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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

World Mourns the People's Princess

LONDON -- Britain announced a "unique" Westminster Abbey funeral for Princess Diana as a stunned world struggled Monday to come to grips with her tragic death after a Paris car crash as she was being pursued by photographers.

Thousands of people lined up silently outside St. James' Palace in central London, where the body of "the people's princess" lies in the Chapel Royal, as they waited patiently to write personal messages in one of four books of condolence.

The most photographed woman in the world and divorced wife of the heir to the British throne, Diana, 36, died with her millionaire companion, Dodi Al Fayed, when their driver apparently lost control and hit a concrete post in a tunnel by the River Seine early Sunday.

Prince Charles, whose 15-year marriage to Diana ended in divorce last year, flew to Paris with Diana's two sisters to bring her body home from La Pitie-Salpetriere hospital, whose surgeons battled for hours to save the life of the princess.

The funeral will be Saturday.

In Paris, an investigation focused on photographers who followed the Mercedes carrying Diana into a tunnel during a high-speed chase -- and on the car's dead driver, who French officials said Monday had a blood-alcohol level far above the legal limit. A bodyguard in the car survived, but with severe injuries.

Crowds converged outside Buckingham Palace, Queen Elizabeth's official residence, where the Union Jack was lowered to half mast and bouquets of flowers piled high on the pavements outside.

At Kensington Palace, Diana's London home, a constant stream of Londoners and tourists continued to lay bunches of flowers and pin messages addressed to the princess along the palace's wrought-iron perimeter fence.

"HRH Princess Diana. We have lost a Queen, but heaven has another angel," said one tribute.

Princess Diana's funeral at Westminster Abbey, somber yet splendid, public yet private, will be "a unique funeral for a unique person," Buckingham Palace said. Like the princess in life, it eludes category, contains contradictions and leaves the palace and the government grappling with an awkward situation.

The funeral will be a state event but will not have all the pomp and ceremony of a full state funeral, a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said, adding that it would reflect the princess' "modernity."

She will be buried with strictest privacy among 20 generations of her Spencer ancestors near Althorp, the family's stately home 100 kilometers north of London.

The royal family, the Spencer family and the government agree that the funeral, set for 11 a.m. Saturday, should not be just a gathering of the "great and the good," Blair's spokesman said.

The mother of a future king, Diana has been semi-royal since she was divorced from Prince Charles a year ago and lost her status as Her Royal Highness. She resented losing her HRH and some of her most ardent admirers were outraged.

Parisians laid red roses outside the hospital where Diana died and at the spot where the car crashed just after midnight, while tributes to the glamorous charity worker poured in from monarchs, presidents and politicians in nations from Australia to Zimbabwe.

Seven press photographers at the crash scene were held for questioning on their possible role in the crash and their behavior after it. A radio report said a photographer was beaten up by passers-by after the accident.

Police said they had seized film and cameras and were investigating the crash as a possible case of manslaughter.

Diana had by turns courted and despised the media, and the tragedy revived controversy over press hounding of celebrities. Patients and hospital staff shouted "murderers" at reporters ushered into the hospital.

Princess Diana's brother, Earl Charles Spencer, said he always believed the press would kill his sister.

"It would appear that every proprietor and editor of every publication that has paid for intrusive and exploitative photographs of her, encouraging greedy and ruthless individuals to risk everything in pursuit of Diana's image, has blood on his hands today," the earl said in Cape Town, South Africa.

French surgeons battled for hours to save the princess, cutting open her shattered chest, sewing up a ruptured vein and massaging the heart. Three and a half hours after the crash they conceded defeat and Diana, the woman who wanted to be the "Queen of People's Hearts", died at 4 a.m. Paris time.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles were said to be deeply shocked and distressed. Charles, in Scotland, broke the news to their sons, Princes William, 15, and Harry, 12.

The front end of the black Mercedes Benz in which Diana and Al Fayed, 41, were riding after dinner at the Fayed-owned Ritz Hotel, folded like an accordion in the collision.

Diana and Al Fayed had been the focus of frenzied media attention for the past month after photographs showed the pair embracing on a Mediterranean holiday.

Only last week, Diana lashed out at the press in an interview published in the French daily Le Monde.

"The press is ferocious," it quoted her as saying. "It pardons nothing. ... I think that in my place, any sane person would have left [Britain] long ago. But I cannot. I have my sons."

Diana planned to withdraw from public life at the end of this year, according to a journalist who interviewed her several hours before the fatal crash.

"She told me she had decided to radically change her life," the Daily Mail's royal reporter, Richard Kay, wrote in Monday's editions of the British newspaper.

"She was going to complete her obligations to her charities and to the anti-personnel land mines cause and then, around November, would completely withdraw from her formal public life," Kay wrote.

Diana had been due back in Britain on Sunday after her latest holiday with Al Fayed in the Mediterranean and had been expected to see sons William and Harry at her London home at Kensington Palace.

After the breakdown of Diana's marriage to Prince Charles, she tried -- sometimes unsuccessfully -- to keep any men friends out of the public eye. But she threw caution to the winds with Dodi Al Fayed, taking her sons on holiday on the yacht of Dodi's father, Mohammed, in July, then allowing herself to be photographed in August embracing Dodi.