The nation mourns Diana

The scene of the crash which killed Princess Diana

August 31. In the early hours, apparently trying to get away from paparazzi photographers, a car carrying Diana, Princess of Wales, and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed crashed in a Paris underpass. Dodi and the driver, Henri Paul, died instantly. Diana was taken to hospital unconscious and died soon afterwards. Her bodyguard, Trevor Rees Jones, was terribly injured but survived.

The car had been speeding and none of the dead was wearing seat belts. And yet as the news broke on a dumbstruck world, the initial anger was directed at the media and, indirectly, at the public. Had Diana been, quite literally, chased to her death by the photographers who fed the world's insatiable appetite for pictures of her? Later it emerged that the driver had been drinking and there had been a fault with the car.

Diana was 36 and left two sons, the princes William and Harry. As Britain mourned, the Queen and the Royal Family remained at Balmoral and no flag flew at half-mast over Buckingham Palace. Tributes poured in from around the world and the funeral became a focus for a type of public grief never seen before in Britain. People threw bouquets at the hearse and applauded as it passed.

Diana, Princess of Wales was buried at the island on the lake at her family home of Althorp.

February 27. The cloning of Dolly the sheep was claimed as a major genetic engineering breakthrough by scientists in Edinburgh. The animal had been created from the tissue of an adult ewe thus becoming the first mammal ever to be cloned in this way. The scientific creators took cells from a six-year-old ewe and used them to fertilise an egg from another ewe whose own chromosomes had been removed. That meant that Dolly was a copy of the animal from which she came.

March 22. The eyes of the world focused on the night sky as the brightest comet for 400 years made its closest approach to the earth. The 20-mile wide lump of ice, frozen gas and sooty dust - named Comet Hale-Bopp - skirted the planet at a distance of 122 million miles at a speed of 100,000 miles an hour. Two fiery tails of dust and steam cascaded off the the comet's icy surface as a result of radiation from the sun.

May 2. The Labour Party rocketed to victory by a huge margin in one of the most stunning general election results this century. Every opinion poll had predicted a victory for "New Labour" which ousted the Conservative Party which had been in power for 18 years. The scale of the win surpassed the wildest dreams of the new prime minister, Tony Blair. The party was swept into power on a ticket which promoted efficiency and challenged alleged Tory sleaze and corruption.

July 1. Britain's 99-year lease on Hong Kong ran out and at midnight it was officially handed over as "a special administrative region" of China. Among those attending the handing-over ceremony were the Prince of Wales and China's president, Jiang Zemin. The celebrations included spectacular firework displays and jubilant crowds thronging the Chinese capital, Beijing.


In brief

February 1. In Wolverhampton 25 soccer fans were arrested by police as Wolves clashed with Stoke City at Molineux.

February 9. The ashes of 1960s icon Timothy Leary were launched into orbit in the first ever space funeral.

February 19. A 66-year-old Stafford man was trapped for several hours in a bog of cow slurry while taking a short cut home, before his cries alerted rescuers.

March 1. At Birmingham's Indoor Arena, 95-year-old athlete, Everitt Hosack, jumped into the record books with a world-beating two metre long jump during the European Indoor Veterans Athletics Championships.

March 3. Wednesbury Tubes, one of Wolverhampton's best known companies, was sold to a firm in Memphis, Tennessee, for more than 12 million. The new bosses were Mueller Industries.

March 26. In San Diego the bodies of 39 people were found in a mansion after a mass suicide linked to the spectacular appearance of the comet Hale-Bopp.

March 27. Wolverhampton shopkeeper, Dave Painter, who runs the Philadelphia Flyer, created a right royal bagel at his shop to commemorate a visit to the premises the previous week by Prince Charles.

June 29. In Las Vegas, boxing champion Mike Tyson, who was convicted of rape in 1992, was in trouble again after biting off part of his opponent's ear during a heavyweight championship bout.

August 15. A sentence of death by lethal injection was passed in Denver on Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber who killed 168 people in an explosion.