Preliminary reports by the British Audience Research Bureau (Barb) show that 59 per cent of the entire nation watched the princess's funeral on television, significantly more people than watched the funerals of Winston Churchill or Lord Mountbatten, which attracted 19 and 15 million viewers respectively.
In life, Diana attracted some of the largest television audiences - 22 million watched the BBC and ITV's coverage of her wedding to the Prince of Wales in 1981 and 22.8 million tuned in for her Panorama interview in 1995 - but in death, she eclipsed any televised event in history.
Previously, the 1990 World Cup semi-final between West Germany and England held the record for a televised event. It was watched by 25.1 million. The final episode of Only Fools and Horses, featuring Del Boy and Rodney becoming millionaires and screened by the BBC at Christmas, came next with 24.35 million viewers.
A BBC spokesman described the transmission as "the biggest operation we have ever mounted", adding: "Our resources were fully deployed all over the UK." The BBC's coverage was also broadcast in 185 other countries and fed to a further 45.
A spokeswoman for ITN, which also provided coverage for several television news organisations across the globe, said the funeral was likely to have been the biggest covered by the company.Reuse content