Reasons Diana's Funeral Packed More Of An Emotional Punch Than The Queen's

Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8, 2022 after Buckingham Palace released the news that there were serious health concerns. She died peacefully, as the palace stated through royal communications, at Balmoral Castle, a royal estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Significantly, Balmoral was always known as one of the queen's favorite homes, and it functioned as a sanctuary and refuge for her and her family throughout her high-profile life.

In the documentary "Our Queen at Ninety," granddaughter Princess Eugenie said of the beloved spot: "I think Granny is the most happy there. I think she really, really loves the Highlands," (via Town & Country.) "Walks, picnics, dogs — a lot of dogs, there's always dogs — and people coming in and out all the time," she went on. "It's a lovely base for Granny and Grandpa, for us to come and see them up there, where you just have room to breathe and run."

Balmoral wasn't always the venue for happy news. It was, tragically, the spot where young Princes William and Harry found out their mother, Princess Diana, died in Paris in August 1997, per People. So Balmoral has been a site for news of death, and following these deaths come the royal funerals that bring global attention. While the queen's death and funeral was a heartbreaking tribute to her long reign, Diana's packed more of an emotional punch, for many key reasons — namely the shock of her early death. 

The queen was met with outrage prior to Diana's funeral

After Princess Diana died, Queen Elizabeth II stayed in Balmoral with her grandsons, Princes William and Harry. King Charles III was there too, with his sons, and the extended family was in Scotland at Balmoral on holiday when they found out that Diana died following a car crash in the Alma Tunnel in Paris, per People. As Britain — and the whole world -– began grieving for the loss of Diana, public opinion quickly grew resentful toward the royal family for not returning to London. As the Mirror notes, Buckingham Palace also didn't fly the Union Jack at half-mast, to honor Diana. 

The reason? The flag only flies above the palace when the queen is there, the Daily Mail notes. So not only was it not flying half-mast, it wasn't present at all, a glaring reminder that the queen was not with her people. Public censure reached an all-time high. The queen did return to London a day before planned, the Mirror notes, to greet mourners and to walk amongst the floral offerings with her husband.

As the years have passed, public opinion has warmed toward the queen on this topic. Yes, she wasn't in London. But she wasn't there because she was taking care of the two people who most needed a mother figure at that moment: William and Harry. It was one of the rare moments when the queen chose her family first, and time has proven that she was right to do so.

Britain came together in gratitude for the queen's service at her funeral

Unlike the contention preceding Princess Diana's death, Queen Elizabeth II's death was met with a wave of gratitude from people all around the world. Britain went into a 10-day period of mourning, The New York Times notes, with line-ups lasting 24 hours to pay respects at Westminster Hall, where she was lying in state. In fact, the lineup was so long that a later publication by the Times mentioned several people being treated by ambulance for dehydration and fatigue.

In preparation for the queen's funeral on September 19, 2022, people brought tents and sleeping bags to settle in on the London sidewalks to get prime viewing, NPR notes. Many came from all over the world with camping gear in tow. The night before the queen's funeral, one camper told NPR: "Tomorrow is about saying goodbye ... and showing respect to an amazing, wonderful, strong woman." While the tone was, of course, somber and respectful, the crowd also bore witness to the stability that Elizabeth brought to the nation. After a moment of silence on the night before the queen's funeral, the crowd erupted into applause and cheering. "It's a real sort of celebration of everything that's British," another camper told NPR. While Princess Diana's death was a shock -– she died at only 36, after all -– the queen's passing was a solemn time, but one of awe for what her life meant, for what she gave to her country.

The presence of William and Harry

At Princess Diana's funeral, the sight of Princess William and Harry walking behind her coffin was so tragic that the world has never forgotten it. William, just 15, and Harry, 12, had to be persuaded to walk in the procession to Westminster Abbey, the Evening Standard notes, and it was grandfather Prince Philip who said to them, "I'll walk if you walk." King Charles III also walked with his sons, as did Diana's brother, the Earl of Spencer. In addition to seeing her sons walk behind her coffin, fans also saw the letter on top of it, tucked into a floral arrangement, with the word "Mummy" written on the envelope, per Today. Reportedly, it was William who wrote the note.

