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Princess Diana 20 years on: How she touched the hearts of people in Kent

By KentOnline reporter

She was the 'people's princess' and touched the hearts of the public in Kent and beyond... We remember Princess Diana 20 years after her death.

People across Kent joined the public outpouring of grief that followed the death of Princess Diana.

Floral tributes were laid, books of condolence opened, flags flown at half mast and prayers said at church services.

Diana’s funeral took place at Westminster Abbey in London on Saturday, September 6, 1997, with an estimated three million mourners travelling to the capital.

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Tributes left to remember Princess Diana at Rochester Cathedral

Tributes left to remember Princess Diana at Rochester Cathedral

Princes William and Harry joined Prince Charles, the Duke of Edinburgh and Earl Spencer, Diana’s brother, in following her coffin to the service, where singer Elton John, a friend of the Princess, performed a specially-written version of his song Candle in the Wind.

The worldwide television audience was estimated at 2.5 billion people.

The day after the tragedy, Monday, September 1, the KM Group produced a special edition of its daily newspaper Kent Today.

Princess Diana visited Kent many times, mainly in connection with her charity work and always attracted huge crowds of well-wishers.

Her links to the county went back to her school days at West Heath in Sevenoaks but her first official visit was in May 1983, two years after her marriage to Prince Charles.

This was to open the Cranmer House residential home in Canterbury.

Princess Diana was showered with flowers whenever she visited Kent. She had armful of bouquets when she arrived for the official opening of the Paula Carr diabetes centre, at the William Harvey Hospital, Ashford

Princess Diana was showered with flowers whenever she visited Kent. She had armful of bouquets when she arrived for the official opening of the Paula Carr diabetes centre, at the William Harvey Hospital, Ashford

In December 1985 she came to the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, as patron of the National Rubella Council, where she met women who had been vaccinated against German measles.

In April 1989, Diana was in Kent for the wedding of her cousin Edward Berry to Joanna Leschallas at Cranbrook Parish Church.

Her sons, Princes William and Harry, were among the five pageboys for the bride, the daughter of former High Sheriff of Kent Anthony Leschallas.

In September that year Princess Diana made an unscheduled visit to Canterbury when her helicopter was diverted from Dover because of fog.

Princess Diana with Dean, Very Rev John Simpson

Princess Diana with Dean, Very Rev John Simpson

It landed on Victoria Recreation Ground, next to Canterbury High School, as pupils came out to cheer her arrival.

The Princess then travelled by car to Dover to visit HM Customs and Excise and then on to Deal Centre for the Retired.

She was back in Kent the following year.

In March 1990, as president of Barnardo’s, she visited two projects in Tunbridge Wells to help families and children – the Ravensdale day care centre and the Chilston Mediation and Family Service Project.

As patron of Turning Point, the Princess also visited the Canterbury Alcohol Project in Whitstable Road.

During a visit in October 1990, she dropped in to St Augustine’s Hospital at Chartham, again in her role with Turning Point, officially opened Tenterden Leisure Centre and visited perfume manufacturer Quest International in Ashford.

On the same day in October 1992, Diana opened the Heart of Kent Hospice in Aylesford and the Paula Carr Diabetes Centre at William Harvey Hospital, Ashford.

She was presented with a bouquet of roses by Janet Carr, whose daughter Paula died from diabetes complications in 1988.

Princess Diana at Howe Barracks

Princess Diana at Howe Barracks

Also that day, the princess visited marriage guidance charity Relate, in Sevenoaks, then travelled to Tunbridge Wells to open the Royal Victoria Place shopping centre.

Diana, William and Harry enjoyed some high-speed fun in Kent when they enjoyed a spin around the go-kart track at Buckmore Park, Chatham, in 1992.

Perhaps her most enduring connection with the county was as Colonel-in-Chief to the newly-formed Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.

She visited Howe Barracks in Canterbury for the first time in June 1993 and the last time in May 1995.

She once told the soldiers: "It has to be said that for a 31-year-old woman to have 2,500 men under her command is some feat."

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