"They liked her, they loved her, they regarded her as one of the people," he said. "She was the people's princess and that's how she will stay, how she will remain, in our hearts and in our memories for ever."
He went on: "I feel, like everyone else in this country today, utterly devastated. We are today a nation in a state of shock, in mourning, in grief that is so deeply painful for us."
As the country awoke to news of the crash, politicians, church leaders, charity chiefs and entertainers joined the Princess's friends and relatives in paying tribute to what she had achieved in her short life.
Raine, Comtesse de Chambrun, Diana's stepmother, spoke of "her capacity for love, her willingness to go anywhere to help anyone in need".
"I will always remember her tremendous sense of fun and her wonderful gift of friendship," she said.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, who recently joined the Princess at Prince William's confirmation classes, said: "The world has lost a vibrant, lovely young person.
"The word passion seems to sum her up; commitment, to issues, to causes.
"She was a deeply religious person in the sense that she cared about people. She didn't associate with institutional Christianity. There was faith in her whole personality."
Cardinal Basil Hume, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, said: "My deepest sympathy goes out to all the Royal Family and particularly to her two sons, to whom she was so devoted."
The desire of the Princess to help those less fortunate than herself was the recurring theme among those seeking words to express her legacy.
Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said she had taken the stigma away from Aids. "She was one of the first and most committed champions on this issue. It will be a struggle for the Aids community to come to terms with her death," he said.
Robert Jones, former captain of the Welsh rugby team, said: "She took on the role of Princess of Wales very fiercely and took a great interest in all achievements in Wales."
Television presenter Esther Rantzen, who founded the charity ChildLine, said: "She was in there right at the beginning. She met deprived children so often in private and she also made many public visits to promote our work to protect children."
Among senior politicians to pay tribute was Baroness Thatcher, who said: "With the tragic death of Princess Diana, a beacon of light has been extinguished. Her good works brought hope to so many of those in need throughout the world. Above all at this time, my thoughts are with her sons, who have lost a truly wonderful mother."
In Cardiff, Viscount Tonypandy, the former Commons speaker, who read the lesson at her marriage, said: "People in Wales loved her.
"I am as broken-hearted as the rest of the country," he said. "We have suffered a grievous loss because she was unique. No one ever contained so much compassion and care in one body."
Only six weeks ago, the Princess attended a memorial mass in Milan for the murdered fashion designer Gianni Versace. During the Mass the Princess comforted her friend Elton John. Yesterday the singer said of her death: "The world has lost one of its most compassionate humanitarians and I have lost a special friend."
Rosa Monckton, who recently holidayed with the Princess, said: "I would just like to say that as a friend she was steadfast and loyal and whenever I had any setback in my life she was immediately there and would drop everything.
"She did everything from the heart. Her heart ruled her head which is why, I think, she was so often misunderstood."
The Opposition Leader, William Hague, said: "She was a unique and very lively and attractive individual and so people will feel a personal sense of loss. We should also pay tribute today to the tremendous work she did for people involved with drugs ... with Aids and other diseases, for homeless people, for young people in general, for causes such as the arts."Reuse content