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Image: FILE PHOTO: 15 Years Since The Death Of Princess Diana Princess Diana waering Catherine Walker
Tim Graham  /  Getty Images Contributor
Princess Diana was killed in a car crash on August 31, 15 years ago. Fans in Britain are expected to commemorate her life.
By
TODAY contributor
updated 8/31/2012 12:27:35 PM ET 2012-08-31T16:27:35

“Diana is dead,” read the headlines. Most of us remember where we were 15 years ago Friday when we heard the news that Britain’s “Queen of Hearts” had been killed in a car crash. The world looked on in disbelief as news of the paparazzi chase that led to her driver losing control and slamming into a pillar in Paris’ Pont de l’Alma tunnel unfolded.

The Princess of Wales, who was just 36, perished along with her friend Dodi Al-Fayed. Images soon emerged of her crushed Mercedes Benz S280 and the stoic young princes at her funeral.

Slideshow: Diana's final moments (on this page)

Hundreds of Britons and visitors are expected to commemorate the anniversary of her death by paying their respects at her former home, Kensington Palace.

“The palace's Golden Gates, site to the sea of flowers and tributes 15 years ago, are as iconic as ever and have been recently re-gilded as part of a £12 million ($19 million) renovation,” said Tim Powell, Digital Media Manager for the Historic Royal Palaces.

While the palace is not planning an official commemoration, he said “we also have ‘Diana: glimpses of a modern princess’ — a small display of dresses worn by Diana.”

‘Shrine for a princess’
Some of her most loyal fans are likely to turn out at Café Diana, a little restaurant the princess used to dine at in the nearby Bayswater district of London.

People pass 30 August by "Cafe Diana", a theme caf
Sinead Lynch  /  AFP - Getty Images
London's "Cafe Diana" was named after the late princess. Its owner expects an uptick in visitors on Friday's anniversary.

“For the last anniversary we had many people come here specially to remember Diana from Germany, France, all across Europe, and from America,” said restaurant manager Fouad Fattah.

“Some people cry as they see her photographs and talk about her,” he said, adding that the café would put out flower and candle arrangements on Friday.

Decorated wall-to-wall with photographs and memorabilia, “it’s becoming an official shrine for Princess Diana,” said café owner Abdul Doad.

Doad had just purchased the venue late in 1988 when he saw Diana pass by as she took her sons to school. Thinking it was “a good omen,” he named his new restaurant after her.

When Diana saw the café’s name she smiled and pointed it out to her boys, later returning with just her bodyguard.

“She asked why I had named it Café Diana to be sure it was named after her because she thought it could be named after my mother or my wife,” Doad said, adding that the humorous encounter led to a years-long friendship.

Diana brought Princes William and Harry for pre-Christmas dinners and she always stopped by at least once a month until her death, he said.

Now it’s a gathering place for Diana’s British and international fans.

Anwar Hussein Collection
Anwar Hussein  /  Getty Images
Diana cradles a sick child in 1996 in Lahore, Pakistan. Duchess Kate has taken up work with children's charities as well.

“It’s something unique; she made people happy when she was alive and is still making people smile,” Doad said.

Crowds flock to fountain
More crowds are also expected at the Diana Memorial Fountain in nearby Hyde Park. The work of art is made from Cornish granite and was designed to reflect her life. Opened by the Queen in July 2004, water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom. Three bridges lead visitors right to the heart of the fountain.

While Princess Diana has been memorialized with physical works of art like the fountain and the Diana Memorial Playground — home to a huge Peter Pan inspired pirate ship that attracts more than 750,000 children a year — the former pre-school assistant’s legacy lives on in how she transformed the royal family and even the nation.

Story: Princess Diana's brother names his daughter in her memory
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Diana was a great humanitarian who threw herself into charity work before and after her divorce.

Slideshow: Princess Diana's life (on this page)

Prince William’s wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, has said that she finds Diana “inspirational.” Like her late mother-in-law, Catherine works with charities for children and the homeless.

Story: How did Kate’s first royal year compare to Diana’s?

Despite Prince Harry’s antics, including his recent well-documented game of strip billiards in Las Vegas, "it seems as if the young royals are very much in Diana's mold,” royal historian Kate Williams told AFP. “They are giving to charity, they are very caring and they are out there meeting the people and seem much less stuffy."

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New films in production
Every few years a new book or movie comes out revealing or reinventing parts of Diana’s brief life story. Two films about her later years are currently in production.

“Caught in Flight” will focus on the period of her life after she divorced Prince Charles in 1996.

In life imitating art imitating life, hoards of paparazzi recently photographed Naomi Watts, who plays Diana, filming a scene in which she is trying to escape from the press.

The other film is based on the book “Diana: Closely Guarded Secret,” by Ken Wharfe, who was her protection officer for eight years.

Forever fashionable: Princess Diana's style legacy lives on

Once the most-photographed woman in the world, Diana no longer dominates the front pages. That role has fallen to William, Harry, and Catherine. For the younger generation Diana is increasingly a remote figure, but her legacy continues in the background.

