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In death, Diana returns to ancestral home

September 6, 1997

GREAT BRINGTON, England (AP) _ Princess Diana’s coffin reached its final resting place this afternoon, followed to the last by an adoring public before disappearing into the privacy of her childhood home.

People who remembered her as the earl’s daughter stood among crowds five deep on a rural road leading to her family’s ancestral mansion.

Initially, she was to have been buried with 20 generations of her ancestors inside a church in the village of Great Brington. But plans were changed out of concern the hamlet would be overrun with Diana’s admirers.

Diana’s brother, the ninth Earl Spencer, announced she would be laid to rest privately on an island in an ornamental lake at the family home of Althorp. The burial place would be opened to the public a few weeks each year.

Outside the mansion, set in undulating green hills, two boys set up folding chairs.

``She was the princess of our generation,″ said Daniel Goodrick, 15, who came with a friend, Daniel Hardy, from nearby Duston. ``She was close to the people.″

Others had doubts about the new burial arrangements.

``I don’t like the idea of her being alone on that island. She should be with her father (in the church),″ said Irene Randall, 69, who pushed her disabled daughter in a wheelchair along a country lane to say goodbye.

``Rich or poor, you always got the same welcome from Diana,″ she added.

Traffic on the M1 highway from London halted as Diana’s cortege with outriders traveled to Althorp, 60 miles northwest of the capital.

Police cordoned off Great Brington two days earlier, allowing only its 200 residents to enter. They also blocked the road leading to Althorp Park, but let people walk to the gates to place floral tributes.

Compared with London, where millions gathered along the route of Diana’s funeral cortege, the calm here was striking.

Diana’s burial spot is on the part of the Althorp Park grounds known as the Pleasure Gardens, in an arboretum where the future princess and her sisters had planted trees.

Earl Spencer said the new site would not only take pressure off the village, but would allow her relatives _ especially sons Prince William and Prince Harry _ to have privacy when visiting the grave.

``Clearly, in these extraordinary circumstances ... it is the right thing to do,″ the Right Rev. Paul Baker said Friday as he consecrated the burial site.

Diana spent much of her youth at Althorp, developing from a gawky adolescent into the young woman who captivated Britons with a warm heart and shy smile.

Jane Hillyard, who camped out to get a glimpse of Diana’s cortege, had fond memories of Diana before the spotlight turned relentlessly upon her, telling how she used to wait on Diana in a local clothes shop.

``She was a little bit shy at the time, but she did speak to me and she was lovely,″ she said.

Betty Andrews, a former cook and housekeeper at Althorp, said Diana loved the estate, with its rambling, wooded grounds.

``Looking back, it was probably the happiest time of her life,″ she said. ``You get the sense that she is coming home. Her father is buried there. I am sure it is what she would have wanted.″

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