Diana's sons have since spoken about the experience of walking behind their mother at such a young age, in front of the entire world. Previously, as the BBC notes, Harry said a child should never have been asked to do such a thing. However, as the years passed, Harry softened on his reaction and said later that he was "very glad" to have mourned his mother in that way. William has also spoken about the experience. In the documentary "Diana, 7 Days," he said it was easily one of the hardest things he's had to do and explained how his long hair helped shield him, (via the BBC). "I felt if I looked at the floor and my hair came down over my face, no one could see me," he said.

The queen's funeral was a unifying force for William and Harry

Time caused a rift between brothers Princes William and Harry. As reports claim, the breach began when Harry started falling for Meghan Markle, Us Weekly notes; William was worried that Harry was getting involved a little too quickly. After Harry and Meghan got married, news broke in 2019 that William and wife Kate Middleton were splitting their charities from those of the joint foundation they were sharing. "Later this year The Royal Foundation will become the principal charitable and philanthropic vehicle for The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge," Buckingham Palace said in a statement. "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will establish their own new charitable foundation with transitional operating support from The Royal Foundation." That's royal talk for trouble ahead.

We know the rest of the story. Harry and Meghan didn't join the royal family for Christmas in 2019, and in early 2020, the couple announced that they were stepping down as senior royals. What came next? The bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey. It makes sense that there's been tension. But the passing of Queen Elizabeth II has proven to be a renewal for the brothers. Harry and Meghan returned to England, and the world blushed in awkwardness. However, the visit went off well. The foursome greeted crowds together outside of Windsor Castle, NBC notes, and were present together for other moments in the following days. It wasn't hugs and kisses all around, but it could be the start of something.

Diana's brother gave a condemning eulogy

Princess Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, also known as Earl Spencer, pulled no punches when he spoke at his sister's funeral. He told the mourners in Westminster Abbey that the world was in shock. Spencer first went after the media, since Diana was fleeing photographers at the time of her death. "There is no doubt that she was looking for a new direction in her life at this time. She talked endlessly of getting away from England, mainly because of the treatment that she received at the hands of the newspapers," he said, adding that the media often ridiculed Diana's good efforts, and this was constantly confusing to the late princess. 

Then Spencer went after the royal family. "And beyond that, on behalf of your mother and sisters, I pledge that we, your blood family, will do all we can to continue the imaginative way in which you were steering these two exceptional young men so that their souls are not simply immersed by duty and tradition but can sing openly as you planned," he said, adding that he respects their royal roles but wanted them to expand on their lives.

While the eulogy was intense, Queen Elizabeth II herself honored Diana in an address. The queen said that she was in shock and disbelief at what had happened, according to the Evening Standard, and was even angry. "So what I say to you now, as your Queen and as a grandmother, I say from my heart ... I admired and respected her."

How many people around the world tuned in for Diana and the queen?

Princess Diana's funeral long held the record for the most watched funeral in television history, according to the Daily News. The event on September 6, 1997 brought in roughly 33.25 million viewers in the U.S. alone, followed second by the funeral of Michael Jackson, which boasted a Nielsen rating of 31.14 million people. Meanwhile, the BBC claims that Diana's funeral was the second most watched TV event in British history following England's 1966 FIFA World Cup victory, where the country beat Western Germany 4-2.

For Queen Elizabeth II's funeral, NBC News predicted that the global viewership would be over 1 billion people, while other projections were around 4.1 billion. As for how many Americans tuned in on TV? Per the Los Angeles Times, only around 11.4 million. While on paper that comes in at about a third of Diana's funeral's viewership across the pond, it's worth noting that Nielsen ratings don't account for more recent advances in streaming services, meaning that millions of other Americans likely opted to stream the queen's funeral online.

Elizabeth actually made television history throughout her 70-year reign. She lived so long that the last time a monarch died in England, it was in 1952 for her father, King George VI, and the event was not televised, The New York Times notes. In 1953, she became the first monarch to have her coronation filmed. On top of that, British network ITV removed all advertisement slots for 24 hours to show her funeral uninterrupted. Yet again, a historical thing.

Very few political figures attended Diana's funeral

Princess Diana's funeral brought a star-studded crowd to Westminster Abbey. Spokesperson for Buckingham Palace at the time, Malcolm Ross, told The Washington Post in 1997, "The church will be full." He added, "We have been swamped with calls from people who want to come." While 2,000 invitations might seem like a lot, the Abbey filled up quickly.

