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Princess Diana’s Death – Remembering August 31st 1997 – My Pictures of Diana

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Princess Diana – the way it was for her.

For me, this picture really sums up everything about her public life at that time. Cameras pointing at her, body guards and police surrounding her, the Lady-In-Waiting at her side, and hoards of people clamouring for a glimpse.

Princess Diana's death

And of course, an apparently serene young woman in the centre of it all.

Princess Diana’s death almost 20 years ago remains one of the most shocking events in royal history.

Although I am not a royalist, every year I remember  Princess Diana’s death and the significance of August 31st.

During my career as a press and pr photographer, I photographed several members of the royal family. It was always a chore to me.

All the protocol and pomp annoyed me and I hated the whole set-up with a passion.

Although us ordinary folk could see Princess Diana for what she was, a rich, privileged “Sloane Ranger’, we did love her. 

And I could see why once I had photographed her – she was so different to the other high-profile royals I had photographed. Her whole manner was different. She was pleasant to those of us on the royal press rota and she was genuinely warm and human towards those who were presented to her – especially children.

Princess Diana’s death made many people, even royalists, question the establishment.

Princess Diana was different to all the royals who came before her, as we have seen in the many documentaries about her life, made over the last 19 years.

This is one film, currently on YouTube, which gives a revealing insight into the reality of life after marriage into the British royal family.

This is another, more restrained look at Princess Diana’s downfall through the eyes of the BBC –

Princess Diana may have been a privileged, aristocratic rich girl but she was still a victim of her birth circumstances.

She was probably as much a victim of being born into a dysfunctional family as any such child, regardless of class.

In Princess Diana’s well documented case, she simply suffered whatever trials befell her while surrounded with more luxury than most children ever have and, in a much bigger house.

To commemorate the 19th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death – August 31st 2016 – I have updated the article I wrote this time last year in which I shared some of my precious personal photographs of her.

At that time, I picked out the pictures that I think convey the love and adoration that surrounded her wherever she went. The sequence below is one of my favourite images from my collection. I will never forget how those of us in the room struggled to keep our composure while the children outside interrupted the official speeches with their antics. Diana herself started to giggle and really showed her true heart.

Princess Diana's death

Princess Diana – Trying to keep a straight face during a speech.

While the local ‘great and good’ droned their way through official speeches inside, outside, eager children clambered up a wall to try to get a glimpse. They were rewarded when they found themselves right beside her, separated only by  a window. They kept banging on it to attract her attention and the Princess tried so hard to ignore them. My sequence of pictures shows how she could not resist turning to look at the children. She really was the ‘People’s Princess’.

Like most people, I can remember the exact moment when I heard of Princess Diana’s death.

I was halfway down the stairs at a friend’s house. It was a Sunday morning and I had just got up. My friend was already up and had switched the TV on. As I came down the stairs, I heard the words that stunned the whole world.

I remember freezing and just standing there with the words ‘Princess Diana is dead’ ringing in my ears.

The following days and weeks were very strange.

To be living in the UK at a time when such an iconic British figure had died in such bizarre circumstances was an experience most of us will never forget.

Princess Diana
Princess Diana – A proud moment for this little girl.

A proud moment for this little girl being presented to Princess Diana – You can see by the eye contact between Diana and the child just what a warm person she was. She was not stiff and starchy, just going through the motions of meeting ordinary people as a duty.

In the course of my job at the time, I had to write about different aspects of Princess Diana’s death.

On the day of the funeral, I had to write a feature describing public reaction and the atmosphere in my town. I will never forget going out to see what was happening in the town centre as the funeral unfolded. It would normally have been a very busy, bustling day but everywhere was deathly quiet. The town hall steps were a mass of brilliant color from the thousands and thousands of flowers that had been placed there by the grieving public in the days following the crash.

Princess Diana's death

Princess Diana – this ‘look’ earned her the title ‘Shy Di’. This is another of my favorites as I was so pleased to have had the opportunity to capture ‘the look’ that made her famous throughout the world.

The shock and grief on the day of Princess Diana’s funeral were palpable.

It was quite an eerie sensation to stand in the middle of a silent town and feel the emotion.

