The Herald, Sharon,
PA Published Saturday, Sept. 6, 1997


Previous related stories // Where to sign condolence books, send messages

Visitor witnesses moving of coffin

By Sarah Adams
Herald News Editor

LONDON _ A Hermitage woman believes she watched a part of history Friday as the hearse carrying the body of Princess Diana passed just a few feet in front of her enroute to Kensington Palace.

``I never dreamed that I would be at the main gate of St. James Palace when this took place,'' an excited Mary Stephenson said from London, where she is vacationing. Ms. Stephenson, who is inside sales coordinator for The Herald, called shortly after 3:30 p.m. EDT.

Ms. Stephenson said she and her cousins from Washington, D.C., had gone to the palace area to pay their respects to the late Princess of Wales. ``We weren't going to wait in line up to 12 hours to sign the condolence book, but we did want to pay our respects,'' she said.

Hearing rumors among the crowd that something might be happening soon, they decided to wait. ``We saw the hearse drive in ... the lights on in the chapel ... and then the big, black gates open up again.''

The hearse passed just 5 feet in front of her, Ms. Stephenson said. ``I took a lot of pictures. I was sort of torn about that. People in the back were yelling, `Please put away your cameras out of respect,' but I just had to.''

She called the size of the crowd unbelievable.

But, Ms. Stephenson said, she was most amazed at the crowd's reaction. ``People were excited, but then when it actually happened, there was this calmness.''

She said she witnessed a similar reaction a few hours earlier when Queen Elizabeth spoke to her nation. Ms. Stephenson and her cousins were walking in a park when amplifiers, erected so the crowds could hear the queen's message and Diana's funeral, began to crackle.

All movement and conversation stopped, she said. ``There was such a stillness when the queen was speaking. ... It was unbelievable.''

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