Twenty years after Diana’s death, thousands of people have descended on Kensington Palace to remember the princess who, for those there, brought “hope” and “compassion” to a previously “untouchable” royal family.
Pictures, letters and flowers adorn the golden gates at the entrance to the palace, which was surrounded by a sea of bouquets in the days following her death, one of the defining images of the mourning.
Similar to other momentous events, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the moon landing, most can remember where they were when they heard the news that Diana had died.
Her life’s work helping vulnerable people still resonates as much today as it did when she was alive, people who spoke to HuffPost UK suggested.
Helen Langley, 52, lives in west London and visited Kensington Palace a couple of days after Diana’s death. She has returned to the scene today with her 16-year-old daughter, Katie, to pay tribute.
Remembering the day she heard the news, Langley tells HuffPost UK: “I got up, because I was going to do a workout, and put on the news and everything stopped.
“It has to be one of the strangest times historically because, really, the royal family could have gone at that point. I remember the Queen being a little bit slow to react.
“When we went to pay our respects, you could see how it had really affected the nation.
“I came here two or three days after she died. At the time it was important to be here because we felt a little bit closer to her.”
Speaking about what it was about Diana that made her want to visit Kensington Palace after her death, Langley says: “She was just a beautiful person inside and out.
“She was strong, but vulnerable and I think that’s what appealed to the nation.
“Attitudes (to the royal family) have definitely changed. Her boys (William and Harry) and Kate have done so much for the royal family.
“They have brought it up to date. They are carrying on her work, but also having fun. She had such a good sense of fun.
“I think that’s quite important and I think that comes through the boys. She would have been very proud of them.”
Although she wasn’t even born when Diana died, Langley’s 16-year-old daughter Katie says she has learned “how good a person she was”.
“I remember learning about her a few years ago. I was shocked how easy she was to connect with.
“She was just an admirable person. It was sad we lost someone like that, someone who was so compassionate and treated people so normally. The love she showed people is highly admirable,” Katie adds.
Some people have come to the memorial during their lunch break from work, or as tourists paying their respects to one of the world’s well-known and most-loved princesses.
But others arrived dressed for the occasion and frequently attend attending royal events.
Kitted out in his trademark Union Jack suit, Terry Hutt has been at the Diana memorial since 2.45am.
Hutt, who lives in Weston-super-Mare, says that Diana gave people “hope”.
“I met Diana at an event to do with homeless people who were living under Waterloo Bridge,” he says.
“They were going to build a cinema down there and I was there distributing blankets.
“To my surprise Diana turned up and it made my day. For us, Diana gave us hope. She had that soft touch and understanding.
“She always seemed to want to help people. People will never forget her.”
Wearing a dress in the colours of the Union flag, and a tiara on her head, Lindy Diaper travelled from Suffolk to be at the memorial today.
“I came here 20 years ago,” she says.
“I was working in London at the time and I remember everyone crying and people coming with flowers.
“You just couldn’t help but cry. The shock of it all. She could just connect with everybody.
“Most of the royal family seem standoffish, whereas she had a lovely innocent and child-like way about her.
“She really was the people’s princess. She was touchable whereas the other royals were untouchable.”
Down at Kensington Palace on Thursday, Diana is frequently described as “compassionate” by those who are have turned up to pay their respects.
Dolores Sanders heard about Diana’s death 20 years ago while visiting her mother’s house in Dublin.
The day after she heard about the princess’s death, she travelled to the British embassy to sign the book of condolences.
To this day, she still remembers what she wrote in the book: “Diana if there’s a heaven you are surely there.”
The 81-year-old from St Albans, tells HuffPost UK: “I’ll never forgot those words.
“It’s what I felt and still feel. She was so kind to people and people who were suffering. You identified with that.
“What made Diana so special for me was her wonderful smile, her compassion and her love for her children.
“These things mean a lot for me because a mother’s love, you can see the effect it had on her two sons.
“They are trying to be different from the royal family and follow in her footsteps and try to show some humanity towards the ordinary man on the street.”
But for some people, August 31, 1997 was a significant day for reasons other than Diana’s passing.
Gabi Bork, who at the age of 23 is too young to remember the princess’s death, says that her mother was so upset at the news that she went into labour with her younger sister.
The US student tells HuffPost UK: “It was such a shock.
“She was so distraught that Diana had died that she went into labour and it’s strange because what began as such tragic news ended up being something really happy because my sister was born.”
Her friend Rhyssa Beckford, also 23 and from the US, says that she admires the kind of role model Diana was to people and how this has carried on with her children.
“I find it interesting that there are these people of class who are doing worthwhile things, unlike someone like Kim Kardashian,” Beckford says.
“I know about the charities she helped with and her as a human. People can forget that celebrities are real people and she was that breaking point.”
Janice Sayers, 61, was on holiday when she found out about Diana’s death and tried to arrange flights back to the UK. “I wanted to be at home and with my family,” she tells HuffPost UK.
Although she was unable to make it back to the UK 20 years ago to pay her respects to Diana, Sayers is carrying a bouquet of flowers today to honour the Princess of Wales.
“She just had something very special about her,” she says.
“She was a wonderful person, she was honest and loving. She cared about people and she was a real people person. She was very approachable.
“Never again will there be anyone like her. She broke ground with the royal family and she changed the royal family.”
Sharon Webster, 44, a teaching assistant from Shepherds Bush, is at the memorial with her 15-year-old daughter Maddie.
The day is particularly poignant for Webster as today is her birthday.
She says: “I came down to Kensington Palace a few days after Diana died. I always followed Diana and the programmes about her on the television.
“She was just so lovely to people that I had to come down to pay my respects.”