Diana's Route Into British History
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, September 5, 1997; Page A28
LONDON, Sept. 4—The funeral procession bearing the body of Princess Diana, an event that will be seen by millions lining the route and hundreds of millions watching on television, will begin Saturday at 9:08 a.m. (4:08 a.m. EDT) at Kensington Palace in west London, which was Diana's residence.
The core of the red-brick mansion was built in 1605. Monarchs William and Mary bought the building when they came to the throne in 1689 and commissioned famed architect Christopher Wren to turn it into a royal palace. Princess Victoria of Kent was living there in 1837 when courtiers awakened her to tell her that her uncle the king had died and she had become queen. A statue of the young Queen Victoria, who reigned for 64 years -- longer than any other British monarch -- stands on the grounds.
Diana's body will be borne on a gun carriage and draped with a royal standard, the flag that symbolizes the British monarchy. Four mounted policemen will ride in front of the carriage, and four more will ride behind. Twelve bearers from the King's Troop will serve as escort.
The procession will first move south down Palace Avenue, then turn east onto Kensington. It will then pass the Albert Memorial, an ornate tower completed in 1876 in honor of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's beloved consort, who died of typhoid in 1861. The tower, standing 175 feet tall, has been under renovation for several years and is obscured by scaffolding.
The cortege will then swing north and quickly east onto South Carriage Drive through Hyde Park. The expansive park, among the most heavily used in London, was seized for the royal family by Henry VIII in 1536. Subsequent royals used it for hunting until James I opened it to the public in the early 17th century.
At the southeast corner of Hyde Park, Diana's body will pass Apsley House, an ocher-colored mansion that was the London home of the Duke of Wellington, hero of the Battle of Waterloo in which Napoleon met defeat. It will then pass through Wellington Arch, a grand monument crowned by a dynamic statue of rearing horses and winged victory.
The procession then will veer southeast onto the wide, leafy boulevard called Constitution Hill until it passes Buckingham Palace, the principal residence of Queen Elizabeth II and the monarchy's headquarters. Although known throughout the world, Buckingham Palace is a relatively recent addition to the royal family's set of residences. Victoria was the first queen to live there, and the present east front, where tourists gather to photograph scarlet-coated guards, was added only in 1913.
From Buckingham Palace, the cortege will proceed eastward down the Mall, a ceremonial avenue that runs between St. James's Park and St. James's Palace, where Diana's body has lain since it was returned to London; it is to be taken Friday night to Kensington Palace.
About halfway down the Mall, the tiny procession will grow substantially; officials have invited about 550 people, representing the 110 charities of which Diana was a patron, to follow the casket on the final few blocks of its journey.
The cortege will turn right onto Horse Guards Road, crossing the vast open space called Horse Guards Parade -- once Henry VIII's tournament ground, now the site of one of London's colorful Changing of the Guard ceremonies. It will pass through Horse Guards Arch and turn south onto Whitehall, the street whose name is synonymous with the British government's bureaucracy.
It will pass Downing Street, where the prime minister lives and works, and the Cenotaph, Britain's war memorial, before entering Parliament Square in front of the Palace of Westminster, where Parliament sits and Big Ben sounds the hours.
The procession will then cross the square, and at 10:55 a.m. (5:55 a.m. EDT) it is scheduled to reach the west entrance of Westminster Abbey, where the funeral service will be held.
The abbey was founded in 1050 by King Edward the Confessor; the earliest parts of the present structure date to 1245. Westminster Abbey is the traditional coronation site of English kings and queens. It is also the traditional venue for state and royal funerals; many monarchs are buried there, including Queen Elizabeth I and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots.
The funeral service inside the abbey will include readings by Diana's sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, a tribute by her brother, Earl Spencer, a reading by Prime Minister Tony Blair, a song by Elton John and prayers by Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey.
No member of the royal family will speak. Buckingham Palace officials said today that at the request of the Spencer family, no photography of either the Spencers or the royal family will be allowed during the service, nor can television coverage of the funeral show them.
The service, which officials said "balances tradition and liturgy with something of the free spirit of the princess," will end with a minute of silence to be observed throughout the nation.
After the service, Diana's body will be placed in a hearse and taken 77 miles north to Great Brington for burial. The hearse will retrace the cortege's path to Hyde Park Corner, then head north up Park Lane -- past the apartment of Dodi Fayed, Diana's boyfriend, who was killed with her in the car crash in Paris on Sunday -- and on through residential neighborhoods of north London.
The hearse will continue north through the countryside on the M1 freeway until it reaches Northampton. Then it will proceed along narrow roads to Great Brington, where the Spencer family's seat -- Althorp house, founded in 1508 -- is located.
In a private ceremony, Diana will be buried in the ancient Spencer family mausoleum in Great Brington's Church of St. Mary the Virgin. Only family and her closest friends are to attend, and no press coverage will be allowed.
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company