Unless you’ve just woken up from a coma, you will know that this Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of Diana, Princess of Wales’s death. Diana, or Lady Di, as she was known, continues to fascinate us today, and the memory of the People’s Princess still beats at the core of London’s heart. Di is omnipresent on London’s map: the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain, Playground and Memorial Walk, the White Garden and Kensington Palace. Later this year, a statue will be unveiled by Princes William and Harry in Kensington Palace. And for a taste of the macabre, you can find a memorial for her in the lower-ground floor of Harrods.
As a 12-year-old Parisian girl who spent her summers in England, I was utterly bewildered and bemused by all the brouhaha over the royal engagement. My friend’s mother kept scrapbooks containing newspaper and magazine cuttings of every possible snippet of the soon-to-be royal couple. Teapots, mugs, tea towels and commemorative coins made an appearance.
In memory of the People’s Princess, I thought it would be fun to re-trace Diana’s steps through London. Hand in hand, we will visit poignant landmarks, favourite shops and restaurants, meeting friends and foes along the way.
60 Coleherne Court, Little Boltons, Kensington
So, this is where the romance started: No 60, Coleherne Court is where a Sloaney Lady Diana Spencer lived with her three roommates when her courtship with Prince Charming started. The 17-year-old Prince Charles first met Diana when she was only five years old, when she was at Sandringham having a playdate with Prince Andrew. They met again in November 1977 when she was 16 and he was dating Diana’s sister, Sarah. In 1980, Charles started courting Diana, proposing to her in February in 1981.
Garrard, 24 Albermale Street, Mayfair
Diana’s engagement ring, now worn by Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, was from Garrard. Diana chose a 12-carat Ceylon sapphire with a cluster of 18 solitaire diamonds. Her Majesty The Queen picked up the £28,000 tab.
Goldsmith’s Hall, Foster Lane, City of London
Goldsmith’s Hall is where Diana “came out” for her first public engagement with Charles. She wore that black dress, the foxy number with the generous décolleté, and was instantly catapulted onto the world stage and into a fashion icon.
Goldsmiths’ Hall is a Grade I building in the City of London. The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths has been here since 1339, and it was a sparkling location for a dazzling debut. It’s available for hire if you’re thinking of holding any swanky parties.
Clarence House, The Mall
Clarence House was the home of Elizabeth, The Queen Mother when Diana married Charles, and it’s where Diana spent her last night as a Lady Di. She dined with her sister upstairs, whilst the Queen Mother dined and watched an episode of ‘Dad’s Army’ with Diana’s maternal grandmother downstairs.
Clarence House is now the official residence of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. The original house was built by John Nash between 1825 and 1827 but sustained bomb damage during the Blitz. Clarence House has since undergone a major facelift. It’s open to the public for a limited time in August each year.
St Paul’s Cathedral
The fairy-tale wedding that wasn’t meant to be was watched by a global audience of 750 million on Wednesday, 29 July 1981. Diana insisted on being 30 seconds late for her wedding, despite royal protocol that dictated absolute punctuality. You can see the Glass Coach used to transport Diana and her father, Earl Spencer, here.
Le Caprice, 20 Arlington Street, St James’s
The night she died, Le Caprice, one of Diana’s most-loved restaurants, kept her table empty. Diana wasn’t the only member of the royal family who liked tucking into a plate of modern European fare at Le Caprice: Princess Margaret was a fan and it’s one of Camilla’s favourites. Londoness is also rather partial to the fish and chips – with chips and minted puréed peas, of course.
San Lorenzo, Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge
Closer to home, San Lorenzo was also a favourite of Diana’s. She became close friends with the Italian owns Mara and Lorenzo Berni, and the restaurant soon became a sanctuary for her. She would frequently eat here with William and Harry.
Da Mario Pizza, Gloucester Road
Diana liked to bring William and Harry for pizza here. Da Mario is where Renee Zellweger scoffed down countless pizzas in a bid to pile the 20 pounds on for her role in ‘Bridget Jones.’
Kensington Palace, or KP as Diana referred to it, was the Princess’s home until her death. She lived in Apartments 8 and 9 with William and Harry (and Charles, of course, pre-separation). Today, it is home to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
If you can get a ticket, the exhibit ‘Diana: her Fashion Story,’ is well worth a visit. The collection includes dresses from her first public appearances (a chintzy, rather fuddy-duddy array) to the spectacular outfits which morphed her into a style icon. My favourite? The ‘Travolta’ dress which she wore in the White House in 1985. (Image right: Ronald Regan Library).
Diana was a regular in and around the park, and I even caught a glimpse of her rollerblading out of Kensington Palace Gardens back in the early 90s. The historic Sunken Garden in Kensington Palace has been transformed into a White Garden, in memory of Diana.
Kensington High Street
Only a hop, skip and a jump from KP, Diana would occasionally be seen in McDonalds (with William and Harry), Barkers department store (now Whole Foods) and Marks and Spencer.
Lindo Wing, St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington
This is where the magic happens, where the royal cherubs are born and introduced to the world. Royal obstetrician George Pinker was responsible for relocating the royal births from palace to hospital, and he subsequently delivered nine royal babies at the Lindo. Prince George and Princess Charlotte are the most recent royal births here. I have visited the Lindo as a patient, sitting in front of the lift down which future kings (and possibly queens) have made their inaugural journey, and can tell you that it’s a very standard-looking hospital wing. No palatial luxuries here, ma’am.
Royal Brompton Hospital, Sydney Street, Chelsea
Diana first met Hasnat Khan at the Royal Brompton Hospital. Khan was a doctor here, and Diana was instantly smitten. She spent many nights here in Khan’s overnight room, using her visits to patients in the hospital as a decoy.
Ormeley Lodge, Ham
Ormeley Lodge is an imposing Queen Anne mansion in Ham, on the fringes of Richmond Park. Home to Annabel Goldsmith (the Mayfair nightclub is named after her,) she was a great friend and confidante of Diana’s. It’s here that Diana famously confronted Charles and Camilla at a birthday party over their affair.
Serpentine Gallery, Kensington Gardens
Who can forget Diana’s drop-dead gorgeous frock at the Vanity Fair summer party held at the Serpentine Gallery in 1994? It was a bombshell of a gown, dubbed the ‘Revenge Dress.’. The party was held on the same night as Charles was on ITV, spilling the beans to Jonathan Dimbleby about his marriage. I’ll let you guess who grabbed the headline news the following morning.
Catherine Walker, Sydney Street, Chelsea
Catherine Walker supplied a whopping 1,000 outfits for Princess Diana. She was buried in a black Walker-designed dress.
Two Billion Broken Hearts
Candle in the Wind
I wanted to end this post with a rather sweet postscript. Diana’s favourite tune was Manning Sherwin’s, ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square,’ She would listen to this whilst writing her innumerable handwritten notes from Kensington Palace.
Sources: ‘The Diana Chronicles,’ by Tina Brown, Wikipedia. Feature image by Everchr. Thank you to Angela de Plano for letting me use her mother’s clippings, and to Duncan Kelman for his photos of Diana’s funeral. You can follow Duncan on Instagram.