On this day in 1997, The Queen addressed a grieving nation following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
Her Majesty spoke from the Chinese Dining Room at Buckingham Palace. Her address became the second time The Queen spoke to the nation other than her yearly Christmas speech. The first time was in 1991, when she spoke about the Gulf War.
In a break from royal tradition, The Queen also ordered that a Union Jack Flag was to be flown at half-mast for the first time from Buckingham Palace.
The Queen stood in front of a window, which revealed the crowds gathered outside the Palace to pay their respects to Diana, leaving flowers and tributes. Originally the speech was going to be pre-recorded, but the government persuaded the Royal Family to have The Queen deliver it live.
It came after the Royal Family were criticised by some were ignoring the tragedy of Diana’s death, as they took too long to return to London from their summer holiday at Balmoral in the eyes of the public.
However some took a more sympathetic view, in that she was being a grandmother first and foremost, knowing that the Scottish Highlands offered her grandsons some respite from the media interest that followed the tragic event.
The Queen addressed the nation, saying: ‘Since last Sunday’s dreadful news we have seen, throughout Britain and around the world, an overwhelming expression of sadness at Diana’s death.
‘We have all been trying in our different ways to cope. It is not easy to express a sense of loss, since the initial shock is often succeeded by a mixture of other feelings: disbelief, incomprehension, anger – and concern for those who remain. We have all felt those emotions in these last few days. So what I say to you now, as your Queen and as a grandmother, I say from my heart.
‘First, I want to pay tribute to Diana myself. She was an exceptional and gifted human being. In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness. I admired and respected her – for her energy and commitment to others, and especially for her devotion to her two boys. This week at Balmoral, we have all been trying to help William and Harry come to terms with the devastating loss that they and the rest of us have suffered.
‘No-one who knew Diana will ever forget her. Millions of others who never met her, but felt they knew her, will remember her. I for one believe there are lessons to be drawn from her life and from the extraordinary and moving reaction to her death. I share in your determination to cherish her memory.’
She continued: ‘This is also an opportunity for me, on behalf of my family, and especially Prince Charles and William and Harry, to thank all of you who have brought flowers, sent messages and paid your respects in so many ways to a remarkable person. These acts of kindness have been a huge source of help and comfort.
‘Our thoughts are also with Diana’s family and the families of those who died with her. I know that they too have drawn strength from what has happened since last weekend, as they seek to heal their sorrow and then to face the future without a loved one.
‘I hope that tomorrow we can all, wherever we are, join in expressing our grief at Diana’s loss, and gratitude for her all-too-short life. It is a chance to show to the whole world the British nation united in grief and respect.
‘May those who died rest in peace and may we, each and every one of us, thank God for someone who made many, many people happy.’
Earlier in the afternoon, Her Majesty had gone out to see the public mourners and floral tributes laid outside of Buckingham Palace with Prince Philip.