al Fayed is probably right that the government were involved,” said Alison Wormall, 46, who traveled from central England to join the observance at Harrods.
In Paris, dozens of emotional visitors came stopped by a gold-colored statue of a flame over the bustling roadway tunnel where Diana died.
“I came to pray for her,” said artist Francine Reulier, 56, who knelt quietly for several minutes at the base of the statue, which has become a makeshift shrine.
“Many of us in France feel a bit guilty for not having protected her,” she said, remembering how she awoke to the news of Diana’s death on her alarm-clock radio a decade ago. “I still get chills, I still cry about it – the raw horror of it all.”
A poll commissioned by Channel 4 television in Britain found that 25 percent of the public believes Diana was murdered, but 59 percent thought it was an accident. The telephone poll of 1,016 adults conducted this week had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The royal family, which clearly was caught by surprise by a national tidal wave of grief 10 years ago, had refrained from any public remembrance of the anniversary of the princess’ death.
This year, however, William and Harry took the lead in organizing the memorial service, as well as a rock concert on Diana’s birthday, July 1, which drew 70,000 paying fans.
Associated Press writers Romina Spina in London and Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.
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