Diana 1961-1997: The reaction - People and flowers keep on coming

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The Independent Online
If the Royal Family had thought that the funeral of the Princess of Wales would stem the public displays of emotion, they were wrong.

At Kensington Palace yesterday, they were not letting her go quietly. By midday the gardens were more crowded than they had been on the day of her funeral. Anyone walking down Kensington High Street could have been forgiven for thinking there was some kind of huge family fair on. At one stage it took five minutes just to get in, or out of, one of the gates.

People streamed in bearing flowers, balloons, or personal notes. Many pushed children in prams, children they had been afraid to bring last week because of the crush. Nearly all carried cameras, to record the extraordinary sea of flowers that still crept outwards by the hour.

Police, clearly struggling to direct the ever-increasing flow, were simply trying to keep the mass moving. At High Street Kensington tube station, they had decided it was a matter of safety first, and simply opened all the ticket barriers, allowing the crowds to flood through.

The McClune family were taking a short breather on the grass. They had travelled to the palace from Croydon, and were stunned by the number of people there.

"It was such a sad day yesterday, that we thought although we got our emotions out, we had to come and pay our respects. It feels better to have seen it up close," said Barry McClune.

"There seems to be more people here than there were at Hyde Park yesterday. But it's very quiet and peaceful. It's nice," said his wife Moira.

Few people were crying, and there were no signs of the grieving that had marked the previous day's events. Instead, people sat with picnics, or walked, chatting quietly, examining the notes and flowers that hung from trees even a quarter-mile from the gates of the palace, and makeshift shrines heavy with the scent of candles.

Palace officials announced yesterday that tomorrow, the flowers will be cleared. The fresh ones will be given to old people's homes and hospitals at the request of Diana's family, while dead flowers will be turned into compost to grow new plants in Kensington Gardens.

But many of those present yesterday said that the memorials would continue. "We will be bringing flowers again. I think it should carry on. I go to my mother's grave to put flowers, so this is just the same," said Moira McClune. "This is just somewhere where you're not intruding on the family's grief."

Elizabeth Beesley, from Bournemouth, and her mother Joan Hounsell from Poole, said they had friends who were planning to come and lay flowers later in the week. "I think it will die down after this week, but there should be a focal point, because people will still want to come and pay their respects, whether they're from out of town, or America, or whatever," Ms Beesley said. "But I think there will always be flowers here."

Suggestions that the prolonged pilgramage to the gardens might be verging on the unhealthy were swifty batted down.

"How can it be unhealthy to want to commemorate someone's life?" said Steve Hampton, a US visitor from Chicago. "You guys just get uncomfortable because it doesn't seem like a British thing to do."

But Karen Lombard and Philip Court from South Africa - while admitting that the flowers "took their breath away" - thought there should be a limit. "It should carry on for another week or so, then give it a rest. It's not fair to make it a shrine given that it was the boys' home. It just makes it more difficult for them to get on with it," said Ms Lombard.

Police closed the main A428 road outside the gates of Althorp House in Northamptonshire last night because they feared that people flocking to pay tribute to the Princess could cause a traffic accident. A police spokesman said the sheer weight of numbers was making the situation dangerous as darkness fell.