Referred to as “the unique, the complex, the extraordinary and irreplaceable Diana,” by her brother Earl Spencer, she lives on in her sons, her charity work, and in the hearts of her fans.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Video: 1997: Britain ‘in shock’ at Princess Diana’s death

Photos: Life

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  1. Lady Diana Frances Spencer, later Princess Diana of Wales (1961-1997), is shown July 1, 1963, at Park House, Sandringham, Norfolk, England. (Keystone via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Lady Diana Spencer, then a children's nanny, is shown with two of her charges in 1980, the year before she married Prince Charles. (Hulton Archive via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Lady Diana Spencer playfully gestures toward photographers during a visit to Broadlands, the former home of Earl Mountbatten, in Romsey, England, on May 9, 1981. Walking behind her is police bodyguard Graham Smith. (Tim Graham / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Princess Diana and Prince Charles are shown on their wedding day in London on July 29, 1981. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Princess Diana dances with actor John Travolta during a visit to the White House in 1985. (Tim Graham Picture Library via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A 1986 Emanuel ball gown worn by late Princess Diana is displayed on a mannequin during an auction in London, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. According to the auction house, Diana wore the gown with gold sequins, crystals and pearl beads comes with matching headband, optional sleeve panels and petticoat, in various occasions. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) Mandatory Credit: Photo by Today/REX USA (105461a) PRINCESS DIANA Richard Von Weizsacker state visit, banquet at the German Ambassador's residence, London, Britain - Jul 1986 (AP, Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Princess Diana visits a hostel for abandoned children, many of whom are HIV-positive or suffer from AIDS, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on April 24, 1991. (Tim Graham Picture Library via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Princess Diana chats with Mother Teresa during a visit to a convent in Rome on Feb. 19, 1992. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Prince Charles and Princess Diana are shown during their last official trip together, in Seoul, South Korea, on Nov. 3, 1992. They attended a banquet at the government Blue House in Seoul. (Tim Graham Picture Library via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Princess Diana returns to Kensington Palace in London on Dec. 9, 1992, after the initial announcement that she and Prince Charles would separate. (Thierry Saliou / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Princess Diana leaves a press conference at the Hilton Hotel, London, in which she gave a speech resigning from her public duties, on Dec. 3, 1993. (Hulton Archive via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Princess Diana watches a military parade on V-J Day, Aug. 19, 1995, in London with her sons Harry, second left, and William, second right, and Prince Charles, right. (Johnny Eggitt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Princess Diana smiles during a visit to Leicester, England, on May 27, 1997. (John Stillwell / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Princess Diana tours a minefield dressed in a flak jacket and face shield in Huambo, Angola, on Jan. 15, 1997. The visit was part of Diana's campaign to raise awareness for victims of landmines. (John Stillwell / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Princess Diana attends a preview party at Christies, New York, on June 23, 1997, for an auction of her dresses. Lord Hindlip, chairman of Christies International, accompanies her. (Tim Graham Picture Library via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Princess Diana, second right, Dodi Fayed, right, and their driver, Henri Paul, left, are seen in this security camera footage moments before leaving the Ritz Hotel in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997. Moments later, all three were dead. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Police prepare to haul away the wreckage of the car in which Princess Diana, Fayed and Paul died in a Paris tunnel on Aug. 31, 1997. (Jerome Delay / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. From left, Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Earl Charles Spencer (Princess Diana's brother), Prince William and Prince Philip (Charles' father) watch the coffin bearing Diana's body being taken into Westminster Abbey, London, on Sept. 6, 1997. (John Gaps III / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Prince William, left, and Prince Harry appear on stage during the star-studded Concert for Diana, which honored their mother, at London's Wembley Stadium on July 1, 2007. More than 60,000 people attended the event on what would have been the princess' 46th birthday. (Stephen Hird / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A photograph and plastic flower in memory of the late Princess Diana sit within the grounds of Kensington Palace, London, on Aug. 30, 2007, a day before a memorial service in honor of the late princess. (Lefteris Pitarakis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Baby Diana
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    Above: Slideshow (20) Princess Diana's life - Life
  2. Image:
    Getty Images via InStyle.com
    Slideshow (21) Princess Diana's life - Style
  3. Image: Royal Engagement
    Hulton Archive via Getty Images
    Slideshow (14) Princess Diana's life - Wedding
  4. Last moments
    H.M. Coroner via EPA
    Slideshow (10) Princess Diana's life - Final moments
  5. Image: Royal Engagement
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    Slideshow (14) The wedding of Charles and Diana - Wedding
  6. Baby Diana
    Keystone via Getty Images
    Slideshow (20) The wedding of Charles and Diana - Life
  1. Image:
    Getty Images via InStyle.com
    Slideshow (21) The wedding of Charles and Diana - Style
  2. Last moments
    H.M. Coroner via EPA
    Slideshow (10) The wedding of Charles and Diana - Final moments
  3. Last moments
    H.M. Coroner via EPA
    Slideshow (10) Diana's final moments - Final moments
  4. Baby Diana
    Keystone via Getty Images
    Slideshow (20) Diana's final moments - Life
  5. Image:
    Getty Images via InStyle.com
    Slideshow (21) Diana's final moments - Style
  6. Image: Royal Engagement
    Hulton Archive via Getty Images
    Slideshow (14) Diana's final moments - Wedding

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