Saturday, September 1, 2007
LONDON, Aug. 31 Prince William and Prince Harry led a memorial service Friday marking the 10th anniversary of the death of their mother, Princess Diana, whose status as a beloved global icon remains a source of pride and bewilderment for the British.
"She made us and so many other people happy; may this be the way that she is remembered," said Prince Harry, 22, in a brief reading praising the Princess of Wales as "the best mother in the world."
The service, attended by about 500 guests and broadcast live across Britain and beyond, echoed the unprecedented outpouring of grief over Diana's death in a Paris car crash on Aug. 31, 1997.
Hundreds of people gathered near the Guards Chapel, where the service was held, and near the gate of Kensington Palace, where Diana had lived. Under a warm, cloudy sky, many sang along with the hymns and left notes and flowers. Tourists in Paris also left flowers and cards at the Pont de l'Alma tunnel, where the crash occurred.
William and Harry were 15 and 12, respectively, when their mother died, and on Friday newspapers and television screens were filled with photos of them walking with their mother's funeral cortege alongside their father, Prince Charles.
Both young men, now tall and lean officers in Household Cavalry, read at Friday's service, which was held in the regimental chapel of their military unit, near Buckingham Palace.
William read a biblical passage and Harry read a personal tribute from the two sons in which he described Diana's death as "indescribably shocking and sad" and remembered her as "fun-loving, generous, down-to-earth and entirely genuine."
"When she was alive, we completely took for granted her unrivaled love of life, laughter, fun and folly," Harry said. "She was our guardian, friend and protector. She never once allowed her unfaltering love for us to go unspoken or undemonstrated."
As the two princes spoke, the passage of time was evident in their broad shoulders, deep voices and adult demeanor, as well as in the graying of their father.
Others in the chapel seemed less changed since Diana's globally televised funeral. Queen Elizabeth II, in a lavender hat and dress, sat stoically in the front row, looking remarkably like her portrayal by Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren in last year's hit movie "The Queen," which dealt with the queen's handling of the aftermath of Diana's death. Prince Charles wore a dark suit and led the royal family procession into the chapel, flanked by his sons. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip followed just behind them. Charles betrayed no emotion then or during the hour-long ceremony, during which he sat in the front row.
The guest list also included celebrities such as business mogul Richard Branson and singer Elton John, whose adaptation of "Candle in the Wind" -- performed at Diana's funeral -- became a global anthem to one of the world's most popular and recognized figures.
Diana, who was buried on the grounds of her family home, Althorp Park, has remained timeless, frozen in the world's memory at age 36. Her image still appears in countless newspapers and magazines around the world, and is a major tourist draw on tea cups and greeting cards in British souvenir shops.