Queen to address Brits

By Robert Seely Associated Press Published:

And the queen responded. Buckingham Palace announced she will make a broadcast to the nation on Friday, the day before Diana's funeral.

Her spokesman, Geoffrey Crawford, also made a rare television appearance to counter accusations that the queen has failed to meet the national mood of grief.

"The queen has asked me to say that the royal family have been have been hurt by suggestions that they are indifferent to the country's sorrow at the tragic death of the Princess of Wales," Crawford said, appearing on the BBC's midday television newscast.

The queen has remained with Prince Charles and her grandsons Prince William, 15, and Prince Harry, 12, at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. She planned to come to London by train Friday night with Prince Philip and the Queen Mother for Saturday's funeral at Westminster Abbey.

"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 grandparents at this time in the quiet haven of Balmoral," Crawford said.

"As their grandmother, the queen is helping the princes to come to terms with their loss, as they prepare themselves for the public ordeal of mourning their mother with the nation on Saturday."

An on-the-record statement from the queen's press secretary was rare in itself. Until recently the palace had a policy of not responding to newspaper reports, even off the record.

"We are in quite uncharted territory," BBC's royalty correspondent Jennie Bond said after Crawford's statement. "I don't think anyone _ the royal family, the media, anyone _ could have expected this grief that has been shown on the streets for so many days now. It really has overtaken everyone."

The tabloids have also criticized Buckingham Palace for not flying a flag at half-staff, ridiculing the palace's explanation that no royal standard flies when the queen is not in residence and it is never flown at half-staff, even for the death of the monarch.

"The final insult" said The Sun.

"If protocol cannot bow to public grief by flying a Union Jack at half-mast over Buckingham Palace, then we say that protocol is a crass courtier," The Daily Mail editorialized.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said today the reaction to Diana's death was "something more profound than anything I can remember."

"It's not just grief as a nation, it is personal to each and every one of us," he said.

Prince Edward, the queen's youngest child, was driven to St. James's Palace this morning and signed a condolence book set aside for VIPs. He did not enter the Chapel Royal where Diana's body rests. Thousands of other mourners have waited hours in line to sign their names.

All this week, relatives, close friends and staff have quietly been visiting the chapel.

Diana's brother Charles, the 9th Earl Spencer, went to the chapel Wednesday afternoon, and Sarah, Duchess of York, the ex-wife of Prince Andrew, also visited Wednesday.

Charles is to return to London with his sons on Friday, and will go to the Chapel Royal before Diana's body is moved to her Kensington Palace apartment.

Charles and the young princes have sent flowers to several hospitals and hospices in memory of Diana. One bouquet of white lilies went to Great Ormand Street Hospital for Children in London, one of Diana's favorite causes.

Another report indicates love apparently blessed Diana in her final hours of life. A Paris jeweler says he created a magnificent diamond ring that Dodi Fayed gave to Diana during dinner Saturday night at the Ritz Hotel, just hours before they both died.

The Paris jeweler quoted in Britain's The Sun newspaper today said he created an extraordinary diamond ring that Fayed gave to Diana over dinner Saturday.

"He told me how much he was in love with the princess and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her," The Sun quoted jeweler Alberto Repossi as saying.

Fayed had asked him to create "a ring of the like that had never been seen before," Repossi said.

The $205,400 ring was found in the wrecked car, according to The Sun.

Press Association, the British national news agency, said the ring was turned over to Diana's sisters when they went to Paris to recover the body on Monday and is now at Kensington Palace, Diana's London home.

Driven by the massive outpouring of public sorrow, Buckingham Palace tripled the length of the funeral procession to allow more people to bear witness.

"We are prepared for millions of people being in central London," Scotland Yard Police Commissioner Sir Paul Condon told Sky TV. "Many people will feel the need to be there, so they can say 'I was in London I was able to show my grief.' "

The coffin, borne aboard a gun carriage, will leave about 10 a.m. and proceed 3 1/2 miles through central London to Westminster Abbey.

Diana's sons have not yet decided if they want to walk in their mother's funeral procession, Buckingham Palace said.

In an attempt to deflect crowds from Westminster, two giant TV screens in Hyde Park will show the proceedings live. Officials also announced details of the 77-mile route northward that the coffin will take to Diana's home village for burial.

For mourners worldwide, the British Broadcasting Corp. will broadcast directly to 187 countries and by relay to another 45 countries in 44 different languages _ the biggest live broadcast in its 75-year history.

The BBC's main rivals, Independent Television News, will also relay TV coverage to major television channels in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Germany.

Outside Westminster Abbey, Martin McCann a 44-year-old unemployed carpenter, was already staking out a position.

"She has lost her life and I am only going to lose about three days," he said. "It's not that much of a sacrifice."

Bus driver June Rolls, 49, arrived at the abbey this morning laden with suitcases, sleeping bags and a chair to keep her comfortable during the two-night vigil.

"I have been crying pretty much ever since I turned on the telly early

on Sunday morning," she said.

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