Military pallbearers and a single wreath accompany body
Monday 01 September 1997
At one minute past seven, lit by the sunshine of an August evening, the coffin carrying the body of Diana, Princess of Wales, was removed from the aircraft's cargo hold, draped in a gold and maroon Royal Standard flag.
A sombre Prince Charles emerged from of the aircraft, accompanied by the Princess's sisters Lady Jane Fellowes and Lady Sarah McCorquodale.
The pallbearers, from the Royal Air Force's Queen's Fleet Colour Squadron, dressed in dark grey uniform and wearing black arm bands, slowly raised the coffin to shoulder height, turned and moved slowly away, the setting sun glinting on their immaculately polished shoes.
They slow marched the coffin the 117 steps to the hearse, followed by two escorts with ceremonial swords and a wreath bearer, carrying a single wreath from the Spencer family.
Prince Charles swept a hand through his hair as Diana's sisters stepped into a waiting Daimler to follow the hearse on its journey to an undisclosed mortuary.
Diana had been returned to a country she sometimes seemed to hate - she often said the only reason she stayed in Britain was to be near her two sons; she had planned to return to Kensington Palace yesterday morning, to be reunited with William and Harry after her holiday.
Stiff-backed, Prince Charles then spoke to Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and to George Robertson, the Secretary of State for Defence. Among the waiting dignitaries were Lord Airlie, the Lord Chamberlain, head of the Queen's Household and the Base's chaplain, dressed in a striking scarlet robe - a single splash of colour among the black suits.
Prince Charles, looking serious but composed, had fiddled nervously with his cufflinks during the coffin's slow procession. He walked back to the waiting plane to return to Balmoral - Buckingham Palace said he was "going back to the boys".
Tony Blair and the other dignitaries waited until the plane was airborne before dispersing, leaving the tarmac once again to the wind and the setting sun. It had taken just 12 minutes for Diana to arrive home.
Their plane had touched down at RAF Northolt some 18 hours after her fatal accident in Paris yesterday morning.
Outside the air base, hundreds of people craned through wire mesh fences and laid bunches of flowers outside the main gates.
A crowd of about 200 photographers, camera crew members and journalists kept well back behind the crash barriers as they watched the solemn arrival of the princess's coffin.
- 1 The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
- 2 Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
- 3 iPhone 5c to be discontinued, no iPhone 6c to replace it
- 4 Jozef Wesołowski: Former Catholic archbishop found dead ahead of child sexual abuse trial
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Spain accused of 'provocation' after letting Russian submarine refuel off Gibraltar
Allonautilus scrobiculatus: World's 'rarest' creature spotted for only the third time ever
Miley Cyrus address Robin Thicke VMA controversy: ‘He wanted me as naked as possible, but I got the heat because I’m a woman’
Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...
£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...
£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...