“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.
“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.
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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.
“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
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."
More about the Royals
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.
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.
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