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Britain shocked by Princess Diana’s death.

August 31, 1997 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ As radios played ``God Save the Queen,″ Britain awoke Sunday and learned that Princess Diana, its national treasure adored by millions worldwide, was gone.

The elegant mother of two who championed charities and children’s causes was killed earlier in a car crash with Dodi Fayed, the Egyptian movie producer who had become her companion.

Queen Elizabeth II and the Prince of Wales said early Sunday that they were ``deeply shocked and distressed by this terrible news,″ a Buckingham Palace spokesman said.

Prince Charles, who was married to Diana for 15 years, woke the couple’s two sons to tell them of their mother’s death. Members of the royal family were vacationing at their estate at Balmoral, Scotland, when the French ambassador in Britain telephoned the queen’s private secretary with the news.

Confirmation that the 36-year-old Diana had died reached the British public a few minutes before 5 a.m. local time, while most of the country was sleeping.

Radio and television stations played Britain’s national anthem and reporters spoke in shocked tones on news programs after the death was confirmed.

As dawn broke, Britons gathered outside Buckingham and Kensington Palaces to lay flowers in her memory.

Outside Kensington, where Diana lived, several people cursed photographers who gathered at the gates after news broke the princess was dead. Her car crashed in Paris with photographers in pursuit.

Ian Leckie, a 25-year-old Scot, placed a solitary bunch of lilies at the Kensington’s gateway.

``I think she will be turned into a saint, she deserves nothing less,″ said Leckie. ``It is not the way anyone should die. I don’t think that the press alone are to blame _ I think it is everyone’s fault.″

A spokesman for the 42-year-old Fayed pinned blame for the accident directly on the horde of photographers who tried to document her every step.

``There is no doubt in Mr. Al Fayed’s mind that this tragedy would not have occurred but for the press photographers who have dogged and pursued Mr. Fayed and the princess for weeks,″ Michael Cole said.

Dodi’s father, Harrods’ owner Mohamed Al Fayed, said the deaths were ``appalling and quite needless.″

Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was ``utterly devastated″ by word of Diana’s death.


``The whole of our country, all of us, will be in a state of shock and mourning.″

``Diana was a wonderful, warm and compassionate person who people, not just in Britain, but throughout the world loved and will be mourned as a friend,″ Blair said in a statement.

The archbishops of Canterbury and York, leaders of the Anglican Church of England, offered prayers on behalf of the church.

Cardinal Basil Hume, leader of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales, summed up what was for many an initial reaction of the death of the princess a year after her divorce.

``It is a sad end to somebody who has in many ways had a sad life,″ he said.

Vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., President Clinton said he and his wife, Hillary, were ``profoundly saddened by the event.″

``Hillary and I knew Princess Diana and we were very fond of her,″ Clinton said in a statement.

Clinton said his thoughts and those of his wife were with Diana’s family, friends and ``especially her children″ - Princes William, 15, and Harry, 12.

No funeral plans for Diana were announced.