Diana's Old Foe Keeps Low Profile on Anniversary

A memorial service Friday in London marked the 10th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. Members of Britain's royal family attended the service, but not Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, the new wife of Diana's former husband, Prince Charles. She withdrew from the event after criticism from sections of the media and the public, who blame Camilla for the breakup of Diana's marriage.

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In London today, members for Britain's royal family joined friends, relatives and colleagues to remember Diana, Princess of Wales. She died in a car crash in Paris 10 years ago.

NPR's Rob Gifford has the story.

(Soundbite of music)

ROB GIFFORD: Many said that Diana's death changed Britain, but somehow it didn't really feel that way today. Ten years on - on a very traditional British day, in a very traditional British way - the royal family and many of the same people who attended Diana's funeral arrived at the Guard's Chapel near Buckingham Palace. They rose as one to sing Diana's favorite hymn.

(Soundbite of people singing)

GIFFORD: There were some differences, of course. Hundreds - not thousands - of people gathered outside the chapel, or no one really cried or wailed as they had 10 years ago. And the two boys who walked behind Diana's coffin that day are now men.

Prince William read a lesson from the New Testament. It was left to his younger brother, Prince Harry, to speak from the heart about the personal tragedy of losing their mother.

Prince HARRY (Great Britain): She never once allowed her unfaltering love for us to go unspoken or undemonstrated. She will always be remembered for her amazing public work. But behind the media glare, to us, just two loving children, she was quite simply the best mother in the world.

GIFFORD: Just as they had 10 years ago, a crowd gathered outside Diana's former home, Kensington Palace, to remember the princess. Amid the flowers and the poems attached to the gates were Shirley Bloop(ph) from Kent and Pauline Chambers(ph) from Bedfordshire.

Ms. SHIRLEY BLOOP (Kent Resident): I thought she was so wonderful, actually. And she was marvelous, and she should've been our queen, actually.

Ms. PAULINE CHAMBERS (Bedfordshire Resident): Well, she was a very good person. And we believe we are - she did lot of good for the monarchy. She did a lot of good for all the people in the country. Nobody will ever replace Diana. She's irreplaceable.

GIFFORD: Queen Elizabeth was criticized for the way she handled the aftermath of Diana's death, and there were hints that the royal family would listen more in future to popular opinion. But there was more criticism of the royals in the weeks leading up to today's service.

Prince Charles wanted his second wife, Camilla, to attend, but middle England wasn't quite ready for that. Many people is still blaming Camilla for the breakup of Diana's marriage to Prince Charles. Just a few days ago, Camilla withdrew. Good thing, too, said the ladies outside Kensington Palace.

Ms. CHAMBERS: Well, she can marry Charles. She's quite welcome to Charles. But I don't want her to be our queen. And I believe that she ruined Diana's life.

Ms. BLOOP: And I mean it's good thing she didn't go to the service today.

GIFFORD: For all those who seemed obsessed Diana's story, there are many in Britain, like the bishop of London, Richard Chartres, who feel differently. He told the congregation at today's memorial service that it's time that Britain moved on.

Mr. RICHARD CHARTRES (Bishop of London): Ten years after her tragic death, there are regular reports of fury of this or that incident, and the princess' memory is used for scoring points. Let it end here. Let this service mark the point at which we let her rest in peace and dwell on her memory with thanksgiving and compassion.

GIFFORD: Chances of that seemed slim. Diana's name in a headline or the printing of her photographs still sell newspapers and magazines. The British public wanted to know everything about Diana when she was alive, and little seems to have changed since her death.

Rob Gifford, NPR News, London.

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