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Royal Family Orders Flag Flown At Half-Mast to Remember Di

By Don Balz
The Washington Post
LONDON

Queen Elizabeth II ordered the Union Jack to be flown at half-staff over Buckingham Palace on Saturday for the first time and scheduled a televised statement to the nation on Friday in an unprecedented response to criticism that the royal family has been indifferent to the outpouring of grief over the death of Princess Diana.

Early Thursday evening, members of the family, including the queen, Prince Charles, Diana's former husband, and their two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, appeared in public for the first time since Sunday. They attended church services at Balmoral in Scotland and then paused, while cameras rolled, to look at flowers left outside the church by some of the princess's mourners.

The moves came after another day in which the press and public pummeled the royal family, which had remained in seclusion at Balmoral Castle, while hundreds of thousands of people have paid tribute to Diana here, lining up to write personal messages in the official books of condolence and openly weeping at the loss of the princess.

"Show Us You Care," shouted a headline in the Express this morning. "Where Is Our Queen? Where Is Her Flag?" cried the Sun. The Mirror ran large pictures of two grief-stricken mourners weeping, with an inset photo of the queen at the bottom of the page. "Your People Are Suffering," said the headline. "Speak To Us, Ma'am."

In response, the queen's press secretary went before television cameras in London to read a statement that the family "have been hurt by suggestions that they are indifferent to the country's sorrow" over Diana's death. All week, mourners in the long lines around St. James's Palace, Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace have complained publicly about the family.

"The princess was a much-loved national figure, but she was also a mother whose sons miss her deeply," said palace spokesman Geoffrey Crawford. "Prince William and Prince Harry themselves want to be with their father and grandparents at this time in the quiet haven of Balmoral. 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."

Saturday's procession and funeral services are expected to draw millions of people to central London for the day. The procession that will carry Diana's coffin from Kensington Palace, where she lived, to Westminster Abbey, the coronation and burial site of British monarchs, will begin at 9:08 a.m. [4:08 a.m. EDT] and reach its Great West Door at 10:55 a.m. (5:55 a.m. EDT).

The funeral service will begin at 11 a.m. [6 a.m. EDT] and will last almost an hour, closing with a national moment of silence. After the service at the abbey, a hearse will carry Diana's body on the long drive out of London to the Spencer family chapel in a church in the village of Great Brington, where her remains will be interred.