Silence Broken To Defend Queen Buckingham Palace Statement Denies Royal Family Disputes

Stung by public criticism of the royal family over its conduct after Princess Diana’s death, Buckingham Palace on Monday broke its usual silence to defend Queen Elizabeth II against her critics.

There was no battle royal, the palace claimed, to get the monarch’s approval for a public funeral for the princess.

Nor did Prince Charles push his mother into agreeing to the public ceremony, it said. And there were no clashes between the monarch and the princess’s family, the Spencers, the palace said.

“Suggestions that pressure had to be exerted on the queen by anyone, including the Prince of Wales, are false,” the palace statement said.

“Stories of disagreements and heated conversations between the Prince of Wales and Sir Robert Fellowes (the queen’s private secretary) are equally false.”

The unusually forthright statement reflected the upheaval within the monarchy since the princess died in a car crash Aug. 31. Her death at age 36 triggered an outpouring of public grief that underlined Diana’s popularity and emphasized how different she appeared from other royals.

Newspapers and millions of people who thronged London palaces with tributes in the week after Diana’s death pressured the 71-year-old queen to make a series of reverses.

The queen returned early to London from Balmoral Castle in Scotland, and paid tribute to Diana in a rare live broadcast. She also ordered the British flag flown at half-staff over Buckingham Palace - something courtiers had insisted just was not done.

Britain’s Channel 4 television network said Sept. 8 that the queen and Charles were locked in furious disputes, with the queen trying at one point to avoid public mention of Diana’s name.

Diana, who was divorced from Charles a year ago, was killed with her boyfriend, millionaire Dodi Fayed, in a high-speed crash in Paris. They were fleeing photographers with a legally drunken driver at the wheel.

Channel 4 said Charles, the heir to the British throne, had to call Prime Minister Tony Blair from the plane bringing Diana’s body back from France in order to get her coffin placed in St. James’s Palace and to get the royal family to send a wreath.

Spencer denied the report. However, at Diana’s funeral he electrified Westminster Abbey by pledging to protect Diana’s sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, from prying reporters and from suffocating royal tradition.

Harry turned 13 on Monday. The palace refused to say how he was marking the day. He and his 15-year-old brother have returned to their boarding schools.

Outside the palaces, volunteers still were clearing tons of flowers, and mourners lined up to sign condolence books.

“Stories of disputes between the royal family and the Spencer family are false,” the palace statement said. “The funeral arrangements were made in less than a week. Inevitably there were some minor differences over points of detail but these were swiftly and amicably resolved.”

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