Diana 1961-1997: The reaction - Queen's chaplain praises Diana the loving mother

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The Independent Online
The winds of change were still pressing on the Royal Family yesterday despite their withdrawal once again into their private fastness of Balmoral. In a service at Crathie parish church attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, Diana, Princess of Wales, was praised by the Queen's chaplain, the Rev Robert Sloan, as a loving mother with a special personality - a stark contrast to this chilly service a week earlier when Diana wasn't mentioned.

Immediately after the service, the Queen was joined for lunch at Balmoral by Tony Blair and his wife Cherie. The Prime Minister remained at the royal residence on Deeside, in Scotland, for most of the afternoon but on leaving refused to answer questions on what was discussed.

In a probably unprecedented departure, the Prime Minister's motorcade stopped shortly after leaving the gates of Balmoral, but on the opposite bank of the Dee, and he and his wife got out briefly to shake hands with well-wishers. More than 400 people had gathered outside the parish church to see the royal party, including the Queen Mother attend the morning service and the Queen was given warm, if somewhat restrained applause as she was driven back to her castle. A bank of flowers placed in memory of the princess has been growing beside the gate since Thursday. Prior to that flowers had been cleared each day, to the dismay of some who regarded their removal as unsympathetic.

The plunge in public esteem for the Royal Family last week began with the bad impression made by the morning service at Crathie. Princes William and Harry accompanied the Prince of Wales and their grandparents, but there was no mention of Diana during the service. Mr Sloan's reasoning, explained afterwards, was that it would not have been appropriate so soon after the boys had been told of their mother's death.

Yesterday, though neither the young princes nor their father was present, Mr Sloan made amends. Leading the prayers he commended Diana's willingness to respond to victims of prejudice, poverty, disease and war and said she would be remembered as a mother whose love and enjoyment of her children was overwhelming.

"But above all else," he said, "we give thanks for the love she showed as a mother and for her sense of fun and for the happy memories which her children will always treasure."

In an ambiguous passage Mr Sloan bid the congregation pray for guidance "at this time of decision so we might pass on a heritage worthy of our best yesterdays and welcoming to the things of tomorrow". It sounded like a plea for a more open monarchy, but the Queen's chaplain said later that he was referring to Thursday's referendum.

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