It is 13 years ago today that Princess Diana died as a result of injuries, sustained in a car crash in Paris. Just after midnight on 31 August 1997, the Princess was rushed from the Paris Ritz Hotel in order to evade waiting celebrity journalists, paparazzi. Her driver, Henri Paul, was called up at the last moment, although he had been drinking that evening. The third person in the car was Diana's lover, Dodi al-Fayed, son of Mohamed al-Fayed, the Egyptian businessman who was the owner of the Harrods store in London. Just before 1 am, the Princess' car entered an underpass along the Seine River at high speed, and careered out of control into a pillar. The vehicle deflected off the pillar and came to a halt in the middle of the underpass. Dodi al-Fayed and Henri Paul were killed on the spot, but Princess Diana was still alive. She was transferred to hospital in Paris, but died at 5 am.
I have never seen such an outpouring of public grief, including by radio and television presenters. Ordinary people congregated outside Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace and left banks of flowers. The Royal Family nearly tripped up over the issue, with Queen Elizabeth II taking days to properly assess the situation and make a public statement. Princess Diana was a royal who appealed to average British people.
Fast forward to the year 2010. As I type this, the month of August is quietly coming to a close. I've spent the day compiling a tribute to a Lewis sailor who drowned off the Irish coast in 1918 after his ship was torpedoed. The U-boat involved was sunk a few weeks later, with 9 of its crew left to drown in the sea; 31 others went down with the sub. Only one crewmen was saved by HMS Jessamine. An understandable action - U-boat crews were responsible for some pretty atrocious acts after torpedoing ships in the First World War.The tribute will be published on this blog in the next few days.