The Queen broke all precedent to make a live broadcast paying tribute to the dead princess. She was dignified and her words were generous, though her tone remained formal and failed to please all Diana's admirers who watched.
More, though, had been moved by the sight of the young princes shaking hands, hearing tributes from the people to their dead mother and walking with Prince Charles outside Kensington Palace. The monarchy has experienced an excruciatingly difficult and at times agonising week. The Queen said that she hoped that the whole country would unite in dignified grief for Diana.
Suzanne Moore spent yesterday on the streets hearing the tributes of mourners to Diana and listening to their mixed feelings about a strange few days for the Royal Family.
"She's like a magnet, man", says a young Rasta guy "pulling people towards her". It was indeed like a scene from Close Encounters where people feel inevitably drawn towards this place. Except there is one huge difference.
These people know exactly what they are doing and why they are coming. Those who have described the public as over-reacting, as over emotional, as not fully in control of themselves should listen to what the people are saying. We are here, they are over and over again "for Diana. For History". They are not here to see the Queen even though she is going to walk among them.
Here they are quietly unwrapping the clingfilm from their sandwiches, eating their yoghurts and Kit-Kats, supporting each other, saving each other's places in the queues that form everywhere. The queues to lay flowers, to look at the messages, to get the tea, to sign the books. Over and over again I hear how grateful they are for the Harrods van that is dispensing food and drink. "They're wonderful, why couldn't the Palace have done anything?"
Some are well prepared, with tents and rucksacks and sleeping bags. "I've got my fags. I'll be alright," says one. Some are overtly hostile to the Queen's walkabout "Oh, in your own time Ma'am. Whenever you're ready. You've only had all week," Jane Wright sarcastically comments. "Personally, I think they're finished. I wouldn't give them the time of day. If people ignore laws long enough they fall by the wayside, it's the same with the monarchy."
Others, though, are more sympathetic understanding the Queen's need for privacy. But even they expressed disquiet: "She has followed the public not led them". When the Queen and Philip appear some of the crowd clap politely and cameras start clicking like crazy. "She's taken too much stick from the press, its bang out of order. It's private isn't it?" the man next to me says while shoving me out of the way in order to get a better look.
The Queen appears genuinely shocked by the numbers of people and flowers as if she really had no idea just what has been going on outside her London residence. "Will she come out and hold our hands?" a little girl asks her dad. Outside Buckingham Palace the crowds mill quietly. The scenes are less emotional than at Kensington Palace. Many describe the atmosphere there as overwhelming. "That's for the heavy duty mourners," someone explains. "They are just breaking down and crying. I'm afraid it was too much for me."
A mother and her daughter explain that they are camping half-way down The Mall out of respect. "We don't want to be outside the Palace. We don't want to see William and Harry. We respect them." Comparisons are being made with how the average family would behave. "In normal families, when a couple is divorced, the mother-in-law wouldn't be expected to come to the funeral," comments Jennine Stoodly. "Its a natural part of grieving isn't it? Shock then anger," adds her friend. "This anger towards the Royals is part of the process: all this is not just about Diana. It's about needing someone, something. It is as if we needed an excuse to grieve and now we have a focus. It is because of what she represented - non-judgemental compassions."
The police lift children over barriers who have got separated from their parents. Japanese camera crews stand on step ladders, toddlers pose beside Chelsea pensioners and wait to see the "horseys". Those who've set up temporary homes sit in their deckchairs reading gardening magazines. They do not move out of their positions to catch a glimpse of the Queen and it is this indifference to the monarchy that is somehow more surprising than the anger. "It's not just a class thing; it's a generational thing, isn't it?" It seemed not to matter what emotions the Queen now demonstrates for it is widely presumed she doesn't actually feel them. Or at least not feel them the way these people do. "She is acknowledging Diana not appreciating her" I overhear two women saying to each other.
But others strongly disagree. Michael Valentine says, "The Public shouldn't force the way that the family mourns". Yet somehow the crowds understand that this is exactly what is happening. "When someone dies that you are close to, it forces you to re-evaluate everything, your own life, how you behave. That's what's going on now. The whole country is re-evaluating itself", offers Jessamy Albrechtsen. But John Rogers from Somerset is angry. "They've lost her. They've lost the whole shebang. Our royal family has gone".Reuse content