A feud with the royal family Eulogy: Instead of offering a message of reconciliation, Diana's brother fires a broadside.

Farewell To A Princess

September 07, 1997|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

LONDON -- The British royal family was seeking reconciliation with its subjects.

But Charles, the ninth Earl Spencer, had other plans during his funeral tribute yesterday to his sister, Diana, Princess of Wales.

He aimed a broadside at the royal family when he said that Diana "needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic." Diana was forced to give up the title "Her Royal Highness" after she divorced Prince Charles last year.

Spencer also said that as the "blood family" of Diana's sons, Princes William and Harry, he and his two sisters pledged to continue steering the boys "so that their souls are not simply immersed by duty and tradition."

Queen Elizabeth II, who is Spencer's godmother, did not seem pleased. She did not join in the applause that echoed through Westminster Abbey after his comments.

Neither did the other royals.

Since Diana's death, there has been a growing breach between the royals and their subjects, who complained that Britain's leading family was not showing enough public emotion.

To appease the people, the royal family began to break with protocol, culminating in the queen's highly unusual live speech to the nation, in which she saluted Diana on the eve of the funeral.

The queen also allowed the Union Jack to fly at half-staff over Buckingham Palace yesterday. Usually, the family's Royal Standard flies over Buckingham Palace, and then only when the monarch is in residence, and never at half-staff.

In another gesture toward reconciliation, the queen led the royal family out the Buckingham Palace gates yesterday in a show of support for Diana. Three generations of royals were on display. The queen even bowed her head as Diana's coffin passed during the funeral procession.

Although the public approved Spencer's speech with cheers, many commentators were shocked by its bitterness.

"Instead of knitting wounds up, it seemed deliberately to open them," said Dr. David Starkey, a London School of Economics historian.

"It seemed to be an act of such calculated vengeance," he said. "The speech showed on the one hand a desire to look after the children, but on the other hand made them victims of a public tug of war.

"It was as if he [Spencer] had seen one parent killed and then wanted to destroy the other parent's public reputation. If one had had a genuine concern for the princes, one wouldn't have said that."

Hugo Vickers, a royal biographer, said elements of the speech were "slightly brutal."

"It was a little bit ill-mannered to direct those kind of comments at the royal family sitting opposite, when they had made such an effort in the past few days to express their grief," he said.

Outside Westminster Abbey, there was broad agreement that Spencer's speech had hit its mark.

"The royal family is not very popular at the moment," said Maria Quigley, who camped all night in front of the Abbey to pay respects to Diana.

"I think 80 percent of the nation has distanced itself from the royal family," she added. "We were here for Diana. She was more like one of us. Without Diana, there isn't much to look forward to."

Spencer isn't afraid to air his views. For years, the 33-year-old has carried on a relentless battle with the British press, once describing it as a cancer on British society -- even though he was once a reporter for NBC-TV in the United States.

He blamed the news media for Diana's death and withdrew funeral invitations to British tabloid editors.

Within the past two years, Spencer moved to Cape Town, South Africa, after he found his family's Northamptonshire estate too expensive.

But he returned to Britain this week like a man on a mission.

He buried a sister.

And he made life more difficult for the royal family.

Pub Date: 9/07/97

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