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An Emotional Goodbye to Diana

By Edith M. Lederer
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, September 6, 1997; 5:47 a.m. EDT

LONDON (AP) -- Heads bowed, Princess Diana's sons walked solemly behind her casket Saturday as a sea of mourners paid tribute to the princess, whose astonishing popularity troubled the royal family in life and humbled it in death.

On a gun carriage pulled by six gleaming black Irish draught horses, Diana's flag-draped coffin left her home at Kensington Palace to silently wind its way for nearly two hours to Westminster Abbey.

Sobs and anguished cries of ``Diana!'' were heard from the crowd and some people tossed flowers at the coffin as it passed. But silence dominated, broken only by the clop of hooves and the tolling of the abbey's tenor bell.

Atop Diana's coffin lay three wreaths of white lilies, one each from her brother, Earl Spencer, and from her sons, Prince William, 15, and Prince Harry, 12. It was shrouded in the monarch's flag, the Royal Standard, and accompanied by members of The King's Troop, dressed in bright red blazers.

Diana's sons, along with Prince Charles and his father, Prince Philip, and Diana's brother, the ninth Earl Spencer, walked behind the coffin for the last mile.

Hundreds stood all night to claim prime places outside palaces and Westminster Abbey. As the day broke, cool and dry, thousands more poured off subways cars filled with scent of floral tributes.

While the funeral procession marched slowly through London, some 2,000 invited guests solemly filled Westminister Abbey. The mix reflected the huge range of Diana's admirers, including entertainers like Sting, Tom Hanks, Luciano Pavarotti, Diana Ross, Tom Cruise and his wife Nicole Kidman, and director Steven Spielberg.

Elton John, who rewrote his ``Candle in the Wind'' song for the service, came, along with dignitaries like Hillary Rodham Clinton and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Several million people jammed the capital for what loomed as the biggest public turnout since V-E Day more than 50 years ago.

Around the world, a TV audience of up to 2.5 billion people watched the funeral for the former kindergarten teacher whose popularity with ordinary Britons contrasted with the reserve of the rest of the royal family.

``They (the royals) must get closer to the people to survive,'' said Doreen Duffell, 50. ``Di was the only one who showed expression in her face.''

That widely-felt sentiment led Queen Elizabeth II to shatter royal protocol Friday and pay tribute to her former daughter-in-law by making her first live, televised address since the early days of her 45-year reign.

``In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness,'' the queen said of Diana.

Britons' grief over Diana's death united the country in a way that astonished even themselves.

``It was a true British spirit, almost like that famed British wartime spirit,'' said Polly Bulmer, who waited 13 hours to sign a condolence book at St. James's.

People shared food, got each other tea, and became instant friends, she said, hugging a tearful young man who had been in line with her. ``At least we all shared it,'' she added.

TV stations continuously rolled pictures of the princess -- laughing with her children; clasping an AIDS victim; wearing a stunning evening gown -- while playing Elton John's funeral song.

Supermarkets and museums closed, many sporting events were canceled. Even McDonald's shut down.

The funeral comes six days after Diana, her new love Dodi Fayed, and their driver were killed in an automobile crash in Paris.

Since Sunday's tragedy, the royal family had been criticized for failing to join in the public grieving and remaining too aloof at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

Many felt the royals treated Diana badly during her marriage to Prince Charles, and should not have stripped her of the title Her Royal Highness after their divorce last year.

Hurt by the accusations, the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, mingled Friday with the crowds at London's royal palaces, which have been inundated with floral tributes. Charles and his sons also found the hands of ordinary people reaching out to them across the crowd-control barriers.

William and Harry, with their father, later made a private visit Friday to the Chapel Royal at St. James's, where Diana's coffin rested in front of the altar. Later, a hearse carried the coffin to her Kensington Palace home.

In only the fourth live broadcast of her 45-year reign, the monarch said she spoke ``as your queen and as a grandmother.''

She spoke of the ``overwhelming expression of sadness at Diana's death'' around the world. And she spoke of her own admiration and respect -- ``for her energy and commitment to others, and especially for her devotion to her two boys.''

She described her former daughter-in-law as ``a remarkable person,'' ``an exceptional and gifted human being.''

The 71-year-old monarch's voice was firm but showed signs of tightness from what has undoubtedly been one of the saddest and most difficult weeks of her reign.

``We have all been trying in our different ways to cope,'' she said. ``It is not easy to express a sense of loss, since the initial shock is often succeeded by a mixture of other feelings: disbelief, incomprehension, anger -- and concern for those who remain.

``No one who knew Diana will ever forget her. Millions of others who never met her, but felt they knew her, will remember her,'' she said.

``I share in your determination to cherish her memory,'' the queen said.

The final years of Charles and Diana's 15-year marriage had been difficult ones for the royal family. Both admitted marital infidelities, and Diana had chafed under the Windsors' closed, regimented life as royals.

Since the divorce 12 months ago, Diana, 36, had pursued a less formal life, and in recent weeks her romance with Fayed, 42, had made international headlines.

On Friday, a spokesman for Fayed's billionaire father, Mohamed Al Fayed, confirmed that Dodi had given Diana a $205,000 diamond ring on their last night together.

``What that ring meant, we shall probably never know,'' said the spokesman, Michael Cole.

She, in turn, gave him her late father's cuff links and a gold cigar cutter inscribed ``With love, from Diana.''

Ten paparazzi are being investigated on possible charges of manslaughter and failure to aid accident victims in the Paris tunnel crash.

But prosecutors also said the driver, Henri Paul, was drunk when the car struck a tunnel pylon -- a contention that his employer, the elder Al Fayed, has questioned.

© Copyright 1997 The Associated Press

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