Flags will fly at half-mast for Diana

BRITAIN IS preparing once again to mourn Diana, Princess of Wales. The nation will mark the first anniversary of her death on August 31 with prayers, floral tributes and television specials.

The Queen and Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, have agreed that Union flags will fly at half-mast on royal residences and government buildings on that date. The only exception will be the Queen's Royal Standard at Balmoral, which is never lowered when the Queen is in residence.

Churches around the country are also planning special services to commemorate her life. St Paul's Cathedral will hold an evening service in her memory, while Westminster Cathedral is holding a requiem mass and an evening prayer vigil.

Harrods in Knightsbridge will be open for people to sign condolence books and its owner, Mohamed Al Fayed, has arranged for bronze sculptures of Diana and his son Dodi, who also died in the Paris crash, to be on display to the public for the first time.

Earl Spencer is intending to mark the anniversary of his sister's death in private. He will attend a service with his other two sisters and several estate staff on the banks of the lake at Althorp, where Diana is buried. The princess's mother, Frances Shand Kydd, has expressed the desire to spend the day alone.

The Prime Minister and his wife, Cherie, have been invited to join the Royal Family, including Princes William and Harry and Prince Charles, in private prayers at Crathie Church, in Balmoral.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport is drawing up plans to deal with the expected deluge of floral tributes at Kensington Palace.

"We have to be prepared for this. In the event that there are a lot of flowers, we have to think through what we will do with them," said a spokesman. "There are no other special events planned. Buckingham Palace and the Prime Minister appreciate that people react to grief in different ways and will want to make up their own minds on how to remember her."

BBC 1 is also showing a special programme on 30 August which looks at the failure of official portraits to capture her true image.

Brian Sewell and Sir Roy Strong, both art critics, claim in the programme that a "decent" portrait was never painted of her and that commis- sioned Royal portraits have little to do with art.

Instead, the programme looks at the fact that paparazzi photographs were more successful at capturing her true self as she escaped from the restrictions of a formal Royal role. Emily Patrick, who painted her during a difficult period in the princess's life, admits that she could not reach behind the facade presented by the princess to her real pain and distress.

The death of Diana, Princess of Wales, was no accident, 41 per cent of Britons say in an opinion poll published today. The NOP poll also found 24 per cent believe there was a conspiracy to have her murdered. In a similar poll last September, 84 per cent of people said her death was an accident.

AN Wilson, page 24