Many people have scathing opinions on the mass hysteria and public outpourings of grief often seen following tragic high-profile deaths and I agree with much of what has been said about such reactions.

However, although relatively few of the people grieving had actually met Princess Diana, she was very much a part of the fabric of British life.

She was loved with a passion that transcended any ill-feeling towards the elite section of society she came from.

People loved her so much, we almost forgot she was from the privileged classes.

Princess Diana's death

Princess Diana – appearing serene and relaxed in public. 

My final choice shows how poised and relaxed Diana seemed. She had a definite aura of calm about her which I think this picture really emphasises. Who knows what torment was going on inside her?

Princess Diana truly was a warm, caring person, wherever she came from.

I felt privileged to have been in her company and to have had the chance to take these precious pictures.

She was ‘unlawfully killed’ – that was the official verdict of the inquiry.

However, if you want the truth about that, you really do need to watch the film ‘Unlawful Killing’ by Journalist and film-maker Keith Allen.

It will shock those who still think her driver Henri Paul and the ‘paparazzi’ were responsible.

It was a difficult film  to find and has never been seen in UK mainstream cinemas to my knowledge.

And so once again, on this tragic day in the history of Great Britain, we remember Princess Diana’s death with sadness and her life with joy – RIP Diana and Dodi.

37 thoughts on “Princess Diana’s Death – Remembering August 31st 1997 – My Pictures of Diana”

  1. Hi Gilly, my girls and I were coming back from the beach, with my boyfriend. My 9 yo nearly had a nervous breakdown. She had idolized her so much, and had dolls, and books, etc.
    I firmly believe the Queen had her killed.
    She had a magnificent soul, but she was tortured to death. Thru it all, she raised 2 wonderful boys, and fought hard for her convictions!

    1. That must have been traumatic – she will probably always remember that day – I think we all remember where we were when we heard the news – it’s another Kennedy situation. I think the same as you – disgusting but if you look back in history at how Kings and Queens have acted – it’s par for the course in the world. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  2. I adored her and felt sorry for her, all my life…

    We were in a hotel room that day, traveling back from a driving visit to see my husband’s family. We turned on the hotel TV and sat in horror on the edge of the bed as the headlines scrolled past with minute-by-minute updates. Couldn’t believe it was real. It still makes me tear up to think about it.

    I have read a biography (or two) on her, and we actually still have the Time/Life “Diana” issue (from 10 years later, I think) in our magazine rack here in the living room to this day, and we own the movie that was made not too long ago based on her last year(s). I can’t remember the actress, but I like the film.

    So, yes, in some magical way, she definitely touched the whole world and will never be forgotten. I wish we’d been able to see what more she could have become.

    1. Hi Steph – thank you for reading and commenting. It’s interesting to hear stories of how others experienced that time. What you said at the end is the really sad part, we never saw how she would have grown as a woman. Too sad for words. Thanks for following on bloglovin, not sure how it all works – I think you are my first one on there! I need to check if I am following you ok because I think I had some issues last night when I tried.

  3. Back here in India, the scandals, and the stories seemed more like a story in a movie. I loved Diana for her work and equally for her will to live her life.
    Amazing lady.

  4. Thank you so much Gilly for the beautiful photos and the memories that you have shared of our beloved Princess …. I too am a huge admirer of Princess Diana … her pictures even today bring great joy and happiness to me, I don’t know why even today if I am sad or heart- broken or upset in any way going through her pictures, her smiles, her good memories brings great relief to me …
    I have millions of her photos from many many different occasions, so I was wondering if I could add your photos to my collection, and if they were available in HQ (High Quality)

    1. Many thanks for your kind comments. Regarding adding my pictures to your collection, much as I do appreciate your admiration for Princess Diana, I will not be making these pictures available to anyone. There are so many pictures of this beautiful lady, I am sure you have quite a lot anyway! My negatives are in secure storage and will be passed down to my family in time. Many thanks for your interest in these pictures of a wonderful person.

      1. Thank you so much for your kind reply … I really do appreciate that … I can understand your concerns and I truly respect that … Thank you so much ….

