In Memory of Diana, wheelchairs and song Royals offer PTC gestures by the hour, more details for funeral

September 05, 1997|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- There will be no drums, no bugles.

There will be only a few soldiers. There will be people in wheelchairs.

And pop star Elton John will sing a song to a princess, "Goodbye England's rose."

These are the unique touches being prepared for tomorrow's funeral for Diana, Princess of Wales.

The details were announced yesterday as Britain's royal family was forced to shatter one long-held tradition after another in the face of public demand and resentment.

A restless British public demanded from its royal family more displays of grief -- and support -- for the late princess, killed Sunday in a Paris car crash.

And the royals, sheltered at their summer retreat at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, responded with gestures by the hour.

Last night, the royal family appeared at the gates of Balmoral to inspect floral bouquets placed there by well-wishers. Queen Elizabeth II wore black, her husband, Prince Philip, and eldest son, Prince Charles, Diana's ex-husband, were in kilts. Diana's two children, Prince William, 15, and Prince Harry, 12, appeared in suits, quietly reading the cards left at the gate. Charles was pictured holding Prince Harry's hand.

The queen will return to London today to speak to the nation on television in a way she has not done before, speaking of her shock and sorrow at the death of Diana.

The queen ordered that a Union Jack be flown at half-staff tomorrow at Buckingham Palace -- the first time a sovereign has been in residence with no royal standard at the masthead. The flag will be hoisted as the queen leaves for the funeral and will fly until midnight.

The public and newspapers have complained that no flag was flying at half-staff at her London residence, where thousands of mourners have arrived to leave flowers and notes of condolence.

The queen's press secretary, Geoffrey Crawford, also faced television cameras for the first time yesterday, reading a statement that said the royal family was "hurt by suggestions that they are indifferent to the country's sorrow at the tragic death of the Princess of Wales."

Usually, the queen's press secretary is neither seen nor named.

The queen's two younger sons, Princes Andrew and Edward, waded through throngs of mourners after signing condolence books in London.

The details of Diana's funeral also reflect a desire to meet the wishes of a princess whom many Britons believe was not well-treated by the royal family.

Millions of people -- some predictions are now as high as 6 million, or 10 percent of the entire population of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland -- are expected to line the London procession route to bid farewell.

Tonight, Diana's coffin will be taken by hearse from St. James's Palace to her former residence at Kensington Palace.

Tomorrow her final journey begins, when her coffin, draped in a royal standard,is to placed on a horse-drawn gun carriage for a solemn procession through the heart of the city to Westminster Abbey, its church bell tolling once a minute.

During the procession, the cortege will be joined by more than 500 people representing the causes Diana supported, from AIDS research to land-mine reform to charities representing those with physical disabilities.

There remains intense speculation that Prince William is determined to walk behind his mother's casket. But a royal spokeswoman said no decision had been made.

The service will provide a mix of modern and traditional tastes, the product of intense meetings that took place throughout the week in the 19th-century Chinese Drawing Room of Buckingham Palace.

With no blueprint to cope with a royal disaster of this magnitude, representatives of the Spencers and the Windsors, along with government and religious officials, met to iron out conflicting emotions and differences to create what they hope will be a seamless event.

Mostly, this is a Spencer family affair. No member of the royal family will speak during the service.

Hymns will include the patriotic "I Vow to Thee My Country," the words and melody that echoed through St. Paul's Cathedral on Diana's wedding day in 1981.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey, will lead the prayers. Diana's brother, the eighth Earl Spencer, will read a personal tribute. Her sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, will recite poems.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair will read from 1 Corinthians 13, love never faileth. The Very Reverend Dr. Wesley Carr, Dean of Westminster, will read "The Bidding," a salute to Diana.

Carr, who never met Diana, spent three days on the text. He is to say: "She kept company with kings and queens, with princes and presidents, but we especially remember her humane concerns and how she met individuals and made them feel significant.

"In her death she commands the sympathy of millions."

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