Diana 1961-1997: A village voice - 'The funeral does make it so real, doesn't it?'

Clare Garner watched from home with a family who live next to Althorp

Clive Kightley, 36, always operates an open house policy, and yesterday was no exception. He welcomed friends and family into his home, a converted stables adjacent to Harlestone House, which backs onto the Althorp estate, to watch the final episode of Diana's life.

The only sound in the house which didn't come from the television was the tick of the clock. "There will be bits that just get to you, however thick-skinned you are," said Mark Sawyer, 37, a golfing friend of Clive's who lives in nearby Duston. He wondered aloud what Earl Spencer would say. "No one knows anything about that yet."

At 9.50am Clive's fiancee, Georgina, appeared. "Like a tea or coffee?" she asked: a question repeated through the morning.

"There's Robin Cook," remarked Mark. "Amazing. All these politicians and they're not arguing for a change."

Mohamed Al Fayed entered the Abbey. "Three people died in that crash," commented Mark. "The reporting this week has been 99 per cent on one person."

Mark's mood was relatively buoyant at first, and cracking jokes. "You won't get much of a reaction from me, I'm afraid. I'm not very emotional."

Or so he thought. As events unfolded on the screen before him, he was as moved as the rest - if not more - despite Clive's predictions. "I have to be honest with you," he had said a couple of days earlier. "I'll be wanting to watch a bit of the golf on Sky. It's the women who'll be glued to the box." The men were rooted to their seats throughout.

By 10.40am everyone had congregated in the lounge. Georgina's parents, Maureen, 54, and George, 56, sat at the back of the room; her sister's children sat bare-footed on the floor at the front. Everyone's eyes were fixed on William and Harry. "I tell you, those young princes have got a lot of guts. I don't think I could do that," said Clive.

Georgina's best friend, Joanne, 29, had come from the housing estate at Duston, a few miles away. "I feel quite privileged to be able to do what we're doing, getting this close."

Rarely did anyone's eyes veer from the screen. "Do you see Elton John going in?" asked Joanne. "I don't think he'll be able to sing. He was crying at Versace's funeral." Georgina reflected, "To think she was comforting him at Versace's funeral - and now it's hers."

The whirr of helicopters above the house was a reminder of just how close Diana's final resting place was.

"We still don't know what's going to happen when she goes through the gates," said Clive, adding that he thought it would be "quite lonely" to be buried on a pond. The managing director of a construction company, he used to rent an office in Althorp Park itself. "I know the grounds quite well. It's quite eerie."

Back on the television, the plot was unfolding. The pallbearers entered the church "on the dot of 11", as someone commented. The chatting continued, and they remembered Diana's father's funeral.

"The funeral does make it real, doesn't it?" said Joanne, as Verdi's "Requiem" rang through the house. One person remarked on how similar Lady Jane's voice was to Diana's, someone else imagined how the Abbey must echo. The older ones reminisced about watching Churchill's funeral on television.

Tony Blair's reading quietened everyone down, and when Elton John started singing, they fell silent. Tears rolled down Maureen's face; Dave wiped away a tear; Joanne left the room, murmuring, "Oh God".

Then came Earl Spencer's tribute. No one said a word throughout. They simply stared wide-eyed, their eyes welling with tears.

In strode Joanne. "He's the only one who talks any sense," she said forcefully. "That was a great speech," Dave agreed. Joanne continued: "That's what I like about him. He's honest, isn't he. Straight to the point. It's like last Sunday - do you remember - when everyone was chat, chat, chat about what had happened. Then along he comes and everyone goes silent. He says what everyone's thinking."

Throughout the prayers, everyone talked about the speech. Then came the minute's silence. Daniel 11, was first to speak as it ended. "So is she going to go now?" he asked. Joanne turned to him and said warmly, "Yeah. She's travelling here. Home."

Two and a half hours later, at 2.30pm, they wandered down the drive and up Church Lane to the A428, to wait alongside other villagers.

The helicopter drew nearer and then, at 3.30pm, came the police cars.

The hearse seemed to pass quickly and there was no William or Harry, but no one minded - they understood this was not a public spectacle.

That morning they had seen the coffin on television. Now it was almost close enough to touch. This was for real, and just for one moment television was exposed for what it is: Not real.

"It didn't look like it did on telly," said Daniel, as the hearse disappeared over the brow of a hill towards the gates of Althorp House. "The coffin didn't look as big. It looked the size of a real person."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Wes Brown is sent-off
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower