Princess Diana forged a special bond with the people of Manchester during her five trips to the city from 1984 to 1993.
Her warmth, compassion and genuine interest in the projects she supported captivated everyone who met her in the North West.
Some of her most memorable moments in the city came this week in 1992 when she toured Manchester Royal Infirmary and Altrincham.
The Princess made a special point of stopping to chat to the hundreds of well-wishers who lined her route.
It was a difficult time for the Princess personally, but she pressed on with her duties. Andrew Morton’s controversial book Diana: Her True Story had been published just over a month earlier in May.
Five months later, in December 1992, Prime Minister John Major announced the amicable separation of Diana and Prince Charles in the House of Commons.
In Altrincham, Diana was doing what she appeared to enjoy most – getting to know people and the communities and projects they represented.
During her lifetime she worked with numerous charities and supported high-profile campaigns, including banning landmines worldwide and raising awareness of leprosy.
She regularly visited children in hospital, spoke out for the homeless and played a key role in changing the public’s perception of AIDS.
Diana was also a devoted mother to her children William and Harry. It was a happy coincidence when she was photographed on a canal barged called the Prince William at Altrincham!
Diana was expecting Prince Harry when she went on a walkabout at the renaming of the West Cheshire Hospital in May 1984.
The hospital’s name was changed to the Countess of Chester Hospital in honour of one of Diana’s titles.
Prince Harry was born four months later on September 15th. Diana was aware that her second child was a boy, but did not share the knowledge with anyone else.
She certainly looks radiant in the M.E.N. photo of the day as she receives flowers from one of her well-wishers at the hospital.
A year later, Diana was back in the North West to meet the safety crews who rushed to the scene when a plane caught fire at Manchester airport.
The British Airtours Boeing 737 bound for the Greek island of Corfu was forced to abort its take-off due to engine failure. Fire and smoke billowed into the fuselage and 55 people were killed.
Swift action by the plane’s crew and the fire services ensured that 78 of the 131 passengers escaped. Two of the six crew members lost their lives.
The accident led to major changes in aircraft evacuation procedures including new seating layouts next to emergency exits, floor lighting and fire-resistant wall and ceiling panels.
Diana’s next visit to city was in March 1991 when she and Prince Charles toured the Manchester Art Gallery on Moseley Street.
Five months later, in November 1991, Diana visited Wigan and Didsbury where she opened the Francis House Children’s Hospice. She was accompanied by her sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale.
The hospice provides care for seriously ill children in the North West. At the time of its official opening, it had provided vital support for more than 500 children and their families.
In October 1993, Diana flew into Manchester Airport to open Hulme housing project.
The rain just about held off as her Jaguar swept up to the new homes with tenants and officials waiting to greet her.
Children from St Philip’s Primary School waved flags and cheered, then the Princess pulled the cord to unveil the plaque commemorating the project.
During her trips to Manchester, it was revealed that Diana was a big fan of the Granada TV soap Coronation Street. So too, it was said, was the Queen Mother.
Coronation Street certainly loved Diana as posters of her and Prince Charles were prominent on the set at the time of the Royal Wedding in July 1981.
Julie Goodyear, who played barmaid Bet Lynch, even sported a spectacular set of Charles and Diana earrings!
And a portrait of the Royal couple took pride of place in the window of Alf Roberts’ corner shop when the Queen and Prince Philip met the cast in July 1983.
Many more unmissable pictures and memories of the past can be found in Clive Hardy’s brilliant book Around Manchester in the 1970s – on sale at a reduced price for M.E.N. readers.
Just check out our online shop for more details or ring 01928 503777 to place your order.