Public mourns Princess Diana on 20th anniversary of death

Fans of “The People’s Princess” gathered in London to mark the two decades since Diana’s death triggered a flood of grief across Britain and beyond.

LONDON — Kathy Martin joined the stream of visitors laying tributes to Princess Diana outside the gates of Kensington Palace on Thursday, just as she did 20 years ago.

The 55-year-old Diana devotee vividly remembers Aug. 31, 1997. She was wakened by an early morning phone call from family in Australia telling her the princess had died in a Paris car accident, then raced to the palace with her daughter and was among the first to leave a floral tribute. Throngs of people began arriving 10 minutes later, adding cards, teddy bears and mountains of flowers.

Martin returns to Kensington Palace, where Diana once lived, every year on the anniversary of her death, on Christmas and on the princess’ birthday. On Thursday, she brought picture collages, poems and a Victorian spongecake decorated with Diana’s picture, which she shared with other royal fans.

“She was just the beautiful, warming, caring humanitarian,” Martin said. “She touched all walks of life. Diana always put a smile on the face and that’s something for people.”

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The weeks leading up to the anniversary have been filled with television documentaries and newspaper stories reflecting on the princess and her contributions to the country and to the monarchy. Diana’s sons, Princes William and Harry, added to the buildup with a series of heart-wrenching interviews in which they talked about their mother’s love and the pain of her death.

On Thursday though, it was the public’s turn to recall “The People’s Princess.” Fans like Martin gathered at the palace to mark the two decades since Diana’s death triggered a flood of grief across Britain and beyond. Her admirers began paying tribute to the princess before dawn, placing candles shaped in the letter “D” at the palace gates.

“We had never met her and been nowhere near her, but I think she touched so many people because of who she was, the way she conducted herself in the context of where she was living and who she became,” said Mara Klemich, 55, a well-wisher from Sydney.

William and Harry weren’t scheduled to take part in any events Thursday. They honored their mother Wednesday, visiting a garden at Kensington Palace where she used to stroll and talk to gardeners about their…

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