Shared television history
Ten years on from the death of Princess Diana, BBC Parliament will show the original broadcast of the funeral service in Westminster Abbey. Prefaced by David Dimbleby, the programme will run through the day exactly as viewers followed the events of ten years ago, from the first movement of the cortege through to the gates of Althorp.
It was a remarkable day, whether you were in London among the crowds or watching on television. From the first distraught gasp as the coffin left Kensington Palace to the flower throwing along the motorway in London’s outskirts, there was no precedent for this. Commentators went back to the funeral of Admiral Nelson to make their comparisons.
The grief of the immediate family shared the stage with the pageantry of a ceremonial funeral. Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a reading, and family politics became state politics in the eulogy of Earl Spencer.
Sir Elton John’s performance of Candle in the Wind is being shown again, I think, for the first time in this broadcast.
We did think long and hard about whether such a deeply personal event as a young mother’s funeral could be treated as part of our shared television history, and broadcast again in this way. Given the other public events on this tenth anniversary, including the commemorative concert for Diana and the Service of Thanksgiving in the Guard’s Chapel (BBC One, 1100, Friday 31 August) we took the view that the re-broadcast could be part of that sequence of programming.
BBC Parliament has taken whole programmes from the television archive before, for national occasions. We showed the Queen’s Coronation on its 50th anniversary and the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill on its 40th.
In contrast to the informality of most of present day life, BBC Parliament offers space for events which otherwise may only be witnessed in short clips. In the last few months we’ve shown contemporary speeches, in full, from the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Authenticity is a hallmark of this channel – stemming from our core remit to show parliamentary debate and political speeches in full and without commentary. In the broadcast of the funeral of Princess Diana, the channel will keep to the original format: showing the programme 4 by 3. This allows you to watch the whole picture, undistorted, as it was meant to be seen.
The programme begins at 0825 on Saturday 1 September and runs through until 1605.