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20 years on, Britain remembers Diana's shock death

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A photo of Diana covered in raindrops at Alma Bridge in Paris, where she was killed in a car crash exactly 20 years ago as her driver sought to avoid the paparazzi. She was 36.

London - Fans and friends of Diana, Princess of Wales, were marking 20 years since her death on Thursday as the nation looked back on the day when the shocking news broke she had been killed in a late-night Paris car crash.

She was just 36 at the time, with her death triggering an unprecedented outpouring of grief across Britain.

With her was Dodi Fayed, her wealthy Egyptian boyfriend of two months and their driver Henri Paul who was trying to shake off paparazzi photographers, both of whom also died.

Two decades on and the nation has still not forgotten, with well wishers laying flowers and candles outside Kensington Palace in London in the emotive run up to Thursday's anniversary.

A couple in Union Jack clothing were the first to arrive at the gates of the palace where Diana's sons William and Harry had paid tribute a day earlier.

Overnight, a handful of people had braved the rain in Paris to visit the Pont de l'Alma tunnel where her car smashed into a pillar at 12:23 am on August 31, 1997, ending the life of the world's most famous women.

Diana was "revolutionary," said Sian Croston, a 17-year-old student from London who was visiting the gold-leaf Flame of Liberty monument that stands above the underpass and has become something of a shrine.

"She changed the royal family forever."

"I remember her wedding day and I remember the day she died," recalled Linda Bigelbach, a 61-year-old American tourist from Minnesota.

"She will always be the people's princess," she said, using an epithet coined at the time by prime minister Tony Blair.

- 'All of us lost somebody' -


In London, William and Harry, who were 15 and 12 respectively when she died, were to spend the day privately after receiving well-wishers outside the palace on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, they had walked through torrential rain to the White Garden, a space within the palace grounds created this year to evoke memories of Diana's image and style.

They also met with representatives of the charities she supported, some of which helping AIDS sufferers and children in need.

Speaking to one group, Harry said his mother's death had affected everyone.

"All of us lost somebody," the 32-year-old said.

Harry's comment made the front page of both the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mirror, while The Sun tabloid ran with: "She's still the people's princess" over a picture of the princes.

- 'A brave princess' -


Outside the gates, the flowers piled up alongside heartfelt handwritten messages and photos remembering Diana, with the two brothers placing bouquets handed to them by several members of the public.

"Our country was so very lucky to have you," read one, while another said: "Diana, a brave princess, your sons have your courage."

"I was so sad," recalled a tearful Lena Pettersson, a cleaner who had travelled from Sweden to pay her respects.

"She cared about people, she was very special. Her sons are continuing her work, they are just like her."

- Global icon -


Diana was to be remembered on Thursday at the Mildmay Mission AIDS hospital in London, which was visited regularly by the princess when it was a hospice caring for HIV patients.

There, staff members both past and present will attend a remembrance service with those who knew her sharing their memories in an event which will be attended by dancer Wayne Sleep who famously performed with her in 1985.

Her untimely death shocked the world.

The complex life of Diana -- a shy, teenage aristocrat who suddenly became a global icon -- and her tragic end still captivates millions across the globe.

Diana married Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, in 1981, but their marriage collapsed under the strains of public duty and their incompatibility.

She was cast out of the royal family after their 1996 divorce which she had inadvertently made inevitable with an explosive tell-all television interview.

But among the public, her star remained undimmed, with her reputation sealed as a fashion icon, charity campaigner, humanitarian and a self-styled "queen of hearts".

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Muslim Global: 20 years on, Britain remembers Diana's shock death
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