Find the past “On This Day in History” here.
August 31 is the 243rd day of the year (244th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 122 days remaining until the end of the year.
I am very hesitant to make the death of Princess Diana the prominent story of the day but her death was a tragedy on so many levels that it is not surprising that the world nearly stood still for 6 days until her funeral. There are many things that we remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when they happened, like 9/11 and, for those of us old enough, JFK’s assassination.
I was living in Paris then not far from the site of the accident. I had been out to dinner that evening with my then ex-husband, Dr. TMC, when we heard the crash, it was that loud, and shortly after the sirens of emergency vehicles. Not unusual in Paris, so, we continued on to our destinations. It wasn’t until very early that I heard that the Princess had died and where. Paris was stunned. The site became a instant memorial.
We all sat glued to the TV for days waiting for the Queen to say something. The Queen badly underestimated the admiration that was held her former daughter-in-law. The day of her funeral Paris froze, the only time I have ever seen the city this quiet was on 9/11.
After being criticized for failing to satisfactorily match the grief of the British people, the royal family arranged for a state funeral to be held for Diana at Westminster Abbey on September 6. Diana’s coffin was taken from Kensington Palace to the Abbey on a horse-drawn gun carriage, and an estimated one million mourners lined the route. Diana’s sons, William, 15, and Harry, 12, joined their father, Prince Charles; grandfather Prince Philip; and uncle Charles, the Earl of Spencer, to walk the final stretch of the procession with the casket. The only sound was the clatter of the horses’ hooves and the peal of a church bell.
The service, watched by an estimated two billion people worldwide, sacrificed royal pomp for a more human touch. Workers associated with Diana’s various charities represented 500 of the 2,000 people invited to attend the funeral. Elton John, a friend of Diana, lent a popular touch to the ceremony when he sang “Candle in the Wind,” accompanying himself on piano. After the service, Diana’s body was taken by hearse to her family’s ancestral estate near Althorp, north of London. In a private ceremony, she was laid to rest on a tree-shaded island in a small lake, securely beyond the reach of the camera lens.
Since the death of Princess Diana, Althorp, which has been in the Spencer family for over 500 years, is now a popular tourist attraction that offers tours to the general public.
I still light a candle in her memory on this day.
1056 – Byzantine Empress Theodora becomes ill, dying suddenly a few days later, without children to succeed the throne, ending the Macedonian dynasty.
1218 – Al-Kamil becomes Sultan of Egypt, Syria and northern Mesopotamia on the death of his father Al-Adil.
1314 – King Hakon V Magnusson moves the capital of Norway from Bergen to Oslo.
1422 – Henry VI becomes King of England at the age of 9 months.
1803 – Lewis and Clark start their expedition to the west by leaving Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at 11 o clock in the morning.
1813 – At the final stage of the Peninsular War British-Portuguese troops capture the town of Donostia-San Sebastian, resulting in a rampage and eventual destruction of the town.
1864 – During the American Civil War, Union forces led by General William T. Sherman launch an assault on Atlanta, Georgia.
1876 – Ottoman sultan Murat V is deposed and succeeded by his brother Abd-ul-Hamid II.
1886 – An earthquake kills 100 in Charleston, South Carolina.
1888 – Mary Ann Nichols is murdered. She is the first of Jack the Ripper’s known victims.
1897 – Thomas Edison patents the Kinetoscope, the first movie projector.
1907 – Count Alexander Izvolsky and Sir Arthur Nicolson sign the St. Petersburg Convention, which results in the Triple Entente alliance.
1914 – Ecuador becomes a signatory to the Buenos Aires copyright treaty.
1915 – Brazil becomes a signatory to the Buenos Aires copyright treaty.
1920 – First radio news program broadcast by station 8MK in Detroit, Michigan.
1939 – Nazi Germany mounts a staged attack on Gleiwitz radio station, creating an excuse to attack Poland the following day, starting World War II in Europe.
1940 – Pennsylvania Central Airlines Trip 19 crashes near Lovettsville, Virginia. The CAB investigation of the accident was the first investigation to be conducted under the Bureau of Air Commerce act of 1938.
1943 – The USS Harmon, the first U.S. Navy ship to be named after a black person, is commissioned.
1945 – The Liberal Party of Australia is founded by Robert Menzies.
1948 – Actor Robert Mitchum is arrested in a Hollywood drug raid. He would later be found guilty of criminal conspiracy to possess marijuana and sentenced to 60 days in prison.
1949 – The retreat of the Greek Democratic Army in Albania after its defeat in mountain Grammos marks the end of the Greek Civil War.
1957 – The Federation of Malaya (now Malaysia) gains its independence from the United Kingdom.
1958 – A parcel bomb sent by Ngo Dinh Nhu, younger brother and chief adviser of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, failed to kill Sihanouk of Cambodia.
1962 – Trinidad and Tobago becomes independent.
1965 – The Aero Spacelines Super Guppy aircraft makes its first flight.
1978 – William and Emily Harris, founders of the Symbionese Liberation Army, plead guilty to the 1974 kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst.
1991 – Kyrgyzstan declares its independence from the Soviet Union.
1992 – Pascal Lissouba is inaugurated as the President of the Republic of the Congo .
1993 – HMS Mercury closes after 52 years in commission.
1994 – The Provisional Irish Republican Army declares a ceasefire.
1997 – Diana, Princess of Wales, her companion Dodi Al-Fayed and driver Henri Paul die in a car crash in Paris.
1998 – North Korea reportedly launches Kwangmyongsong, its first satellite.
1999 – The first of a series of bombings in Moscow, killing one person and wounding 40 others.
1999 – A LAPA Boeing 737-200 crashes during takeoff from Jorge Newbury Airport in Buenos Aires, killing 65, including 2 on the ground.
2005 – A stampede on Al-Aaimmah bridge in Baghdad kills 1,199 people.
2006 – Stolen on August 22, 2004, Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream is recovered in a raid by Norwegian police.