Charles breaks with Royal protocol to say: `I am unbelievably proud of my children'

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The Independent Online
Prince Charles spoke publicly for the first time yesterday about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and described the comfort he and his sons have drawn from the tens of thousands of messages of sympathy and support across the world.

In a break from Royal protocol the Prince used his first official engagement since Diana's death to speak of his " pride" at the courage and dignity shown by the Princes William and Harry as they coped with their "enormous loss".

A clearly emotional Prince of Wales told community and business leaders in Manchester: "I am unbelievably proud of my children. They have been quite remarkable and I think they have handled an extraordinarily difficult time, as I am sure you can all imagine, with quite enormous courage and the greatest possible dignity.

"They are coping extraordinarily well but obviously Diana's ... death has been an enormous loss as far as they are concerned and I will always feel that loss. But if I may say so, the children have been hugely comforted by the vast number of really touching letters of condolence - I think something in the region of 250,000 - that have been received from all over the world, and in particular, of course, from this country. The letters have meant a huge amount to us and wonderful and heartfelt expressions of sympathy have made such a difference".

The Prince also spoke of the difficulty of grieving in the media spotlight during the impromptu speech at a Salvation Army community centre in inner city Manchester.

Crowds waiting outside the Centre cheered Charles's words. During the visit thousands of people had lined the streets, and many were in tears as he moved along the barriers shaking hands, accepting bunches of flowers being pressed on him.

In the meantime, in Paris, Dodi Fayed's bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones can remember nothing of the car accident which killed the Princess, her companion Mr Fayed, and the driver Henri Paul in Paris three weeks ago, it emerged yesterday.

In a half-hour interview with the chief investigating judge, Mr Rees- Jones was unable to give any useful new information on the events leading to the crash in the early hours of 31 August. Investigators hope they can jog his memory by taking him back to the crash scene.