As opposed to 10th year remembrance, when a commemoration benefit was gone to by the Queen, senior royals and 500 others at the Guards’ Chapel at Wellington military enclosure close Buckingham Palace, Wednesday’s tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, was basic and individual.
There was no open occasion as her children picked a little private support to her introduction to the world, not her passing – on 1 July – to rededicate her grave, which is on a private island in an elaborate lake at the Spencer family’s familial home at Althorp House, Northamptonshire. It was gone to by the Spencer family, William, Kate and Harry and the Cambridges’ youngsters, George and Charlotte. It was directed by the ecclesiastical overseer of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
Nothing else about the 20th anniversary has been understated, however. Recent weeks have seen daily newspaper headlines, old controversies raked over, and many TV tributes as “Dianamania” once more sweeps the country. Diana, as the royal biographer Sarah Bradford accurately predicted two decades ago, has haunted the royals “more inescapably, perhaps, in death than if she had lived happily ever after”.
The 20th anniversary has seen key figures caught up in the tumultuous moment in history speaking in often painful detail for the first time. Crucially, these have included William and Harry, who decided 20 years on was an appropriate time to bare their emotional souls.
“They said to me they had never spoken about it before, they’re asked about it all the time, and they wanted to speak about it once and once only,” said the US film-maker Henry Singer, whose Diana, 7 Days was broadcast on BBC1 on Sunday, and saw the princes articulate the grief, shock and bewilderment they experienced at the time with extraordinary candour.
Of the significance of the 20th anniversary, Singer said: “Ten years feels a little raw.” Certainly Diana’s sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lord Jay, British ambassador in Paris when Diana died in the car crash on 31 August 1997, would not have spoken sooner, he believed. “People like that, if approached after 10 years, my guess is they would have said no.”