Royal family hurt by criticism over Diana
Will fly Union Jack at half-staff, palace says
September 4, 1997
Web posted at: 1:30 p.m. EDT
LONDON (CNN) -- In a rare public statement, the royal family said Thursday it was hurt by suggestions that it was indifferent to the country's sorrow over Princess Diana's death.
"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.
It was the first royal reaction to public suggestions that the family should do more to help the country grieve.
The queen also plans to make a broadcast to the nation on Friday, Buckingham Palace said.
And the family 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.
The announcement follows public criticism of the royal family for not flying a flag at half-staff over the palace after Diana's death.
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?"
Since Princess Diana's death, Queen Elizabeth had been condemned by many as distant and heartless. She had failed to issue any statement that paid tribute to Diana's achievements in charity work. Until Thursday, she hadn't acknowledged Diana's role in bringing up two princes.
And she had refused to fly a flag at half-staff over Buckingham Palace, one of three London palaces where tens of thousands of ordinary mourners have left flowers and messages of sympathy for the "people's princess."
Under royal protocol, the queen's flag cannot fly at Buckingham Palace unless she is there. It is never flown at half-staff, because it represents the institution of the monarchy. Right now, she is 500 miles away, in Balmoral, Scotland, with Prince Charles and his children.
"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."
Diana no longer had a royal title, but she remained the most popular member of the monarchy.
"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," said Sandy Henney, Prince Charles' press secretary.
"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."
Candlelight vigils, long and patient lines, and flowers everywhere attest to the depth of the public's mourning. But not everyone thinks the royals are handling it badly.
"Whatever they do, people will find fault," said one woman.
"I think it's easy to knock the royals, but I think they must have gone through absolute emotional hell," said one man.
Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, and Sarah Ferguson, the former wife of the Duke of York and former sister-in-law of the princess, bucked the royal trend, arriving at St. James's Palace on Wednesday to pay their respects. Prince Edward, 33, the queen's youngest son, also signed a book of condolence there on Wednesday.
But Buckingham Palace has said Prince Charles, William and Harry will travel to London on Friday from their Balmoral estate in Scotland and go to the Chapel Royal where Diana's body has lain since early on Monday.
Queen Elizabeth, her husband Prince Philip and the Queen Mother will travel by train overnight, arriving in London for the funeral. The funeral begins at 11 a.m. (1000 GMT) on Saturday. CNN Interactive will have live video streams of the funeral beginning at 5 a.m. EDT.
Correspondent Margaret Lowrie and Reuters contributed to this report.
Related Stories and Sites