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Diana's Sons Return to London Friday

By Jim Heintz
Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, September 3, 1997; 11:59 a.m. EDT

LONDON (AP) -- The royal family, criticized by some for clinging to formality while the people pour out their grief over Princess Diana, said today it was ''deeply touched'' by the nation's response.

Diana's sons, Princes William and Harry, will return to London with their father, Prince Charles, on Friday and go to the Chapel Royal at St. James's Palace where her body lies, Buckingham Palace said.

``All the royal family, especially the Prince of Wales, Prince William and Prince Harry, are taking strength from the overwhelming support of the public, who are sharing their tremendous sense of loss and grief,'' a statement from the palace said.

``They are deeply touched and enormously grateful.''

Concerned about the huge crowds expected to line the streets for Saturday's funeral, Buckingham Palace said 40-square-yard TV screens will be set up in Hyde Park, and announced a 77-mile route the coffin will take back to her family's stately home in northwest England.

For the fourth straight day, thousands of mourners -- some had waited in line all night to sign condolence books and then went right back to work -- thronged London palaces, foretelling a Saturday turnout of probably well over a million.

A mile-long procession is planned from St. James's Palace to Westminster Abbey for a service. When Diana and Charles married in 1981, a million-strong throng was spread along a route twice as long.

The Sun reported that Prince William, 15, has insisted on walking in the procession, behind his mother's coffin. A palace spokesman refused to comment, saying it will announce Thursday where the princes will be.

The Times of London reported some palace officials and Diana's friends disagree over whether Elton John -- who is invited to the funeral -- also should sing. An Elton John spokesman said he has not been asked.

After the service, Diana's coffin will travel a long and winding route by road: back through central London, across the capital's northern suburbia, past a huge shopping center, and on to a six-lane highway heading north.

The journey to Althorp, the Spencer family seat in northwest England where she will be buried privately with 20 generations of her forebears, reflected official attempts to include as many people as possible in the grieving.

Diana's mother, Frances Shand Kydd, traveled to London today for the funeral from her Scottish home on the Isle of Seil.

``I thank God for the gift of Diana and for all her loving and giving,'' she said in a statement to Press Association, the British news agency. ``I give her back to Him, with my love, pride and admiration, to rest in peace.''

The public outpourings for Diana, 36, killed in a Paris car crash early Sunday, have caught the palace by surprise. Her new beau, millionaire Dodi Fayed, 42, and their chauffeur also died.

The palace's statement taking note of the enormous public reaction follows criticism in the press and on the streets of the royal family for adhering to the traditional stiff upper lip in public.

Critics complained that the boys were taken to church -- with photographers alongside snapping their ashen but tearless faces through the limo window -- just hours after learning of their mother's death.

``Show us there's a heart in the House of Windsor,'' said a front-page headline today in The Sun, Britain's largest-selling tabloid.

``Not one word has come from a royal lip, not one tear has been shed in public by a royal eye. ... It's as if no one in the royal family has a soul,'' said The Sun. ``Yet we know the opposite to be true.''

Diana, breaking with royal tradition, hugged and kissed her children in public, and also touched and sometimes hugged the ordinary people she met, including people with AIDS or leprosy.

``I'm just really worried that the two boys will grow up without the values that she had started to teach them and will simply turn out like all the other members of the Royal Family,'' said Irene Treble, outside St. James's Palace.

© Copyright 1997 The Associated Press

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