Princess Diana's death changed the way people grieve

Reflection on the death of Princess Diana 20 years ago has enabled many people to express their grief more freely and with less embarrassment, the Dean of the Chapel Royal in Scotland has said.

Very Reverend Professor Iain Torrance described her as a “luminous and inspiring” figure who had an instinctive rapport with those in distress.

He said Princess Diana, who died in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997 at the age of 36, was remembered with “great affection”.

Crathie Kirk
The Royal Family viewed flowers laid at Crathie Kirk near Balmoral Castle in wake of Princess Diana's death. Mark Boyle.

Tony Blair, who was the Prime Minister at the time, dubbed her the People’s Princess.

Her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, who were aged 15 and 12 respectively, were staying at Balmoral castle in Aberdeenshire when the accident happened.

Scores of floral tributes were laid outside nearby Crathie Kirk, which is a Church of Scotland congregation.

Professor Torrance said: “Princess Diana is remembered as a luminous and inspiring figure who had instinctive rapport with people in distress.

“She is remembered by many with great affection and as we mark the 20th anniversary of her death, and the sense of loss that reawakens, we hold all her close family in our prayers.

“In a sense, she enabled us all to speak more directly and with less embarrassment about our hopes and hurts.”


The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Right Rev Dr Derek Browning, is preaching at Crathie Kirk on Sunday.

"The enormous impact of the death of Princess Diana in 1997, and how we reflect on this twenty years on, gives us an opportunity to look at how we deal with all grief and sadness in our lives,” he said.

“I look at how our nation has coped with tragedies like Lockerbie, Clutha, and the bin lorry accident in Glasgow, and also this year events at Manchester, Grenfell Tower and London Bridge, and see that over the years there is still a challenge about working with our feelings and emotions.

“A greater openness and honesty about what grief does to us, and how we can take those complex feelings and use them to help others, or simply stand in solidarity with the hurting and the frightened and the disorientated is surely a good thing.

“Today we have an opportunity, whilst remembering the death of Princess Diana, to think how we might get alongside people we know in our own family circles for whom bereavement remains a raw wound, or a dull ache.

“It is a time for tenderness, compassion, and gentle respect."