How the Millennium Dome was set to be Princess Diana tribute following her tragic death

Princess Diana died two years before the Dome was completed

Princess Diana In Argentina
(Image credit: Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

Plans for London’s iconic Millennium Dome were almost scrapped in favor of a huge memorial tribute to the late Princess Diana, it has emerged.  

  • The Dome was built to mark the turn of the millennium, but now it’s understood that some briefly considered converting the site into a touching royal tribute. 
  • Princess Diana died in 1997 and classified documents have revealed a proposal to turn the London landmark into a memorial.  
  • In other royal news, Princess Anne reflects on her Olympic past in a heartfelt video

London’s Millennium Dome might now be one of the capital's most iconic landmarks, but it seems that the Dome project wasn't always quite so popular, with governmental concerns rising over its cost at the time of its construction. It was built to mark the turn of the millennium in 2000, and it has now been revealed that the Dome's site was briefly considered for a tribute to the late Princess Diana instead.

As reported by The Telegraph, disclosures from the National Archives shared that political aide Peter Hyman warned the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathan Powell, that the Dome was being seen as a “pointless waste of money with no lasting legacy or worthwhile purpose”.  

However, following Princess Diana’s tragic death in August 1997, an alternative plan for the Dome was suggested. The publication reports that in a phone call just days later on September 2, Sam Chisholm, who sat on the Dome’s board, suggested that, “the Millennium project be completely refashioned, the site extended, to accommodate, for example, a hospital, businesses, charities, private residences, and the whole thing named ‘The Princess Diana Centre’.”

A long exposure general view of the O2 Arena and River Thames, on December 29, 2018

(Image credit: Photo by Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images)

This initial idea is then understood to have been taken to Powell two days later, who told PM Tony Blair in a memo that a “scheme like this would certainly meet the public mood and it gets us off the hook of the existing plan at Greenwich with all its problems.” 

Meanwhile, Chisholm reportedly described the plan as “a lasting and appropriate tribute by the people to Diana, Princess of Wales”, suggesting it could become the “eighth wonder of the world”. 

And while this already sounds impressive, he later outlined his proposal in more detail in a further meeting with Powell. This supposedly involved an exhibition of the late Princess of Wales’ life, a children’s medical research centre, a hospital, a national ballet centre and a centre for British fashion, among many other elements to be included in the tribute.

Diana The Princess Of Wales Attends A Gala Reception & Preview Of Her 'Dresses Auction' At Christies In London

(Image credit: Photo by Antony Jones/UK Press via Getty Images)

“As the millennium will last for 1,000 years so should this memorial to Diana, Princess of Wales last for 1,000 years”, Chisholm is believed to have noted.

Despite his belief in the plans, however, it seems that not everyone was convinced. It's said that during the initial meetings, Chisholm remarked upon how the new idea would "not go down particularly well" with the Royal Family. And while he "apparently [saw] this as a pretty big plus", according to a note written by an aide to Peter Mandelson, it's thought others did not necessarily share this view.

Although The Telegraph reports that PM Tony Blair was encouraged to discuss the proposal with Diana's brother Earl Spencer, by early October 1997 the idea had come to nothing. Instead, the Millennium Dome opened on 31 December 1999, before closing and being rebranded as the O2 arena in 2007.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (L) and Britain's Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex unveil a statue of their mother, Princess Diana at The Sunken Garden in Kensington Palace

(Image credit: Photo by DOMINIC LIPINSKI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

These new revelations come just weeks after a Princess Diana memorial statue was unveiled at Kensington Palace. This was seen by some as a sign of the "Spencer generation taking over", with its strong representation of Diana's family. 

The much-anticipated and touching unveiling took place on what would have been her 60th birthday. 

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!