Diana 1961-1997: World round-up - Mourned by every nation under the sun

The appeal of the princess proved universal
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The Independent Online
Not just Britain, but the world participated yesterday in the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, and in the week of emotion that followed the shock of her death. As a beautiful princess she could be incorporated into the myths of every culture more easily than any Hollywood actress or international statesman.

'She was a Kannon-sama," said a young Japanese woman, referring to the most popular deity of Japanese religion, the Goddess of Compassion. Her most familiar manifestation is that of a young woman with a gentle face and a lotus flower in her hand, the protector of mothers and children, and of the weak and needy. A French writer, Philippe Sollers, saw her in the light of his country's history, saying: "Diana was a new Joan of Arc, after her own fashion."

A housewife in Thailand called Diana "the most loved princess in the world", while Lyn Roseman, a separated mother of two children roughly the same ages as Diana's, said in Australia: "I'm a republican, and I never thought much about Diana when she was alive. But her death rocked me in a way I never thought it would. The good in her shone through. She had an ability to bring royalty to people. I think this will hasten the republic debate along here."

Tears streamed down the face of Alex Mahlke as he watched the funeral in the darkened Britannia Pub in Santa Monica, California. "It's not so much that she was a princess, but a real person. The circumstances of her death are so tragic and unnecessary."

The funeral began at prime evening television viewing time in Australia and Japan - where the presenters on one channel were dressed all in black, and surrounded on all sides by large bunches of calla lilies - while on the east coast of the US millions rose early to watch the coverage. In Toronto the giant Skydome arena opened, free of charge, to show the funeral as it happened on a 110ft screen. All the American networks cleared their Saturday schedules to replay parts of the funeral for those who had slept in.

The streets of Paris, where Diana died, fell unusually quiet as an estimated 15 million people in France - one in four of the population - watched the funeral procession and service on television. Even in India, shocked by Mother Teresa's death the previous day, state-run TV and radio were broadcasting the funeral, while in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, five of the six national networks carried live transmissions. The only major nation to miss the event was China, where the 700 million people with access to a TV were shown nothing of it by the state broadcasting network.

"I see this as a very family funeral," said Donata Gilardi, a 60-year- old nurse who came to the Venice Film Festival but ended up watching the funeral live. "It touches the bottom of my heart. I feel like I'm participating - it's not just a matter of curiosity."

Every British mission around the world was swamped last week by local people queueing to sign books of condolence. At the British consulate in Johannesburg there were white madams and their black maids, and groups of red-eyed, gingham-dressed girls from private schools. Though the majority of visitors were white, there was no shortage of black mourners.

Almost every public figure in South Africa followed President Nelson Mandela in paying tribute to Diana, even the fiercely anti-colonial Pan Africanist Congress, whose leader, Bishop Stanley Mogoba, said the princess was "like a diamond", and that diamonds shone even brighter when they were broken. A local radio station was besieged by angry callers after Nambitha Stofile, wife of the Eastern Cape premier, criticised the extent of local media coverage.

It was not only in Britain that Diana's concern for Aids patients, the mentally ill and other disadvantaged victims broke taboos. In Japan, where disability is treated as a matter of shame, her embrace of a disabled child also served to emphasise the aloofness of the Imperial Family. In San Francisco, where 14,000 people held a candle-lit march in her memory, Cleve Jones, creator of the Aids memorial quilt which remembers tens of thousands of victims of the disease, said to applause: "We who are living with HIV and Aids especially remember Diana's courage during the darkest days of the epidemic when her country and our own were swept by bigotry, hatred and hysteria.

"It was then that Diana visited a hospice and with ungloved hands embraced a gay man dying of Aids. That image of simple compassion flashed across the world and changed the way the world saw Aids."