A look back at Princess Diana in Chicago

Monday, May 8, 2017
A look back at Princess Diana's Chicago visit
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Princess Diana visited Chicago a year before she died 1997.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- This summer will mark two decades since the death of Princess Diana in a tragic car crash in Paris in 1997.

A year before her death, Princess Diana visited Chicago and captivated hundreds including those who attended a star-studded gala raising money for cancer causes.

In 1996, she visited on the invitation of Northwestern University President Henry Bienen, who is now president of the Poetry Foundation. Her first appearance was with star-struck co-eds on the Northwestern campus.

"Must have been a very difficult time - not all the publicity about the separation from Charles was good," Bienen said. "Contrary to the discussion of her as a troubled person, she struck me to the outer world as easy in her skin."

During her stay in Chicago, Princess Diana stayed at the Drake in the presidential suite which is now called the Princess Diana suite. Many employees were charmed by her including the doorman.

"People were everywhere all over the place. It was a nice crowd. She went over to greet people, that's the way she was," said Tommy Williams, a Drake doorman for 33 years.

On her second day, she gave a speech at a breast cancer symposium. In the afternoon, she visited Cook County Hospital.

Then, an evening gala where she wore a stunning Versace purple dress as she descended down the staircases at the Field Museum. That night, Tony Bennett sang and Phil Donohue got the first dance.

Her final event was a luncheon hosted by then-Illinois First Lady Brenda Edgar.

During one of her appearances, Princess Diana told the crowd: "I hope out paths will cross again in the very near future but until then from the bottom of my heart, thank you Chicago."