Why Princess Diana's Casket Wasn't Open During Her Funeral

Over 20 years ago, the world came together to grieve Princess Diana at her funeral. Approximately 60 million flowers were left in front of Buckingham Palace and around London in her honor, as reported by Town & Country. Prince William and Prince Harry, who were 15 and 12 years old at the time, walked behind their mother's coffin in the funeral's one-mile procession. Per Insider, Princess Diana's sons were joined by their father, Prince Charles; Princess Diana's brother, Earl Spencer; and Prince Philip.

In light of the Duke of Edinburgh's recent passing, mourners are reflecting on Princess Diana's funeral and how similar or different it may be from Prince Philip's, which will take place on April 17. Insider pointed out, for example, that Prince Philip walked with the two princes at their mother's funeral. Princess Anne told ITV that the Duke of Edinburgh had done so to support his grandsons. "I seem to remember him saying that, in fact, it was a question of 'if you'll do it, I'll do it,'" Anne remembered.

Similarly, Prince William, Prince Harry, and the late Duke's son, Prince Charles, will walk behind Prince Philip's coffin, according to ET. An important difference between the two royal funerals, however, will be an open casket versus a closed casket.

Princess Diana's casket was closed out of respect

At Prince Philip's request, his body will not lie in state. Instead, the late Duke will lie at rest in Windsor Castle's private chapel with an open casket, per BBC News. Princess Diana, in contrast, had laid in state in the Chapel Royal at St. James' Palace with a closed casket, via the BBC Archive.

As explained by Celeb Answers, the Princess of Wales did not have an open casket because the royal family felt it would be disrespectful. Most of the world remembers that the princess was killed in a car accident in Paris. She and her assumed boyfriend Emad "Dodi" Fayed were both in the vehicle when the driver, Henri Paul, accidentally crashed the car after trying to escape paparazzi, via Oprah Daily. Both Fayed and Paul were pronounced dead at the scene. Princess Diana was found still alive, and authorities rushed her to the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital. Unfortunately, she suffered horrific chest injuries and died after two hours of operation.

Because of the circumstances surrounding her death, Princess Diana was subject to an autopsy. Taking this and her severe injuries into account, the royal family opted to keep her casket closed (via Celeb Answers).

Details about Princess Diana's coffin

In the days that followed Princess Diana's funeral in 1997, more details came out about her coffin, including a tragic reminder that her sons had lost their mother. CNN reported that a card addressed to "Mummy" was placed on top of the coffin, along with three wreaths of white roses. The wreaths were from Prince William, Prince Harry, and Princess Diana's brother, Earl Spencer.

Though Princess Diana did not have an open casket, Parade states that she was reportedly dressed in a black woolen long-sleeve cocktail dress, designed by Catherine Walker. Apparently, she had ordered the dress mere weeks before she died.

According to the Daily Express, rosary beads and a photograph of Prince William and Prince Harry were placed in Diana's hands. The rosary was allegedly a gift from Mother Teresa, who sent it to the Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital as soon as she learned about the tragic accident. The photograph was one that Princess Diana reportedly carried with her everywhere she went.

Paul Burrell, a former servant of the royal family and a butler to Diana, told Good Morning America that he stowed pictures of Prince William and Prince Harry inside Princess Diana's coffin. He allegedly took the pictures from under Diana's glass dressing table. "She adored her boys," Burrell said. "And those pictures, which she looked at every morning, I thought, should travel with her to another place."

Princess Diana's grave isn't open to the public, either

Just as the royal family decided on a closed casket, they also decided to close Princess Diana's grave to the public. Earl Spencer in particular wanted to protect his sister's legacy and privacy in death. As explained by Town & Country, he shared the belief with his family that a grave open to the public would attract vandalization.

As such, the royal family chose Althorp, Princess Diana's childhood home, as her final resting place. Earl Spencer, who owns the estate, is convinced that this was the right decision. He reported in 2017 that "ghouls" attempted to break into Diana's grave four times, via The Sun. Fortunately, all four break-ins were stopped.

According to Town & Country, the Althorp Estate is open to the public in the summer months. However, Princess Diana's grave remains closed. If visitors wish to pay their respects to the late Princess of Wales, they may visit the memorial temple across from the lake.