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LONDON -- Three years ago, ripples of shock surged into a tidal wave of grief as England and the world mourned the death of Princess Diana.
The gates of Kensington Palace, where Diana lived, became a gathering place for the tens of thousands who came to express their sadness.
Their sorrow was shown through flowers, heartfelt messages, and gifts -- but mostly just by being there.
That was three years ago. It's different now. The "field of flowers" that overflowed into the street outside Kensington Palace is long gone but people still come to pay tribute to Diana.
But there are fewer people with each passing month.
Diana and her companion, Dodi Fayed, died Aug. 31, 1997, in an automobile accident in Paris. Also killed was driver Henri Paul. Bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, the only person in the car wearing a seatbelt, was seriously injured.
Tests later revealed that the alcohol in the driver's bloodstream was
three times higher than the level at which one is considered to be drunk
under French law.
The capital's streets were densely lined with millions of mourners, who watched largely in silence as the cortege proceeded from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey. Some tossed flowers into the road. Many wept openly.
To the public, the cause-minded Diana seemed a refreshing alternative to those occupying the House of Windsor -- an early 1997 London opinion poll showed that only 21 percent of those surveyed believed the royal family was "concerned about people in real need."
Today, some believe the reaction to Diana's death was out of proportion.
"I don't think anybody, even Diana's closest friends ... would regard what happened ... after the crash as anything other than a hysterical reaction," said historian and author Ben Pimlott. "It was way, way over the top."
Pimlott, author of "The Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth II" says the public has a more sober view now.
"To the extent people think about her at all, they think about her fondly
and perhaps with a touch of sadness on the event of the anniversary. But
really, it is past history; it is not something people have carried with
Prince Charles was vilified by some press and public after Diana died as the uncaring ex-husband who rejected her.
But in a sign of the changing times, he enjoys a growing popularity, even an increasing acceptance of his longtime love Camilla Parker Bowles, although most still say they don't want to see a Queen Camilla.
"I think there is forgiveness," said Dennis O'Keeffe of the University of North London. "I think there is willingness of the public to forgive this poor dead girl for her few sins. And there is a willingness to forgive Charles for his youthful indiscretions, and let bygones be bygones."
But one player has not moved on. Mohamed Al Fayed, the father of Dodi Fayed, said on Wednesday he will sue United States authorities to force access to what he says are secret documents that may prove his son and Diana were murdered.
Fayed says he suspects "evil and racist forces" working through Britain's
security service killed the couple to prevent their marrying.
Spencer says there is nowhere else for people to pay their respects. Indeed, the only public tribute to Diana's memory is a children's park in London.
Still, it is Kensington Palace, Diana's last home, that many associate with her memory. And although the public turnout may dwindle a little more each year, there are some who say they will always remember.
Sunday, 9 July, 2000, 22:15 GMT 23:15 UK
The shell, which derives from the Spencer coat of arms, was used by Diana and has been incorporated in the design at the young prince's insistence.
A royal licence is being drafted to grant the coat of arms officially to the prince, who celebrated his 18th birthday last month.
The escallop motif has been borne by the Earls Spencer since the 16th century and was a popular symbol for medieval pilgrims.
It appears four times on William's arms - in the centre of the three-pointed label which adorns the shield; on the necks of the lion and unicorn, which support the shield; and on the lion device above the shield.
Prince William, as heir apparent to the heir apparent, his father, will be the only one of the Queen's grandchildren to be given a three-pointed label on his arms.
Peter Gwynne-Jones, responsible for royal heraldry, said: "It is a welcome innovation to incorporate maternal symbols into the Royal Family's arms and it is something that Prince William and his family wanted to do.
"In the fullness of time, Prince William's arms will change, as the Prince of Wales's shall, but a precedent has been set here that others in the Royal Family may well follow."
The design has been approved by both Prince William, his father and the Queen.