THE day after Princess Diana’s funeral I went into central London, naively assuming that “most people would have gone home by then”.

I lived quite near London at the time, and had stayed there overnight with friends. On the Sunday afternoon we decided to check out the Diana tributes and soak up some of the atmosphere of that extraordinary time. We thought there’d just be a few diehards in Union Jack top hats wandering about. But of course the place was heaving with crowds, not just Royal fans and tourists, but also people like us just having a nosey round.

It was overwhelming, even to us ghoulish spectators. And gazing at all the cards, candles, balloons, photos, stuffed toys and other trinkets pinned to the gates of Kensington Palace, and the huge carpet of flowers sprawled on the ground, my main thought was: ‘Someone is going to have clear all this up.’

Many of the bunches of flowers had been there a week and were starting to rot, and there was a heck of a lot of plastic wrapping that would need to be recycled. When people leave floral tributes at times like this, and add to the scale of them as they mount up, do they ever think about those who will be tasked with the mammoth job of disposing of it all?

We’d never really seen anything like it until Diana’s death, but since then it has become commonplace, whenever anyone in the public eye dies, to leave a mountain of flowers and trinkets in their memory. Isn’t it all just ‘tribute litter’?

Since the death of the Duke of Edinburgh was announced last Friday, people have defied lockdown measures to lay flowers at the gates of Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Sandringham and Balmoral. This is despite both the Government and Palace officials urging mourners not to leave tributes at Royal residences, and to pay their respects at home, online, instead. We are, after all, still in the grip of a global pandemic. Some flowers were being removed by Royal aides minutes after they were left by the public.

It’s quite touching that people thought so much of Prince Philip that they’re moved to pay some kind of tribute - but I can’t help thinking he wouldn’t have been particularly impressed with such sentimental gestures.

He struck me as a no-nonsense chap, like many men of his generation, particularly those with his kind of schooling and military background. Aside from the pomp and ceremony of Royal life, to say he didn’t like fuss was probably something of an understatement. So I doubt he’d have gone in for mawkish displays of affection, however well intended they may be. He might have had more respect for people who, instead of laying flowers, donated to his charities.

During that strange week following Princess Diana’s death there was an uncomfortable moment when senior members of the Royal family came out before crowds to look at some of the flowers and handwritten messages. It was all very awkward, and I’m not convinced the Royals were particularly moved by the floral sea. It was clearly a PR stunt to appease the public. Prince Harry has said since that he found it strange that so many people who didn’t even know his mother could grieve so publicly for her. Quite.

I’m afraid I don’t find these death tributes moving. Poppy wreaths are different, as they are laid once a year for Armistice commemorations. But when it comes to plastic-wrapped bunches of flowers left in tatty piles by people who are urged to stay away, what I’m thinking is: ‘Someone is going to have to clear all this up.’