Hollywood A-listers like Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise, and Tom Hanks attended, as did director Stephen Spielberg. Luciano Pavarotti came as did British star Sir Richard Attenborough. It was also a fashionable event, with Valentino arriving as well as Donatella Versace. Photographer Mario Testino was another famous guest. Perhaps most prominent of all was Diana's long-time friend Sir Elton John who not only attended, but also performed an altered version of his song "Candle in the Wind" at Diana's funeral, per the BBC. There were some political figures, like Hillary Rodham Clinton and Queen Noor of Jordan. Bernadette Chirac also attended — the wife of French President Jacques Chirac represented the country where Diana died, per AP.

There were foreign dignitaries present too, but the guest list showed how much the princess had shifted away from royal life. After all, following her divorce from then-Prince Charles, her "HRH" title was stripped, Express points out, per Charles' behest. It's fitting then that her funeral had a more diverse population including, The Washington Post notes, a New Jersey couple who hired Diana to babysit their child when the princess was only a teen.

Queen Elizabeth's funeral had a different group of attendees

In a rather different tone than Princess Diana's funeral, Queen Elizabeth II's funeral was packed with world leaders and political figures. Leaders from the major political parties in Northern Ireland came, the BBC notes. Boris Johnson and his wife attended, as did Prime Minister Liz Truss and her husband. Monarchs around the world came, including Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, King Harald V of Norway, King Felipe VI of Spain, among others, and even the Emperor and Empress of Japan were in attendance.

Queen Rania of Jordan came, as did King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah of Malaysia. Polish President Andrzej Duda came with his wife, Agata Kornhauser-Duda, as did President Joe Biden of the United States, accompanied by his wife, Jill Biden. Rwanda's President Paul Kagame came, as did Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. However, Vladimir Putin of Russia was not invited.

There have not been so many world leaders gathered in one palace in decades, The Hollywood Reporter notes, and 500 of the 2,000 seats were given to political figures. In fact, there were so many foreign dignitaries and world leaders that the queen's funeral became a security problem. The AP called her funeral "the biggest security operation London has ever seen," vastly more monumental and worrisome than London's Olympics. London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, told the outlet: "It's been decades since this many world leaders were in one place. This is unprecedented ... in relation to the various things that we're juggling." Thankfully, it went off safely.

Diana's death was a shock; Queen Elizabeth's funeral was a celebration of her life

The greatest emotional difference between Princess Diana and Queen Elizabeth II's funerals was the shock factor. Diana died at 36, in a tragic accident. Queen Elizabeth died at 96, per NPR, after celebrating the longest reign as monarch in England's history: 70 years. Elizabeth's presence was one of stability and tradition. "If you live this sort of life, which people don't very much," she once said, "you live very much by tradition and by continuity. I find that's one of the sad things, that people don't take on jobs for life, they try different things all the time." She joked about the predictability of her life. "You know exactly what you'll be doing two months hence."

The average life expectancy for a citizen of the United Kingdom in 2022 is 81.65 years, according to Macro Trends. The queen vastly outlived this. Nevertheless, her death marked the end of an era and is a sorrowful thing, leaving behind her grieving children, grandchildren, extended family, and a nation.

For Diana, however, her death came as a shock. She died on foreign soil, adding a feeling of distance. Her ex-husband, then-Prince Charles, flew to Paris to bring Diana's body back to England, according to the AP. Following her death, French police began an investigation as to what happened to cause her car to crash, which also killed her partner Dodi Fayed, their chauffeur, and later, Diana, adding an element of suspicion and tragedy.

The different burial places of each woman

Princess Diana was buried at her family home, Althorp Estate, in West Northamptonshire, England. Initially, the BBC notes, Diana was to be buried at a church, in the Spencer vault, but her brother, Earl Spencer, chose instead to lay his sister to rest on a small island in the middle of a lake, called The Oval, on their property.

As Time notes, there is an urn on the island but no other markings of a grave site. For a few months each year, tourists are permitted to visit the estate, but they may not set foot on the island. Indeed, privacy around Diana's resting place became a key point for her brother. When her remains were brought to Althorp, Spencer insisted on a private ceremony and even arranged to have a no-fly zone temporarily put in place over their property so that no press could document the event in any way, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune notes. Spencer's commitment to privacy over Diana's burial place came in direct response to how much the press plagued her in life.

Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth II was also buried in private at the King George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor, according to Reuters, next to her late husband, Prince Philip, and other members of her family. Her former press secretary Samantha Cohen told People, "Windsor was her home and she loved being there." May both the queen and princess rest in peace.