Spencer thanks public for their sympathy

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The Independent Online
Earl Spencer yesterday invited a lone Press Association photographer to record the sea of flowers that has overwhelmed the tiny island where his sister is buried, and then issued a statement thanking the thousands of people who have sent their sympathies. Mountains of blooms left by mourners at the gates of Althorp House, Northamptonshire, had been taken by boat to bedeck the final resting place of Diana, Princess of Wales.

"The flowers, the letters, the telegrams - all in their tens of thousands - have been a source of comfort and pride to us, and have genuinely helped us to mourn her death," Lord Spencer said. "The knowledge that Diana's life gave so many people so much can now be balanced by the hope that, in death her legacy will be immortal."

A family aide added the flowers would be left on the island. "It's ashes to ashes. They will stay here and help more flowers to grow one day around the grave."

As trailerloads of tributes were rowed across the lake to the unmarked grave, it emerged that the Royal family offered to restore the title Her Royal Highness within hours of the scathing funeral address by her brother, Lord Spencer. The Spencer family dismissed the gesture because it was not what the Princess would have wanted.

The decision by Buckingham Palace to release details followed calls by some newspapers for the HRH style to be given back. A Palace spokesman said it had consulted the Spencer family on Saturday afternoon."Their very firm view was that the Princess herself would not have wished for any change to the style and title by which she was known at the time of her death. The Spencer family itself also did not wish for it to be changed."

Diana had "voluntarily relinquished" the title when the divorce was made absolute in August 1996, the spokesman said. The Queen subsequently issued new rules on royal titles which meant that, in future, divorced wives of male descendants of the sovereign would not be entitled to use the Royal Highness style. It is understood that Sir Robert Fellowes, the Queen's private secretary, who is married to Lord Spencer's sister Jane, made the approach on the Royal Train to the Althorp burial.