Résumé

Princess-Diana Square in Paris, one place, one eternal flame for two commemorations: that of Liberty symbolized by the copy of the flame at the top of the Statue of Liberty in New York and that of the place of the accident that cost the Princess her life.

Localisation
Access

Place Diana
Paris 75016

  • Metro: line 9 - Alma-Marceau station
  • RER: line C - Pont de l'Alma station
  • Bus: 42, 63, 72, 80, 92
Address

Place Diana
Paris 75016

Coordinates Latitude Longitude
Sexagesimal (°, ', ") 48° 51′ 51″ N 2° 18′ 04″ E
Degré décimal (GPS) 48.86419 2.30091
Description complète

Princess-Diana Square is a new place located in the Chaillot district of the 16th arrondissement of Paris, 500 m noth-est of the Eiffel Tower along the quai de Seine.

Princess-Diana Square in Paris, one place, one eternal flame for two commemorations: that of Liberty symbolized by the copy of the flame at the top of the Statue of Liberty in New York and that of the place of the accident that cost the Princess her life.

The Place Maria Callas never inaugurated

In fact, on July 24, 1997, the Council of Paris had taken a municipal decree creating the square on a part of the Place de l'Alma. It was to be called "Place Maria-Callas" and the inauguration was to take place on September 11, 1997, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the death of the singer Maria Callas. On this same square already stood the Flame of Liberty, a replica of the torch of the Statue of Liberty in New York. Erected in 1989 to celebrate the Franco-American friendship, it had since been somewhat forgotten.

Princess Diana's fatal accident in the Alma tunnel

Diana Spencer was killed on August 31, 1997 in a traffic accident in the tunnel of the Pont de l'Alma, which passes under the Place de l'Alma and is located below the monument. The public then diverted the Flame from its initial function, spontaneously transforming it into an altar in memory of Diana.

Origin of the name of Princess-Diana Square

The square bears the name of Princess Diana Spencer (1961-1997).

Popular fervor at the site of Lady Diana's accident and around the Flame led the Council of Paris, then led by Mayor Jean Tiberi, to abandon the inauguration of the Maria-Callas square. It was then supposed to take the name of Princess Diana, but this project would have been abandoned because of an opposition of the court of England. The square remained unnamed for a few years.

The project to rename the square "Diana Square" in homage to the princess then resumed. It was voted in the Council of Paris in early June 2019, on an enlarged right of way, 22 years after the death of the Princess.

In order not to interfere with the popular tribute that celebrated the memory of the Princess of Wales internationally, the square having become the obligatory passage of her admirers, the name of the singer Maria Callas is finally given later to the alley Maria-Callas, further west in the 16th arrondissement.

The Flame of Liberty in Princess-Diana Square

The Flame of Liberty has received renewed interest in connection with the accident of Diana Spencer. The accident took place in the night, and the morning of the announcement of her death, the monument was covered with flowers by anonymous people. Since then, fans and tourists have come to pay their respects, to lay wreaths, to post messages, photographs of Diana or pages from magazines about the accident, to write graffiti on the nearby railing, or to take souvenir photos, diverting the flame from its original function and spontaneously transforming it into an altar in Diana's memory.

The song "Candle in the Wind" by Elton John

The flame-shaped monument of 3.5 m existed at this location since 1987. It was given as a thank you to the French who restored the Statue of Liberty in New York in 1983. The full-scale replica of the New York flame was financed by a subscription sponsored by the International Herald Tribune, which was celebrating its centennial.

The song "Candle in the Wind" by Elton John was immediately associated with the "Flame of Liberty" monument located at the site of Lady Diana's accident. Since then, some visitors believe that the flame is a specially built monument to the memory of the princess. The monument is now presented by the website of the Paris tourist office as the "Stèle commémorative à la Princesse Diana".

The reality and the imaginary around the death of Princess Diana

The monument officially commemorating the death of the princess is, in fact, the Clos des Blancs-Manteaux: it is a public garden in the Marais district, located at 21 rue des Blancs-Manteaux, and is intended to teach gardening and ecological gestures to children.

An isolated initiative also aims to have a bronze monument dedicated to Diana erected on the Place de l'Alma, thanks to a private subscription.

Some conspiracy theorists see a link between the torch in the Princess-Diana Square, which they believe is a hidden symbol of the Illuminati's intentions for the world, and Diana's death, which they believe was an assassination organized by the same Illuminati

The flame, because of this detour from its original function, has been described as a "social palimpsest," and presented as an example of the notion of "counter-monument" developed by James Young.

Moreover, the flame is cited among other "fictitious tombs," that is, monuments to which the public comes to pay their respects as if they were graves, while the body of the deceased is kept elsewhere (in this case for Diana, on an island in Althorp, the Spencer family estate in the English county of Northamptonshire).

The New Flame of Liberty in the gardens of th US Embassy in Paris

In order to preserve the original symbol of the Flame of Liberty, a new Flame of Liberty, a sculpture by Jean Cardot, was unveiled on June 14, 2008. "Physically", it has little to do with the original Flame of Liberty on the Place de l'Alma (see photo).

It still symbolizes the Franco-American friendship since it was erected in the gardens of the U.S. Embassy in France and was inaugurated in the presence of the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, and the President of the United States, George W. Bush. The project was a joint effort of French businessman Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière and U.S. Ambassador Craig Roberts Stapleton. It bears two quotations respectively from the Frenchman Lafayette ("Humanity has won its battle, freedom now has a country.") and the American Benjamin Franklin ("Where Liberty dwells, there is my country."). It was made using the lost-wax casting process by the Fondation de Coubertin's art foundry.

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