Well-wishers holding an all-day vigil to mark what would have been Princess Diana’s 58th birthday were stunned when Prince William stepped out Kensington Palace to personally thank them.
The tearful fans were overcome with emotion at the Duke of Cambridge’s touching gesture which saw him walk out the palace gates, shake their hands and comment on their heartrending tribute in front of his home.
He told the small group – who were surrounded by bunting, flowers and photos of his late mother – he thought it was ‘wonderful’ that they were celebrating her life and legacy.
The group set up the vigil at 5.30am on Monday and it was at around 6.45pm, the 37-year-old dad-of-three discreetly emerged while accompanied by a small security team
John Loughrey, from south-west London, was left shaking with emotion as the duke made a beeline for him. The pair shook hands ‘three times’, which gave the 59-year-old a ‘beautiful feeling in his body’.
He told the Daily Mail: “William told me he knew we’d been coming here for years and thanked us for what we were doing for his mother.
I’m still shaking now. I feel very emotional.
He said ‘I’m touched by what you do, you’ve got quite the collection.’ I told him that I pray for his mother every Sunday at Westminster Abbey and he seemed really touched.”
Mr Loughrey said the prince admired the badges of Diana on his hat.
The royal fan also asked when the statue of Diana would be unveiled, to which he said the Duke replied: ‘Soon, very soon. We just want to make sure it is right. It’s important to get it right.’
Maria Scott, 48, from Newcastle, and Sky London, 59, from Paddington, were among the other fans gathered, but Sky almost missed the magical moment as he had been napping.
He was swiftly woken up, but not before his friends took a photo of him asleep, which he then showed William.
Maria said William’s touching gesture proved he ‘really is his mother’s son’ and they couldn’t believe it when he approached them.
William spent around seven minutes chatting to the six-strong group, before departing when crowds started to gather, saying it was a ‘private visit’.
Meanwhile as we reported yesterday, Princess Diana celebrated her final birthday with private family party and a very glitzy public event.
She turned 36 just a few weeks before her death in 1997, and her day was filled with love and glamour.
She also received a very special birthday message from son Prince Harry , who was away at school on the day.
And her brother Charles Spencer said of the occasion: “She sparkled, of course.”