Hampstead florist reveals story of coffin wreath for first time twenty years after Princess Diana’s death
PUBLISHED: 15:51 30 August 2017 | UPDATED: 17:55 31 August 2017
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The florist behind the wreath laid on Princess Diana’s coffin after it was flown to Britain following the car crash which killed her 20 years ago has told her story for the first time.
June Simmonds – a florist based at the Royal Free Hospital at the time – was with husband Phil coming to terms with the news that had shocked the world when undertakers to the royal family Levertons called asking for two wreaths, one of white lillies and roses from the royals and another of pink flowers from the company.
“What a surprise I had. I felt very nervous. I just wanted them to be perfect,” Mrs Simmonds said adding she had no idea why she was chosen out of all the capital’s florists at the time.
On the day Princess Diana’s body was due to arrive in the UK after the 4am road tunnel car crash that killed her and boyfriend Dodi Al Fayed Mrs Simmonds – florist to the sultan of Brunei, the world’s richest man in the 1990s – had just over two hours to put the tributes together before they had to be rushed to meet Diana’s plane.
However, the day before the call Mrs Simmonds had sold out of the flowers and foliage needed.
“It was most unusual. We always had a good stock of flowers. I did feel a moment of panic,” Mrs Simmonds confided.
The mother of two called her son Ricky instructing him to cut leaves from the laurel tree in the garden of the family’s Hampstead home and grab lillies from a vase in the kitchen before rushing them over to the Royal Free store.
But after help from fellow florists, friends and family, Mrs Simmonds got the wreaths to Levertons in Eversholt Street with just minutes to spare.
Mrs Simmonds, 73, said: “I actually couldn’t believe I had come up with the goods. My family were very proud of what I had achieved.”
Hours later Mrs Simmonds joined millions of stunned viewers as Princess Diana’s coffin, draped in the royal standard, was carried across the tarmac at RAF Northolt in front of Prince Charles and then Prime Minister Tony Blair.
“My wreath was on the front page of every newspaper in the world the next day. Creating it was the most honourable thing I’ve ever had to do, but the saddest really. It was special, very special. She was the most famous woman in the world,” the florist, now retired after 30 years in the business, said.