`Gifted, warm and kind'

The Royal Family went a long way towards recapturing the affections of offended mourners yesterday when they left behind their private grieving at Balmoral and joined the throng in London.

In an unprecedented live broadcast last night, the Queen made a generous tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, describing her as "exceptional, gifted, warm and kind". As dusk fell, with only hours to go before the funeral service at Westminster Abbey, it looked as if the Royal Family had satisfied their critics.

It was a day of startling images designed to sweep away the impressions of aloofness and formality that had caused so much public anger during the six days since Diana's death.

The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Princes William and Harry mixed with mourners, reducing many to tears as they surveyed the vast carpets of flowers and tributes that had been laid at Buckingham, Kensington and St James's palaces.

At last, they paid their respects at the Princess of Wales's coffin at St James's Palace before it was moved last night past hundreds of thousands of mourners lining the route to Kensington Palace, from which it will begin its journey at 9.08am today to the Abbey.

The Prince of Wales, Princes Harry and William and members of the Spencer family were in the three-car motorcade that accompanied the hearse. Those they passed stood silently in drizzling rain, some weeping, others throwing flowers. Despite the inclement weather, the route of today's procession was already filling up with thousands of people prepared to camp out. Some predictions put the final crowd at up to 6 million.

As a television audience estimated at 2 billion prepared to witness Diana's funeral service, it appeared that the personal visits and the Queen's televised address had been sufficiently uplifting to avoid the kind of embarrassing crowd scenes that were predicted by some earlier in the week.

The address was made from the Chinese Dining Room at Buckingham Palace and had a backdrop of crowds of mourners outside. It was a dignified performance, although some supporters of Diana's described it as too formal and a little cold.

However, there was no doubting its sentiments as the Queen said: "[Diana] was an exceptional and gifted human being. In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness. I admired and respected her - for her energy and commitment to others, and especially for her devotion to her two boys."

The most moving spectacle of the day was to be seen at Kensington Palace where Princes Charles, William and Harry appeared overcome by the scenes of sorrow and thanksgiving. After flying down from Aberdeen, the princes are understood to have asked to be taken immediately to Kensington Palace, their home since the Wales's separation in 1992.

When they arrived at the gates, they were clearly overwhelmed. Harry, 12, and William, 15, wearing dark suits, black ties and blue shirts, maintained a calm dignity, although onlookers said Harry wiped tears from his eyes on several occasions.

The crowd was instantly won over. Rosalind Wederell from Chatham, Kent, said: "Prince Charles said to me, `We appreciate you coming, we appreciate all the flowers, we are very touched.' [He] seemed overwhelmed and somehow a lot more human than he ever seemed to be before.

"I said to William `You are a wonderful boy' and he smiled at me. Harry took my flowers and shook my hand. It was so emotional. I had taken a day's leave from work today as I felt that I really had to visit Kensington Palace and it was incredible but so necessary that they made this gesture today. Somehow I feel more complete after having spoken to them."

The reaction of mourners was similar at Buckingham Palace when the Queen and Prince Philip returned. Onlookers said they had tears in their eyes as they spoke to mourners and thanked them for their tributes.

At one point, the Queen's apprehension at the anger that had welled up earlier in the week became apparent when a little girl offered her some flowers.

The child's grandmother, Enid Jones from Brighton, said: "My granddaughter gave her some flowers and the Queen was really pleased. She nearly didn't take them and asked if they were really for her.

"We said we thought she needed some. People say they don't care - but they were both obviously filling up with tears."

Kay Foulger, 55, from Cumbernauld, near Glasgow, said she offered the Queen words of encouragement.

"I told the Queen, `Ma'am, it is very brave of you to come here and see us'. You could see she was bearing up but that she had been upset and had had a good weep. I think she has been a bit isolated so far and she could have put a statement out earlier, but I hope she has made up for that now."

The Royal Standard was hoisted to show the Queen was in residence but a Palace spokesman said an incident in which it appeared to hover at half- mast was an accident and not a mark of respect.

The Prime Minister and his wife visited Westminster Abbey to see how preparations were going, as did Diana's sisters, Lady Sarah McCorquodale and Lady Jane Fellowes, and Elton John, who will sing a revised version of "Candle in the Wind". At Westminster Cathedral, a Mass was said. Diana's mother, Frances Shand-Kydd attended.

Last night the Prince of Wales and his sons were back in Buckingham Palace, preparing for their ordeal today.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before