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Britain's young princes view tributes to mother

Royals hurt by criticism over Diana

September 4, 1997
Web posted at: 6:50 p.m. EDT (2250 GMT)

BALMORAL, Scotland (CNN) -- The two young sons of the late Princess Diana made an emotional public appearance Thursday, stopping to view the cards, letters and flowers left in her honor in front of the royal family's Balmoral estate.

Returning from a memorial service for their mother at a nearby church, Prince William, 15, and Prince Harry, 12, spent several minutes reading the messages left at an impromptu shrine to Diana at the entrance of the estate where the royals traditionally spend their summer vacations.

The princes, dressed in suits, were accompanied by their father, Prince Charles, and their grandmother and grandfather, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

At one point, Prince Harry held on to his father's hand as he leaned down to read one of the letters.

In London, the queen's two younger sons, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, joined the throngs lining up to sign condolence books at St. James's Palace. They mingled with mourners before walking back to nearby Buckingham Palace.

Queen hurt by criticism

These were the first appearances in public by senior members of the royal family since Sunday, shortly after they learned that Princess Diana had been killed in a car crash in Paris.

The royal family looks at flowers and notes left for Diana outside their home in Scotland
video icon 549K/17 sec. small frame QuickTime movie
video icon 1.4M/17 sec. large frame QuickTime movie

Their absence from public view had led to strong criticism among the public and press about the family's perceived indifference to the death of the former wife of Prince Charles.

But in a rare public statement, a spokesman for the royal family said Thursday that the queen and the rest of the royals had been hurt by such suggestions.

"The princess was a much loved national figure, but she was also a mother whose sons miss her deeply. Prince William and Prince Harry themselves want to be with their father and their grandparents at this time in the quiet haven of Balmoral," the queen's press secretary, Geoffrey Crawford, said.

Added Sandy Henney, Prince Charles' press secretary: "All I can say is at a time when you lose a member of the family, I think you want to be at home with the family. And that's where the royal family are at the moment, at home at Balmoral with each other.

"I think it's a very private thing, grief," Henney said. "I hope that with what we said immediately after the accident and what we're saying now, will actually explain to the public that they, too, are sharing their grief."

Queen will address nation Friday

Queen Elizabeth

But in the midst of the criticism, the royal family has begun to make changes in its approach to mourning Diana.

The queen has changed her travel plans, returning to London on Friday from Balmoral 18 hours earlier than originally planned. She will make a televised broadcast to the nation on the evening before Princess Diana's Saturday funeral.

The family also will fly the British flag, or Union Jack, at half-staff at Buckingham Palace during the funeral ceremony, substituting it for the royal standard flown when the queen is in residence, a spokesman for the palace said Thursday.

Under protocol, the royal standard, the queen's flag, is the only flag that flies in front of the palace, and it cannot be flown unless she is there. It is also never flown at half-staff, because it represents the institution of the monarchy.

But as the Union Jack flies at half-staff around the country in honor of Diana, there has been mounting criticism of the empty flag pole above Buckingham Palace, where thousands of mourners have come to leave flowers and tributes.

"There is this massive flagpole and it is totally empty, and the people don't understand why," said a woman standing in front of Buckingham Palace. "They say because the queen's not there, but what's that got to do with anything? Maybe the queen should be there."

Newspaper headline

British newspaper headlines on Thursday captured the sentiments of many royal subjects. "Has the House of Windsor a heart?" asked the Daily Mail. "Show us you care," The Express pleaded. And the Sun's headline blared: "Where is our queen? Where is her flag?"

Charles, William and Harry are scheduled to travel to London on Friday from Balmoral and go to the Chapel Royal at St. James's Palace, where Diana's body has lain since early on Monday. Her body will then be moved to Kensington Palace, her home, where the funeral procession will begin Saturday morning.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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