WATCH: Two Victoria men who met Diana, Princess of Wales remember an extraordinary woman. Mary Griffin reports.
On Aug. 31, 1997, much of the world came together in grief and disbelief when Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in a fatal car accident in Paris. Twenty years on, she continues to hold her magic.
Prince William played rugby at Eton College in Eton, England, where he started at the school as a 14-year0old. His coach was Victoria’s Gareth Rees.
“My first day of teaching at Eton was his first day of school,? Rees said.
Rees spent five years coaching the future king and taught history to his brother, Prince Harry. He saw the pressure and scrutiny William lived with as a student. “I was trying to get to my classroom, and there were literally bleachers set up with 200 photographers. And that was the photo op of the two boys, mom and dad,” Rees said. “And the housemaster, and them leaving to go to the first day of school.”
The media attention started early for their mother. It was evident during a visit to British Columbia for the opening of Expo ’86. At a state dinner, a 19-year-old Bruce Hallsor was in the audience.
“It was an amazing, magical night. She was glowing. Everybody’s eyes were on her. She was a stunning woman,” Hallsor said. “And she knew how to carry herself.”
Now a Victoria lawyer, Hallsor said news of Diana?s death in 1997 came as a blow. “I was driving down the Coquihalla Highway coming home from the Okanagan. I heard about it on the radio.
It was all I could do not to drive off the road. It was such a shocking thing,” Hallsor said.
“I mean, absolutely unexpected.”
Still living and teaching in England, Rees heard news of her death while out with friends.
“I was in London on a night out with some friends. Friends that were very close to her. That were personal friends of hers, actually. And we all found out the news, coming out of the pub,” Rees said.
“No one knew how to get on with things. And then they started to realize the impact that she had.”