How many people attended or watched Princess Diana’s funeral?
Six days after her tragic death, the funeral for Princess Diana was held in London at Westminster Abbey and was the most viewed event in history.
Just over twenty-five years after the funeral of Lady Di, the Princess of Wales, the United Kingdom buried another of the most beloved members of the royal family. Until now, Lady Di’s funeral was one of the most watched televised events in history, not just in her nation but around the world.
It is estimated that as many as 2.5 billion people around the world tuned in to watch the funeral of the Princess of Wales on 6 September 1997. She died just six days before, 31 August, in a horrific car accident in Paris, France, along with the other occupants, the driver and Dodi Fayed.
Over a million people watched Lady Di’s funeral procession
Originally, Princess Diana’s funeral cortege was to go from St James’s Palace to Westminster Abbey, a journey of about a mile. However, to allay concerns about there not being sufficient opportunities for the public to see the procession, the Palace more than tripled the route.
Lady Di’s coffin was taken to Kensington Palace, her home, from St James’s Palace, the night before her funeral. On Saturday 6 September over a million mourners lined the three-and-a-half-mile route to catch a glimpse of the funeral cortege.
The lengthened route took the Princess of Wales’ coffin, which was carried on a gun carriage and draped with the royal standard, along Hyde Park, past Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace, then down the Mall. It continued through the Horse Guards Arch, along Whitehall and finally arrived at the historic Westminster Abbey where the funeral was held.
Lady Di’s funeral
The funeral at Westminster Abbey was attended by two thousand guests including royalty, the then current and former living UK prime ministers, other politicians and emissaries such as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Hillary Clinton. Also famous actors, musicians and fashion designers were among those present. These included Donatella Versace, Karl Lagerfeld, Luciano Pavarotti, Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.
Elton John, a close friend of the late princess, in one of the most emotional and memorable moments of the ceremony, performed ‘Candle in the Wind 1997’. This almost didn’t happen though. Records from the UK National Archives that came to light in 2021 revealed the royal family was worried that lyrics of the rewritten 1973 hit song were “too sentimental.” However, after a personal plea from Dr Wesley Carr, who was then the Dean of Westminster, the royal household acquiesced.
Diana made a final journey home
At the end of the ceremony and after the nation observed a minute’s silence, Lady Di’s funeral cortege embarked on a two-and-a-half hour journey to take her to Althorp House, the Spencer family estate in Great Brington, where she was buried. En route, the hearse carrying her coffin passed under the triumphal Wellington Arch, making history, and passed the London flat of Dodi Fayed, the man she had recently begun to date and who perished in the car accident with her.
Lady Diana’s final resting place is in a mausoleum on an island in the middle of an ornamental lake. Originally, she was to be interred in the Spencer family vault at a local church. However, out of concern that the site would be swamped by visitors, her brother had her buried at the current location where privacy for her sons and other family members to visit her grave would be ensured.