Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
People stand in front of the Flame of Liberty statue in memory of Britain's Princess Diana near the Pont de l'Alma in Paris today. Visitors left flowers and messages near the statue to mark the 15th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. Reuters
People stand in front of the Flame of Liberty statue in memory of Britain's Princess Diana near the Pont de l'Alma in Paris today. Visitors left flowers and messages near the statue to mark the 15th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. Reuters

Mourners recall 'unforgettable' Princess Diana at Paris shrine

Visitors from Brazil, South Africa, Canada and beyond took time to reflect at the site of the car crash that killed Diana and her companion in 1997.

PARIS // Guy Gerald brought wild flowers from his garden and a poem he wrote for Diana, laying them gently among the mementos dotting a makeshift Paris shrine to the late princess Friday, 15 years after she died.

The 65-year-old was one of a steady trickle of tourists, well-wishers, and die-hard Diana fans who filed past the site, directly above the underpass where the princess was killed in a car crash alongside her companion Dodi Fayed.

"Unforgettable Diana", "A life of love," "Fifteen years already", read the little notes taped to the base of a local monument, a replica of the flame of the Statue of Liberty which Diana fans have adopted as an informal memorial.

Ignoring the din of the traffic rushing into the tunnel under the Alma bridge, just north of the River Seine, visitors from Brazil, South Africa or Canada, bent to read the messages set among pictures and papier mache flowers.

As he has done each year since 1997, Gerald made the two-hour journey from Orleans south of Paris to pay his respects -- among a busy jostle of radio and television crews.

"Diana is a figure of inspiration for all of us. She brings me comfort and strength," smiled the metalworker, who planned to spend four to five hours at the shrine.

"Fifteen years already, time has stood still and so has my heart," reads the opening of the poem he wrote in her memory. "But for all those who love, time is eternal."

South African businessman Robbie Teengs and his wife Theresa also set aside the last day of a European tour to pay tribute to Diana.

"It was a shock 15 years ago," said the 53-year-old ironmongery businessman. "I can remember that night exactly. Harry and William -- their kids were the same age as our kids. I woke my wife up, we couldn't sleep.

"She was taken away hopelessly too soon. I think she meant a hell of a lot, not only to her family but also to the world.

"So our priority today was to come here," he told AFP.

Likewise, Jocelyn Knott from the region of Toronto, was in Paris with a whole tribe of 15 family members en route for a reunion in the Netherlands -- and together they made a detour via the monument.

"We thought it would be special to stop by and see the memorial," said the 52-year-old. "I think its a wonderful tribute to her and her life.

"I remember the day she got married and the birth of her children, her charity work, how she tried to raise her boys as normal as possible. It was so sad she had to die that early."

Sylvia Fricot brought her eight-year-old daughter all the way from southern France to show her the shrine to the "princess of hearts".

"She was a beautiful woman, elegant and generous," she said. "I still remember when I learned of her death. I had just woken up, and it took me some time to come to terms with it."

The princess's untimely death was a blow for Priyani Wijesinghe, a 66-year-old Sri Lankan doctor who now lives in Paris, and who has lovingly collected Diana memorabilia ever since her royal wedding to Charles in 1981.

"She's the only Diana, there won't be another," she told AFP. "I don't know why she was taken away."

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Hajer Almosleh, the winner of the last year's short story competition, at her home in Dubai. Duncan Chard for the National

Get involved with The National’s short-story competition

Writers have two weeks to craft a winning submission, under the title and theme "The Turning Point".

 It is believed that the desert-like planet of Tatooine is being recreated for Star Wars: Episode VII. Could that be where filming in the UAE comes in? Courtesy Lucasfilms

Could the force be with us? The search for Star Wars truth

On the hunt for the Star Wars: Episode VII set, which a growing number of people are sure is in Abu Dhabi, but no one can seem to find.

 With an estimated 18,000 comic and film fans having already paid a visit to this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con, organisers are hopeful they will have surpassed last year total, of 21,000, by its close. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

In pictures: Middle East Film and Comic Con in Dubai

Dubai's World Trade Center was awash with people visiting this weekend’s Middle East Film and Comic Con. Here's some of our best pictures.

 Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, presents Quincy Jones with the Abu Dhabi Festival Award as the Admaf founder Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo applauds. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Festival.

A candid talk with Quincy Jones about the UAE, Lil Wayne and the Abu Dhabi Festival award

The Abu Dhabi Festival honoree Quincy Jones discusses his legendary career as a music producer, the return of Dubai Music Week and why he can’t handle the rapper Lil Wayne.

 Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge arrive at Wellington Military Terminal on an RNZAF 757 from Sydney on April 7, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. Chris Jackson / Getty Images

In pictures: Will and Kate visit Australia and New Zealand

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Prince George of Cambridge are on a tour Down Under for three weeks.

 A protester gives a victory sign during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo in November 2011. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Street life: humanity’s future depends on ability to negotiate and sustain public space

Negotiating our ever more crowded cities and maintaining vibrant public spaces are among the major challenges facing humanity in the coming decades.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National