Hundreds of Princess Diana's admirers passed through the imposing stone gates of her ancestral home Wednesday, the first in a flood to view the mementos of a life that ended dramatically nearly a year ago.
On what would have been her 37th birthday, visitors arrived to see the letters of a schoolgirl, the stunning silk dress of the bride who set out on an ill-fated royal marriage, the high-fashion outfits of a celebrity princess.All are exhibits in a new museum built by Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, at the Althorp estate in rural Northamptonshire. The seasonal museum, which allows 2,500 visitors a day, debuted Wednesday.
Nearly 150,000 tickets have been sold for the next two months at prices of $8 for children, $12 for senior citizens and $15 for adults. The earl says profits will go to charity.
Many visitors came with armloads of lilies to pay their respects at Diana's grave.
Iwona Skibinski, 31, and her husband drove from Dues-sel-dorf, Germany, to visit Althorp.
"It wasn't just that she was a beautifully dressed woman, but a person who was very socially engaging," Skibinski said. "And she did so many good works - such as her anti-land mines campaign and caring for children all over the world. And that really touched me."
For many, the point of the visit was the ornamental lake and island where Diana was buried in a private family ceremony after her death Aug. 31 in a Paris car crash. Visitors cannot visit the gravesite but can view the island from the water's edge.