It was one of the most watched events in history with two billion people tuning in worldwide and two thousand attending the ceremony at Westminster Abbey.
Now details of the fraught preparations for Princess Diana’s funeral are set to be revealed for the first time in a Channel 5 documentary Diana: 7 Days That Shook The Windsors.
With just a week for the funeral to be arranged, tensions understandably ran high as the royals battled with Downing Street over arrangements, such as whether William and Harry should walk behind the coffin – with the older Prince initially refusing to take part in the procession.
The documentary also reveals how Paul Burrell and Diana’s chauffeur Colin Tebbutt had to set up a make-shift morgue when they went to Paris to collect her body from the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, bringing in fans to keep the stifling August heat at bay and hanging blankets on the windows to deter photographers.
When news of Diana’s death reached the royals in the early hours of the morning, they decided to delay telling William, 15, and Harry, 12, who were holidaying with the Queen at Balmoral, rather than waking them with the tragic news that would change their lives forever.
The monarch was so worried about the boys hearing traumatising details of their mothers death, she ordered that all TVs and radios be hidden.
When the boys were told the heartbreaking news, Harry begged his father to let him accompany him to Paris to collect her body, but was made to stay behind.
Earl Spencer, Prince William, Prince Harry and Prince Charles stand alongside the hearse carrying Princess Diana’s coffin. Initially William did not want to walk in the funeral procession, according to the Channel 5 documentary Diana: 7 Days That Shook The Windsors.
Much of the tension among the funeral committee, which was made up of representatives from the royal family, Number 10, the police and Diana’s family is laid bare by Tony Blair’s former head of government relations Anji Hunter.
‘The most tension in the room always came from Charles Spencer’s people,’ she revealed.
The programme will claim Earl Spencer wanted to walk alone behind Diana’s coffin, but Prince Charles was adamant that he should join the procession.
The rest of the funeral team felt William and Harry, then 15 and 12, should be there, too.
The coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales, being carried inside Westminster Abbey. Her funeral was planned in just one week and was arranged by a committee of representatives from the royal family, her family, Number 10 and the police
However, William was refusing to join the procession, saying he wanted to grieve privately.
Hoping to persuade William to change his mind, five days before the funeral on September 6, the team set up a telephone conference call with Balmoral via a big loudspeaker box on their conference table.
‘I can remember — it sends a tingle up my back, actually,’ says Hunter. ‘We were all talking about how William and Harry should be involved and suddenly from this box came Prince Philip’s voice.
‘We hadn’t heard from him before, but he was really anguished.
‘It’s about the boys,’ he cried, ‘They’ve lost their mother.’
The late royal was killed in a car crash with her boyfriend Dodi Al-Fayed in Paris on 30 August 1997
‘I thought, “My God, there’s a bit of suffering going on up there”.’
Meanwhile, Diana’s chauffeur Colin Tebbutt also talks on camera for the first time about what really happened in the hospital room when he and the Princess’s butler, Paul Burrell, arrived in Paris to collect her body.
‘I was worried about the room, which was very, very hot,’ he said.
‘We looked up at the window above the Princess’s bed and could see people on rooftops, trying to take photos.
‘It didn’t seem as if they knew which room to look for at that stage, and I asked for blankets to hang up at the window, so nobody could see in.’
PRINCESS DIANA’S DEATH IN PARIS
Diana arrived in Paris on 30 August 1997 with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed after spending nine days together on his father Mohammed Al-Fayed’s yacht in Sardinia.
They pair dined at the Ritz hotel, owned by Dodi’s father, and left after midnight to travel to an apartment in in Rue Arsène Houssaye, just off the Champs Elysees.
The Ritz’s deputy head of security Henri Paul was tasked with driving a black Mercedes away from the main entrance of the hotel on Place Vendôme to fool the waiting papparazzi, while Diana and Dodi exited via the rear entrance on Rue Cambon.
Trevor Rees-Jones of the Fayed family’s secturity team was driving the couple and took them into the Place de l’Alma underpass.
Photographers pursued them into the underpass and Paul, who was under the influence of alcohol and speeding, lost control of the Mercedes 280S while trying to outrun the press pack and careered into a support pillar.
Henri Paul and Dodi Fayed were killed instantly, but Diana was still alive and was removed from the wreckage
She suffered a cardiac arrest and died in hospital several hours later.
An inquest concluded that Diana’s death was ’caused, or contributed to, by the speed and manner of the driver of the Mercedes and the speed and manner of the following vehicles’.
The Flame of Liberty, a replica of part of the Statue of Liberty, which stands on the Place de l’Alma has become an unofficial monument to the Princess, and is still visited by royal fans who lay pictures and flowers beside it.
This made the room even hotter, so Tebbutt placed fans all around the Princess’s body to keep her cool.
‘I noticed her hair was moving — which was the breeze from the fans of course.
‘But for just a fraction of a second I thought, ‘Is she alive?’ which was a silly thing to think.
‘Having been on top of everything until then, I had to turn away and take 30 seconds to myself, as a personal emotional moment.’
Diana’s brother Earl Spencer initially wanted to be the only one to walk behind the coffin, the documentary claims
Meanwhile, Paul Burrell revealed that he first knew something was wrong when he called Diana and she didn’t answer.
‘Diana always had a mobile phone in her handbag, so I rang her phone and it rang and rang and rang, and I thought “it’s very strange because she always answers her phone”,’ he recalled.
Recalling the moment he saw the royal’s body at the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, he said: ‘I honestly thought, entering that room and looking at her, “She is not really dead, it’s just a joke, a very silly joke and you can wake up”.’
Pall bearers carry Diana’s 50 stone lead-lined coffin through Westminster Abbey, watched by 2,000 attendees
Diana’s private secretary reveals that as officials rushed to make arrangements for the funeral, they were initially worried they wouldn’t have enough people to fill Westminster Abbey.
‘There was no rule book to go to, no precedent, no tradition, nothing fitted the royal game plan,’ he said.
‘I remember saying if you get hold of a guest list for the Princess’ Christmas drinks in 1995, invite everybody on that guest list and you won’t have missed out anybody important.’
Prince William was persuaded at the last minute to join the funeral procession by his father Prince Charles
In the end there was certainly no problem with 2,000 people attending, but the pallbearers faced an additional challenge carrying Diana’s 50 stone lead-lined coffin.
Pall bearer Philip Bartlet recalled: We got told we were going to try and simulate the weight with a kerb stone
‘We were wearing metal studs and the Abbey’s marble floor was like an ice skating rink.’