When North London stood still in mourning: Remembering the day Princess Diana was laid to rest 20 years ago
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North London came to a standstill on the day of Princess Diana’s funeral twenty years ago as thousands lined the streets to watch her coffin pass through Swiss Cottage and Hampstead on its journey from Westminster Abbey to the Spencer family church at Althorp, in Northamptonshire.
Her funeral car, surrounded by a police escort, moved out ot the West End and travelled along Park Road, passing the London Central Mosque, Regent’s Park, where Dodi Fayed’s funeral was held the week before.
It then continued up Wellington Road along Finchley Road and on to the Hendon Way before joining the M1.
We reported that just before midday Hampstead was a ghost town with hardly any shops open.
The edition of the Ham&High following Diana’s tragic death in a Paris car crash on August 31 1997 paid tribute to her place in the hearts of our readers and community leaders.
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Dr Margaret Johnson, the clinical director of Aids services at the Royal Free Hospital at the time praised the Princess for doing “more than anybody” to reduce the stigma surrounding Aids.
“Her contribution was stunning. Just the fact that she would shake hands with a patient without golves or give someone a hug was the most powerful image in combating prejudice,” she said.
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The Princess had visited the unit once officially in 1989. She was at the Hampstead hospital on behalf of the British Lung Foundation and dropped into the ward where the first few beds for Aids patients had been established.
After that one official visit, we reported that Diana became friends with many patients, and visited some of them while they were treated at the Free.
“She was a woman visiting friends and bringing great comfort. She was wonderful,” said Dr Johnson.
We reported how events such as the Highgate Festival were cancelled out of respect for Princess Diana.
Public libraries and sports centres in Camden were closed in Camden, Barnet and Haringey.
Kenwood House and its grounds and Fenton House in Hampstead were closed during her funeral.
A book of condolence was placed in the main lobby at Camden Town Hall and the Union Jack on the building was flown at half mast.
Following the funeral, the Ham&High published a four-page tribute supplement with photos of crowds lining Finchley Road.