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Royals say they're 'deeply touched' by public outpouring

The Royal Family

Mother: 'I thank God for the gift of Diana'

September 3, 1997
Web posted at: 7:19 p.m. EDT (2319 GMT)

LONDON (CNN) -- Members of the British royal family say they have been "deeply touched" by the tremendous outpouring of emotion shown by people around the world in the wake of the death of Princess Diana.

Amid increasing criticism of the royals' stoic style of mourning and lack of comment, Buckingham Palace Wednesday released its first public remarks about Diana's death since a brief 24-word statement made just hours after the Paris car crash that took her life early Sunday.

"All the royal family, especially the Prince of Wales, Prince William and Prince Harry, are taking strength from the overwhelming support of the public, who are sharing their tremendous sense of loss and grief," said Wednesday's statement. "They are deeply touched and enormously grateful."

Diana's mother expresses pride

Princess Diana's mother, Frances Shand Kydd, also released a statement Wednesday after leaving her home in Scotland's Isle of Seil to travel to London for her daughter's funeral.

"I thank God for the gift of Diana and for all her loving and giving," she said. "I give her back to Him, with my love, pride and admiration to rest in peace."

On Wednesday afternoon, Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, visited the chapel at St. James's Palace where her body rests before the altar, shielding his face from photographers with his hand. Other relatives and friends have also been quietly visiting the palace.

"There is a constant, loving, prayerful presence in the chapel," said one of Queen Elizabeth's chaplains, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Royals criticized for stiff upper lip

The royal family has been the subject of press and public criticism for its perceived silence and distance since Diana's body was returned home to Britain by her former husband, Prince Charles.

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Diana's young sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, have remained at Balmoral Castle in Scotland -- some 500 miles from Diana's coffin and the throngs of mourners who have waited in hours-long lines to express their condolences in London.

The only glimpse of Diana's sons came just hours after learning that their mother was dead, as they sat stiffly beside their father on the way to church, as scheduled, amidst the photographers' glare.

This traditional, dry-eyed, unemotional mourning style of the royal family, often described with the phrase "stiff upper lip," hasn't sat well with some Britons -- especially since it contrasts so starkly with the more open, emotional style that Diana exhibited in life.

"It's just a typical reaction of the royal family. Stick to protocol, don't worry about human emotions," said one woman waiting to offer her condolences at St. James's Palace.

"It proves, if anyone every doubted it, that the royals are not like us," declared The Sun newspaper. "They are an alien breed from a planet which is stuck in a 19th century time warp."

"Show us there's a heart in the House of Windsor," the Sun said.

Blair makes plea for restraint

But to traditionalists, the royal forbearance in the face of Diana's death spells dignity and courage that are necessary for the monarchy.

"They are dealing with it in their own way," said Ronald Allison, the queen's former press secretary. "It may not be our way."

To the suggestion that Queen Elizabeth make an address at the funeral, Charles Moore, editor of the conservative Daily Telegraph, said, "It simply is not the way that these things are done."

Amidst the public comment over the royals' behavior, Prime Minister Tony Blair Wednesday made an appeal for restraint, saying the royal family should be given space to cope with a "tremendously difficult situation."

"They are trying to make all the practical arrangements ... for the funeral as well, as the same time as comforting the two boys," Blair said. "They share our grief very much, and we should respect that."

Reuters contributed to this report.


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