The following two articles are from the on-line edition of the Hampstead and Highgate Express in August 2003, and from the on May 2, 2003.

     HamHigh logo      Undertakers cash in on Diana
connection in a grim rehearsal
BOSSES at a Camden-based funeral directors will not back down over plans to sell the hearse used for Princess Diana's funeral.

Leverton and Sons, which has bases in Hampstead, Kentish Town and Gospel Oak, was the subject of negative publicity last week over plans to auction privately the historic Daimler Sovereign which was used for the 1997 funeral.

Directors of the firm refused to be drawn on the subject this week. A spokeswoman for the company told the Ham&High it was a "private matter" and would not comment further.

It is understood the car is to be sold privately by London auctioneers Coys and could fetch up to £100,000, around £95,000 more than it would be worth without the royal connection.

On the day of the funeral, the car became the focus of international attention as it journeyed from London to the Princess's final resting place at Althorp in Northamptonshire.

Leverton and Sons, which is run by brothers Clive and Keith Leverton, has been established in the north London area for more than 200 years. The company also handled the funeral arrangements for the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.

   Hearse photo logo   

Diana's undertakers sell her hearse

By Jane Kerr, Royal Reporter

May 2, 2003

PRINCESS Diana's hearse driver Sidney Clarke last night told of his sorrow over the sale of the vehicle and said he feared it would be snapped up by a foreign buyer. The retired 66-year-old thought the Daimler Sovereign would be going to a museum and had no idea his former bosses would flog it for £100,000.

Sid spoke out after London undertakers Leverton and Sons put the motor on the market for the vastly inflated sum. He said: "It's quite sad it's going. I don't know who has got that kind of money. Without the royal connection it's probably worth about £4,000. I suppose it will end up in America. They told me they were going to keep the hearse and it was going into a museum, so I'm surprised that it's now for sale. "I don't know what has changed their mind. Maybe they couldn't find a museum to take it. "I was the driver of that car and when I retired I was interested in what was going to happen to it."

Leverton has asked London auctioneers Coys to sell the car discreetly on their behalf rather than advertise it in trade journals. A source said: "They wanted it done privately in the interests of good taste and decency." But while the undertakers is asking £100,000 for the hearse, the Queen Mother's almost identical 1970 Daimler is being advertised in a magazine for £30,000.

Last night the firm, run by brothers Clive and Keith Leverton, insisted it was doing nothing wrong. Clive added: "The car is for sale because I want to sell it. It's as simple as that. "Buckingham Palace is aware of what's happening but don't want to be seen to be making money out of the connection. I am not going to say anything more." Coys said: "We have been asked by the vendor, in the interests of good taste, not to discuss this matter with the press."

Leverton, based in Camden, North London, was hired by Buckingham Palace for Diana's 1997 funeral and the Queen Mother five years later. As a gesture of gratitude to the company for handling the princess's farewell Mr Clarke was awarded the Royal Victoria Medal by the Queen. He was chosen to drive the hearse as he was Leverton's most senior employee at the time. Mr Clarke, who retired last year after a decade with the firm, said the Daimler was taken out of service two months after Diana's funeral and has been kept in a South London garage ever since. But bosses were inundated with inquiries from clients who wanted to have the hearse and driver for their service. The grandad, who is waiting for a hip operation, added: "Right up until I retired, people still used to ring up asking for the same car and driver. They couldn't have the hearse, but I had lots of work."

On the day of Diana's funeral, the hearse was the focus of worldwide attention as it slowly made its way from central London, along the M1 and up to the Spencer ancestral Althorp home in Northants. During the journey Sid had to use the windscreen wipers to clear flowers thrown onto the motor by mourners lining the route. The last public glimpse of the princess's casket came as the hearse disappeared through the gates of Althorp - providing one of the most poignant and memorable images of the day. The vehicle had also been used to take Diana to a London mortuary from RAF Brize Norton when her body was flown back from Paris after the crash that killed her and lover Dodi Fayed.

Sid, of North West London, recalled his role in the funeral. He said: "There wasn't time to get emotional. That came afterwards. I had a job to do and I had to concentrate on that. "Some paper wrote afterwards that it was a battered old hearse, but it wasn't. We spent a week beforehand pulling it up, cleaning it. It was even given a complete respray. "The night before the funeral someone stayed up all night watching it and the police checked in every two hours. The Palace sent round their chief mechanic to make sure it was sound. "All I was hoping on that morning was that when I turned the key, it started. The whole thing was quite nerve-wracking but I'm very proud to have played my small part." Sid said police had told him they were worried mourners might throw themselves in front of the hearse. An officer rode with him and boss Keith on the journey. He added: "I was told I had to act on the orders of the officer. If he said 'throw the car into reverse quickly' or 'speed up', I had to do it."

Apart from Diana and the Queen Mother, Leverton also handled Princess Margaret's funeral.


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