  5. Her death was such a shock to us in India too and exactly five days later, and closer home, we lost Mother Teresa. I remember how the world almost stood still to pay homage to these two very different and yet quite similar women!
    Your pictures are brilliant!

    1. Hi Corinne, thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Yes, so sad that the world lost two peacemakers so close together. We have had some amazing people come into the public consciousness in our lifetime. Glad you liked the pictures and thanks again.

  6. I remember when I heard the news. It was so shocking. I thought Diana was a beautiful person inside and out and that she was not appreciated by the royal family. William was born at the same time as my own son, so I felt I had a motherly bond with her as we were raising sons at the same time. Thank you for commemorating her on the anniversay of her death and sharing these special photos.

    1. Thank you Molly – I do appreciate people taking the time to read and comment. It seems that so many women did identify with her on various levels even though she was in a different ‘class’ to most of us (certainly me anyway! 🙂 I am pleased to have people to share my pictures with and who have shared their thoughts and memories back with me.

  7. Helene Cohen Bludman

    Beautiful photos and touching memories, Gilly. Today is a sad day for all of us who loved and admired Diana.

    1. Thank you Helene – your time is appreciated. Yes a sad day, it is raining where I am in the UK – I hate to be twee and say it’s like tears but….

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting – no I guess she didn’t but then she came from a world I will never understand so it is hard to work out why she put up with all the hassle she got. Surely money and privilege aren’t so desirable you will put up with anything to have them? But I guess when you are born into that world, you don’t know any other way. Thanks again.

  8. I wrote a post on Diana the other day because her death impacted on me too. I think the fact that she was the same age as me made her death at 36 so hard to accept. It was such a waste of an iconic woman who was doing her best to navigate a very messy life. ~ Leanne

    1. Hi Leanne, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Yes – she did her best with the cards she was dealt. Would not have wanted the life she was born into despite the apparent luxury and privilege.

  9. Hi Gilly,
    Thank you so much for following my blog. How exciting you photographed Princess Diana. I would like to send you an invitation to pin to our group Pinterest board. If you send me your Pinterest Email, I can.

    1. Hi Janice – thank you for reading and commenting. Yes it was exciting, although at the time I took it all in my stride. Thanks for the invitation – I will email you.

    1. Hi Jennifer – thank you for reading and commenting – yes, it was a very sad time. Not a great way to wake up for sure!

  10. As someone whose photos fall into the “snapshot” category, I enjoyed each and every one of your pictures. Thank you so much for sharing them, and some of your memories, with your readers. I’ll be blogging about my recollection of “that day” (for me “that night”) tomorrow.

  11. Gilly, these photos are absolutely outstanding! What an incredible opportunity you had. You indeed captured her look as well as her beautiful soul. I wonder what our world would be like if she was still here with us?

    1. Thank you Terri! Yes it was an incredible opportunity and I treasure all the pics. It was pre-digital so I was still working on film carrying two cameras – one for Color and one for black and white. No auto-focus in those days either! I did get to photograph some amazing people back then but I think she was my all time favorite. Yes, I wonder how things would be if she had lived…

  12. What a beautiful tribute… I can’t believe it’s been so long, but then again I can because I can still picture sitting on the floor of our new apartment with my son who was about to turn 4 when we heard the news. Very sad… she definitely seemed to hold herself on the high road and gave a great example of charity and decorum in spite of everything that was going on with her personally. May her legacy and example live on. 🙂

    1. Hi Tara, many thanks for stopping by to read and comment. I really appreciate hearing other people’s memories of that day. And yes, she had a great deal of dignity and decorum as you say. It cannot have been easy being trapped in a world where she was so unhappy.

  13. Sunday mornings, my then husband-to-be would go out for the Sunday newspaper. I’ll never forget when he came back that Sunday morning and showed me the front page headline about Princess Diana. I was never a royals watcher, but I do remember being struck by the tragic waste, and feeling so sorry for her boys. Thanks for sharing your private photos, Gilly.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts Roxanne – it’s interesting to hear other people’s recollections of that terrible day. I think even the most hardened ant-royalists felt the pain of her passing at such a young age in such a questionable manner.

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