Palace concedes to public mood

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The Independent Online
The overwhelming demand of the British people to say farewell to Diana, Princess of Wales, is forcing Buckingham Palace to amend arrangements for the funeral procession on Saturday.

Although they have ruled out lengthening the route along Whitehall, Palace officials are considering moves to narrow the width of the one-mile procession, on its route from St James's Palace to Westminster Abbey, in order to accommodate the huge numbers of members of the public who want to snatch a final glimpse of the coffin. At least one million people are expected to line the streets, bringing much of the capital to a standstill. .

A one-minute national silence will be observed at the end of the service, which begins at 11am; it is expected to last 45 minutes. Afterwards the coffin will be taken to Althorp, the Spencers' family home in Northamptonshire, where the Princess of Wales's remains will be interred.

Five hundred representatives of charities linked to Diana are to follow the official mourners who will include Prince Charles and the chief mourners, Princes William and Harry.

The Royal Family and the Spencers believe it would be fitting, and in accordance with the Princess's wishes, if the procession was largely made up of people who have worked for, or benefited from, her charities. One further representative from each charity will be invited to attend the service itself.

The details of the service have not been finalised, although it is expected that Earl Spencer will read the lesson. Discussions are ataking place over the musical content; the choir, a mixture of children and adults will have a central role.

The Very Rev Wesley Carr, Dean of Westminster, is organising much of the service. He has spent many hours in consultation with Buckingham Palace and the Spencer family.

Although the Palace and Scotland Yard have not released details, the presence of 100 or so Naval staff may be one of the few obvious signs of military paraphernalia on show.

The crash barriers along the streets of the procession will be lined with uniformed officers from the Metropolitan Police, which is in charge of security.

The route starts at St James's Palace, where Diana's coffin is lying in the Chapel Royal. It continues along Marlborough Road, The Mall, Horse Guards Road, Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall, Parliament Street, the east side of Parliament Square, Broad Sanctuary, to the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey.

The charity group will then watch the service on a large screen, probably in Parliament Square, while senior officials from their organisation are seated inside the Abbey. At some point there may be a fly-past by the Royal Air Force. It is thought that the Queen and other senior Royals attending, including the Queen Mother, health permitting, and the Duke of Edinburgh, will arrive at the Abbey by car.

Suggestions that officials might extend the length of the route have been rejected because of logistical problems and fears about extending the time the young princes are in public. No decision has yet been made on the route to be taken by the funeral motorcade when the service ends, seen as another opportunity for the public to express its grief.

A Palace spokesman said: "Consideration is being given to the width of the route. Obviously if it is narrower, more people will be able to line the route."

No official guest list has been released following invitations to foreign dignitaries - chiefly from those countries with a link to Diana. It is believed that United States President Bill Clinton was dissuaded from attending to ensure that the funeral was not seen as a top-heavy state occasion; his wife, Hillary, will be present instead.

Meanwhile, announcements on who will officiate may be made later today. The desire of the Spencer family to have a major input in the arrangements means that traditional forms of royal funeral services may not be incorporated.