The world mourned when Princess Diana was killed in the tragic car crash in August 31, 1997. But what puzzled the public through their grief was Queen Elizabeth's delayed appearance in London immediately after news of Diana's sudden death.
When the terrible news reached the Queen – who was then 71 – she was staying at the Balmoral Castle in Scotland with her grandsons William, then 15, and Harry, then 12.
Her majesty remained reticent until she finally arrived for the funeral six days after the tragedy. But she subtly reversed the public opinion on the Queen's relationship with the late Princess with a simple gesture.
Even Queen Elizabeth couldn't stop herself at Princess Diana's funeral. #QueenElizabeth #PrincessDiana https://t.co/NopGphlivh— IBTimes India (@IBTimes India)1533942001.0
Photographer Mark Stewart recalled witnessing the monarch at the funeral make a "completely unscripted" moment as she led the family to the gates.
He told People that the Queen was "walking out of the palace down to the side of the road with the public."
"I pushed my way through the crowd, which was about 20 deep, and luckily the BBC had left a ladder against a tree. I managed to climb the ladder and I have the only shot of the Queen bowing her head at the coffin as it goes past."
"It showed the Queen . . . The best of the Queen, really."
Queen Elizabeth II greets mourners at Princess Diana's funeral.(Photo by © Ralf-Finn Hestoft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth II Did Something at Diana's Funeral That the Public Did ... https://t.co/LlyjtQYZf2 via @YouTube— anton ciano (@anton ciano)1529183743.0
Charles Anson, the former press secretary to the Queen, revealed why the Queen didn't make a public speech straight away.
"It wasn't that easy for the Queen."
"They did what any decent family would do. The first thing was to gather round those boys and give them as much protection and support as possible."
Queen Elizabeth II at Princess Diana’s Funeral https://t.co/tMxiAQOYnw https://t.co/zpEL41Bauy— Cristina Tina (@Cristina Tina)1529835567.0
Queen Elizabeth II also penned a heartfelt letter to one of her closest aides, Lady Henriette Abel Smith, revealing how much she adored Diana.
On this day in 1997 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II views floral tributes to Diana, Princess of Wales outside Buckin… https://t.co/04gOr3oyV6— Christian Onassis™ (@Christian Onassis™)1504624437.0
She commented on the funeral services and noticed just how much of an impact Diana's death had on the public.
"Thank you so much for your letter about Diana's tragic death. It was indeed dreadfully sad, and she is a huge loss to the country.
"But the public reaction to her death, and the service in the Abbey, seem to have united people round the world in a rather inspiring way. William and Harry have been so brave and I am very proud of them."
"Emotions are still so mixed up but we have all been through a very bad experience."
Queen Elizabeth II and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh arriving at Buckingham Palace in London to attend the funeral of Diana
Queen Elizabeth II spoke "as a monarch and a grandmother" and addressed the nation about Princess Diana's death that was broadcast by the BBC News on September 5, 1997.
"[Diana] was an exceptional and gifted human being. In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness."
Watch the video of the address below:
While the monarch was criticized for not returning to London after news of Diana's death, it's clear the Queen needed some time alone to process her thoughts and grieve in her own way before making a public appearance.