20 years on, Diana’s giggles

The Princess of Wales looks up as residents at Buckingham Green, Buckland, Portsmouth, roar their welcome as she toured parts of Portsmouth after receiving the Freedom of the City 20 years ago
The Princess of Wales looks up as residents at Buckingham Green, Buckland, Portsmouth, roar their welcome as she toured parts of Portsmouth after receiving the Freedom of the City 20 years ago

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It was 20 years ago today that a giggling Princess Diana spared the lord mayor’s blushes when four missing trumpeters silenced a packed Portsmouth Guildhall.

The princess, known for her sense of devilment when things went wrong, smiled and clapped with delight when the bandsmen failed to materialise.

It was left to the lord mayor, Councillor Jim Patey, to close the historic freedom ceremony with the words: ‘This is an added bonus for me to ad-lib.’

The four trumpeters, part of the newly-formed Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, had been expected to provide a fanfare at the end of the ceremony.

There were other hitches too in the 20-minute ceremony in which Diana received the Freedom of the City.

City council chief executive Richard Trist handed the freedom parchment to the lord mayor without its cushion.

At the end of the ceremony a playful Diana made a point of handing the cushion back to Mr Trist to the delight of the audience.

And problems for Cllr Patey continued when he turned over two pages of his speech and left out his promotion of the city’s ferry port.

Afterwards a spokesman for the regiment said the fanfare was scrapped at the final rehearsal, but no-one told Cllr Patey.

In her speech Diana said: ‘In a city with such a masculine history as Portsmouth, I am delighted indeed that you have given me the Freedom of the City.

‘Quite what it means is less clear.’

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please e-mail Chris Owen at chris.owen@thenews.co.uk or write to him at The News, The News Centre, Hilsea, Portsmouth,PO2 9SX