September 4, 1997 in Nation/World

The Cold Throne While The World Mourns Di, Britain’s Royals Keep A Stiff Upper Lip.

William D. Montalbano Los Angeles Times
 

Buckingham Palace agreed Wednesday to make Princess Diana’s funeral more accessible as national mourning was punctuated by sharp criticism of the British royal family as cold, remote and unfeeling.

Amid perhaps the greatest outpouring of public grief in British history, anti-royal anger echoed across newspapers, among commentators and in the unending lines of mourners waiting patiently through wet days and nights to pay their respects to “the people’s princess.”

“People in the queue were saying that her boys should be down here now to see how much we loved her,” said Londoner Peter Rons, who waited four hours to offer condolences. “Diana crossed barriers other royals couldn’t. I know royals are not supposed to show emotion. Why not?”

Five condolence books that were opened Sunday at St. James’s Palace grew to 16 Tuesday and to 43 Wednesday. But the lines just got longer at the palace where Diana’s body lies, unseen by the public, in the Chapel Royal.

Police say Saturday morning’s funeral may draw as many as 6 million people in the largest public display that 2,000-year-old London has ever seen.

On Wednesday, four days after the 36-year-old princess died in a Paris car crash, the royal family issued a three-line communique from a vacation castle in Scotland thanking people for their affection.

The royals said they were “deeply touched and enormously grateful,” and “taking strength from the overwhelming support of the public who are sharing their tremendous loss and grief.”

Diana’s 15-year-old son, Prince William, will lead the procession, walking behind his mother’s horse-drawn coffin Saturday morning, British sources say. He will be accompanied by his father, Prince Charles, and by Diana’s brother, Charles, the earl of Spencer. About 500 mourners from 100 charities to which Diana lent her name are expected to follow.

Wednesday, in royal counterpoint to an ever-growing ocean of mourners’ flowers on a circuit of grief around London, a bouquet of lilies arrived at a London children’s‘ hospital that was one of Diana’s favorite charities. The card was signed in the name of Prince Charles, Prince William and 12-year-old Prince Harry, Diana’s second son.

For many, Wednesday’s gesture from a royal family with which Diana fought repeatedly seemed too little, too late.

“Not one word has come from a royal lip, not one tear has been shed in public from a royal eye. It is as if no one in the royal family has a soul,” said Britain’s largest newspaper, the Sun, in an editorial. “From the outside looking in, the House of Windsor seems a cold, compassion-free zone where duty and protocol push emotions into a dark corner,” the popular tabloid said.

Charles will fly to London with his sons Friday night, the palace said, so that they can spend some time with their mother’s body. Queen Elizabeth, her husband Prince Philip and the 97-year-old queen mother will make an overnight journey on the Royal Train, arriving Saturday morning for the funeral.

The young government of Prime Minister Tony Blair applied quiet pressure on the palace in consultation with the Spencer family to make the funeral more open than a stuffy, protocol-controlled affair of state, British sources say.

“It is important there is a longer route, so we can have as many people able to participate in a hugh event … not just for us here in Britain, but for people throughout the world. We want it to be something of which Princess Diana would have been proud,” Blair told a crowd outside Downing Street Wednesday.

Sinn Fein, political arm of the outlawed Irish Republican Army, will miss Britain’s vivacious princess, it appears. While its leaders canvass the United States for support against British rule in Northern Ireland, the Sinn Fein party issued a statement expressing condolences on the death of the princess - whom the IRA plotted to kill in 1983, according to defectors.

As the funeral date approaches, people repeatedly tell reporters and one another that one of Diana’s greatest appeals was that she was an accessible, emotive member of an aloof royal family.

“Diana wasn’t like one of them,” said office worker Sharon Booth in a condolence line stretching eight hours long. “I certainly wouldn’t have come here for any other member of the royal family.”

She was echoed by comments from mourners around the country and by some of Britain’s leading newspapers.

In an editorial entitled, “If only the royals could weep with the people,” the Independent said, “We hope the Windsors and their advisers are watching the mood on the streets and learning from it.”

Charles, the heir to the British throne, went to collect Diana’s body in Paris but has not said a public word since her death, remaining in Scotland with his parents and the children. That has not burnished his public image.

“Stony dignity is a nice quality in cathedrals, but it is less appealing in human beings,” said Scottish commentator Gillian Glover. “Charles must unlearn the lessons of his whole life if he is not to estrange himself from his boys.”

After the funeral service, a motorcade carrying Diana’s coffin will return down part of the funeral route and along the border of Hyde Park.

The funeral services, which will be attended by 2,000 people, are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. (3 a.m. PDT) and will be followed by a national moment of silence.

Palace officials said they had not determined the exact starting time of the procession, but news services reported that it would begin about 10 a.m. (2 a.m. PDT).

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