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An up and down over the Union Flag

The Diana effect lingers on. The Queen has broken with tradition and decreed that the Union flag will from now on fly full-mast from Buckingham Palace 24 hours a day - so that it can be lowered to half-mast when a member of the Royal Family dies, writes Kim Sengupta.

In the past the flagpole has been left bare when the Queen was not in residence. This caused a constitutional crisis when the Princess of Wales was killed while the Queen was at Balmoral. The public and sections of the press appeared incensed that there was no flag at half-mast. "Show us you care Ma'am", ran a typical headline.

Palace sources said yesterday's move shows how responsive the new, reforming Royals are to public opinion. The decision was taken at a meeting of the advisory Way Ahead Group.

Some constitutional experts detected a deeper, almost Blairite " vision thing" in the flag gesture. The historian David Starkey said: "It means that Buckingham Palace is accepted as a People's Palace". Others said it showed the Royal Family's empathy with the "new Britain".

The Union flag has always flown at full-mast and around the clock at Windsor Castle and the Tower of London even when the Queen is away. The Royal Standard is never lowered to half-mast as the Sovereign, according to protocol, never dies, the next in line immediately assuming that role.