Wed, Aug 29, 2007 - Page 13 News List

On the trail of Princess Diana

Ten years after her death in a Paris tunnel on Aug. 31, 1997, Princess Diana shows no sign of retreating into the shadows

By Thomas Burmeister  /  DPA, LONDON/PARIS

People surround the monument above the Pont de l'Alma underpass as they mark the first anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, Aug. 31, 1998


Diana still rests in peace this summer but almost every other place associated with the late Princess of Wales has been thronged with visitors.

Admirers of the "People's Princess" have been flocking to the palaces where she once resided, the paths she once trod and to the churches where she prayed. Naturally the list of must-do locations includes the tunnel in Paris where Diana died 10 years ago in a fatal car accident on Aug. 31, 1997.

The stations in Diana's life in London and Paris have become places of pilgrimage for tens of thousands of tourists from all over the world. Amid the hubbub, Diana's final resting place on a small island at the Spencer family seat in Althorp has remained a rare oasis of calm. Her remains are kept here in a small mausoleum that visitors can only view from a discreet distance.

It was not far from this tranquil spot that Prince Charles first met his future first wife. Diana's parents, the aristocratic Spencer family, had invited the heir to the throne to a hunting party at their home, a 90-minute drive from London. Four years later, Diana Frances Spencer exchanged vows with the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II at St Paul's Cathedral in London and became the Princess of Wales.

Twenty years after that initial outing with Charles, a hearse brought Diana's coffin back to Althorp. "Since then Althorp has become renowned throughout the world," said Diana's brother Charles, the ninth Earl of Spencer. He held a moving eulogy at her funeral in Westminster Abbey on Sept. 6, 1997, which included the words: "Today is our chance to say thank you for the way you brightened our lives, even though God granted you but half a life."

Ten years on and Britain is keeping the memory of Diana very much alive. Those who wish to retrace her steps can choose from a comprehensive itinerary. Althorp near Northampton is a good place to start or end a tour. The Spencer estate is open from the beginning of July until mid September.

A small museum with many exhibits from Diana's former home in Kensington Palace is dedicated to her life as a child, a wife, a mother and as a patron of charitable causes. It offers no insight, however, into Diana's many alleged love affairs or into her life in the public spotlight during which she was a wily manipulator of the media.

Visitors to Kensington Palace in London are offered a glimpse of Diana as a vamp. It was here that star photographer Mario Testino took pictures of her for the magazine Vanity Fair just a few months before her death. The giant prints adorn two rooms at the palace that was once at the center of her universe. They show a beautiful and attractive Diana, radiating confidence.

For those Diana fans with less time to spare, it is possible to organize a compact, Diana-themed holiday too. Three or four days ought to suffice but such a trip should combine London and Paris, since any recollection of her life and times must include the place where the princess died.

Staying overnight at the Ritz Hotel in Paris is an option for the more affluent tourist but the average budget should extend to drinking a champagne cocktail at the hostelry's Hemingway Bar. Visitors can walk out onto the Place Vendome through the revolving door used by Diana and her erstwhile companion, Egyptian playboy Dodi al-Fayed on that fatal evening.

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