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A Hot Ticket for a Sad Occasion

flowers at Kensington Palace
This is an aerial view showing a large pile of flowers for Diana at the gates of Kensington Palace in London. (AP)
By Roxanne Roberts
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, Sept. 5, 1997; Page D01

LONDON, Sept. 4 — The most sought-after ticket in London — make that the world — is a seat inside Westminster Abbey Saturday morning.

A worldwide audience of more than 2 billion people is expected to watch Princess Diana's funeral on television, but only 1,900 will attend the service in person. It is an invitation few are expected to decline.

"The church will be full," said Malcolm Ross, spokesman for Buckingham Palace and master of understatement.

The scramble for tickets began immediately after news of Diana's death. "We have been swamped with calls from people who want to come," Ross said.

The guest list was drawn from the many facets of Diana's life. The Palace will not confirm who has been invited, but Elton John will perform in front of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Queen Noor of Jordan, Luciano Pavarotti and other friends of the late princess. Britain's usual lineup of peers and politicians has been replaced by charity workers, pop singers and even a New Jersey woman who, when she lived in London, hired a teenage Diana as a babysitter.

This is intended to be a funeral for the "People's Princess," and the guest list is designed to reflect her spirit and interests. Prime Minister Tony Blair said Monday that he did not want the guests to be limited to "the great and the good," meaning the establishment figures who might automatically be invited to a historic occasion like this.

Very few political figures are expected to attend. The British government will be represented by Blair and his deputy, John Prescott. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has been invited by the Spencer family for his work toward an international ban on land mines.

The guest list was compiled from Diana's office, the royal family, the Spencer family and the princess's Christmas card list. It was the task of the Buckingham Palace lord chamberlain to coordinate the lists and issue the invitations.

"It was a joint effort," said a spokesman for the Lord Chamberlain's Office. "It's very much who the princess was closely associated with."

The Spencer family will play a prominent role in the funeral: Earl Spencer, Diana's brother, is the main speaker at the service, and her two sisters, Lady Jane Fellowes and Lady Sarah McCorquodale, will each read a poem. Diana's mother, Frances Shand Kydd, will attend but not speak. Mohamed Fayed, father of Dodi Fayed, who died in the Paris car crash along with Diana and their driver, will also be present.

Although the entire royal family, led by the queen, Prince Charles and sons Princes William and Harry, will attend, it has strongly requested that no pictures of the royals be broadcast. Since no one from the House of Windsor is speaking at the service, only those inside the abbey will be able to see their reactions.

Diana had a number of famous friends, and the presence of so many celebrities at the service makes this royal funeral unique. In addition to Elton John, who will perform "Candle in the Wind" with lyrics rewritten especially for Diana, pop singers Sting, George Michael, Phil Collins and Bryan Adams are also expected to attend. At first Pavarotti told reporters he was too grief-stricken to travel to England, but today announced he would be present but would not perform. Director Richard Attenborough and members of the English National Ballet will reflect Diana's interests in film and dance.

The fashion industry will be well represented: Italian designer Valentino, who worked with Diana on a number of charity events and entertained the princess and Fayed in the South of France two weeks ago, will lead the list. Santo and Donatella Versace, the brother and sister of murdered designer Gianni Versace, will attend, as will designers Bruce Oldfield and Catherine Walker and models Cindy Crawford and Iman. Photographer Mario Testino, who recently shot pictures of Diana for Vanity Fair, has also been invited.

The United States will be represented by the first lady and Ambassador to Britain William Crowe. French first lady Bernadette Chirac will stand in for her husband. South African President Nelson Mandela has been invited but it is not yet known if he will attend.

Foreign royals were asked only if they had a personal connection to Diana. Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, Queen Noor of Jordan, Princess Margriet of the Netherlands and ex-King Constantine of Greece (Prince William's godfather) have all received invitations.

Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito and Princess Masako were invited but will not attend, although Diana was a popular figure in Japan. Katharine Graham, chairman of the executive committee of The Washington Post Co., also was invited but will not attend.

Four former prime ministers — Edward Heath, James Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher and John Major — are coming, as will a handful of leaders from England's political parties.

Most of the seats, however, will be taken by people closer to Diana's heart: her best friend, Carolyn Bartholomew; Lucia Flecha de Lima, wife of the Brazilian ambassador to the United States, a confidant who flew to London immediately after learning of her death; and Rosa Monckton, who vacationed in Greece with Diana last month.

Representatives of the many causes and charities Diana worked with will attend the service, among them Ken Rutherford and Jerry White, founders of the Landmine Survivors Network. The more than 500 people from her charity work walking in the funeral processional will not sit in the abbey but will be placed in the adjacent St. Margaret's Westminister, where they will be able to watch the service on television.

A small number of Diana's household and private staff have also been invited.

A few seats did become available at the last minute. In the face of unusually harsh coverage of the royal family this week, 50 British newspaper editors on the guest list have been "disinvited," according to news reports here.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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