How Leeds fell in love with the People’s Princess

The Princess of Wales arrives at Leeds Bradford Airport and meets director Gordon Dennison in 1991.
The Princess of Wales arrives at Leeds Bradford Airport and meets director Gordon Dennison in 1991.
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To mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, the Yorkshire Evening Post looks at her impact on the city.

SHE was the People’s Princess – and Leeds loved her.

In 1982, just a year after her first visit to the Yorkshire region, Princess Diana opened St Gemma’s Hospice in the city.

It was to be one of a succession of visits to hospices across Yorkshire including Martin House Children’s Hospice, near Wetherby, where she sent a letter asking if she could call in.

On the same visit in 1988 she also went to Dr Barnardo’s Yorkshire Headquarters in Horsforth, taking time to hear about the problems facing the homeless and children leaving care.

After her death Steve Kirk, then manager at St Gemma’s, paid tribute to her common touch.

“For her age, she had a remarkably mature and kind manner in dealing with people. She had a natural ability to reach out. She was a people’s person. Her loss is immeasurable, It is so vast and the loss to the hospice movement is immense,” he said.

Other visits, for which she often flew into Leeds Bradford Airport, included Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield in 1993 where she met staff and patients in a head injury centre, and West Yorkshire Playhouse a month earlier.

That same year crowds up to five deep lined Leeds city centre, desperate to catch a glimpse of the radiant Princess as she made a whistle-stop tour of West Yorkshire. A florist reported a roaring trade as on the spur of the moment people showered her with a wealth of flowers.

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