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Speech

Eulogy for Diana, Princess of Wales

Issue date: 
Friday, 5 September 1997
Speaker: 
The Rt Hon Sir Michael Hardie Boys, GNZM, GCMG, QSO

Seldom has our nation known such a universal expression of sorrow and of sympathy as we have seen in these last few days.

At the beginning of the week the Prime Minister and I each sent to Her Majesty The Queen a message expressing, as best as mere words could, the grief and shock of all New Zealanders at the tragic death of Princess Diana; and their sympathy to all those who were bereaved, and especially to the two young princes, whose loss is the most grievous, and is entirely irreplaceable.

Since we sent those messages, New Zealanders all round the country have endorsed them in so many ways: in flowers, in books of condolence, in written messages, in silent gatherings, in public tributes. I will of course ensure that the families know of all these words and symbols of love and sorrow. Today, as The Queen's representative in New Zealand, may I thank you for them. I know they will provide great comfort and strength in the heavy days that lie ahead.

What was it about the Princess of Wales that so captivated the hearts and so caught the imagination of people throughout the world?

It was surely that she was a unique person. A shy, simple girl who became a princess: a beautiful, radiant princess, everyone's dream of a princess. A young woman who could set the heights of fashion and dance with the world's celebrities, charming all she met, but who was a devoted mother, longing for the privacy of family life, and with a huge compassion for the unhappy and the unfortunate. She could identify with them, too. For more and more, happiness eluded her. She became a victim of her own public, subjected to a harassment that denied any sort of normality. And as one life fell apart, she sought to build a new one, devoting herself to some of the world's most urgent humanitarian concerns. But this new life was to be no more than a brief mention of what might have been.

I suspect that the image she would most wish us to have of her is not one in ballgown and tiara, but with a child, legs blown off by a landmine, sitting on her knee; or by the bedside of someone mortally stricken with Aids, holding his hand. For those are the images of the real Diana we honour today.

Those, and images of her with her two boys. It is to them in particular that our thoughts and our prayers go today. Theirs is a terrible loss. There is little we can do to alleviate it, save perhaps to make it clear, by every means we can, how imperative it is that they, and their father to whom they must look more than ever, are left alone.

It is right that we should pay our respects in this way today. It is right that we should honour the Princess's memory by establishing and contributing to a memorial fund. But the finest, the sincerest honour we can do her, is to capture for ourselves the compassion for life's unfortunates that she showed so fully, and which she expressed in deeds and not just words; then to commit ourselves, as she committed herself, to working for a better world; beginning now, starting here.

Last updated: 
Friday, 9 January 2009

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