LONDON (Reuters) - Royals and celebrities joined Princes William and Harry to honor their mother Princess Diana on Friday, the 10th anniversary of her death in a high-speed limousine crash in Paris.
Hundreds of mourners lined the streets outside a chapel near Buckingham Palace where the Queen, Diana’s ex-husband Prince Charles, her brother Charles Spencer and other royals and celebrities gathered for the memorial service.
Paying their own tribute, members of the public attached flowers, photographs and messages to the gates of Kensington Palace, her London residence, although in far fewer numbers than a decade ago.
Then a vast outpouring of grief stunned Britain almost as much as her death whereas now, many Britons feel the public display of sorrow 10 years ago was over-the-top.
Both Princes William and Harry addressed the 500-strong congregation, recalling their mother’s warmth and charisma.
“William and I can separate life into two parts. There were those years when we were blessed with the physical presence beside us of both our mother and father,” Harry said.
“And then there are the 10 years since our mother’s death. When she was alive we completely took for granted her unrivalled love of life, laughter, fun and folly. She was our guardian, friend and protector.”
“She will always be remembered for her amazing public work. But behind the media glare, to us, just two loving children, she was quite simply the best mother in the world.”
In Paris, where she died in the early hours of August 31, 1997, alongside her boyfriend, Dodi al-Fayed, following a crash in a tunnel, small crowds of mourners gathered to lay flowers and leave wreaths at the scene of the incident.
“I loved the princess before her death and even more after,” said mourner Dominique de Fontenay. “She did great things for the people and was glamorous, and a symbol of modernity.”
Prince Charles’ second wife, Camilla, with whom he had an affair while still married to Diana and whom Diana referred to as “The Rottweiler”, did not attend the memorial service to avoid controversy, although she was invited.
Dubbed the “People’s Princess” following her death, aged 36, Diana was adored by millions of people who never met her but who contrasted her charisma with what they viewed as a stuffy and hidebound royal family.
The emotional outpouring when she died led many commentators to question how long the monarchy might endure without her, but 10 years on it appears as solid an institution as ever.
In a sign that perhaps, with hindsight, Britons feel that they may have overdone the grieving over Diana’s death, a survey conducted by Sky News on Friday showed that 55 percent of people thought the mourning had been excessive.
And in comments posted on the BBC’s website, not all of the public was enamored by the 10th anniversary service.
“For all those people still mourning the loss of Diana — has nothing happened in your life in the past 10 years that you still have to cling to her? I suggest you all have a reality check and get on with life,” wrote Eliza in London.
Among the absentees at the service was Dodi’s father, Egyptian-born Mohammed al-Fayed. Al-Fayed, owner of the luxury London store Harrods, accuses Britain’s royal family of ordering the couple’s murder to prevent them from marrying.
Despite comprehensive police inquiries ruling out foul play, some Britons share al-Fayed’s suspicions that the deaths were not an accident. An official inquest into the deaths will begin on October 2, propelling Diana into the headlines once again.
Additional reporting by Brian Rohan in Paris