Duchess defends her seat at Diana's memorial service

The princes have asked me to be there, now leave me alone, says Camilla. But it hasn't stopped some close to the princess asking if she should attend
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The Independent Online

The Royal Family has rallied around the Duchess of Cornwall and moved to quell criticism of her presence at the memorial service on Friday of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. A note from Clarence House is as polite as the Duchess of Cornwall probably felt she could be in the circumstances, but the message is blunt: the princes want me there, now leave me alone.

While most correspondence from members of the public to the Royal Family is batted away with a simple acknowledgment and a word of thanks, the duchess clearly felt Margaret Funnell deserved a more considered response when she was asked to explain why she had put the service as a date in her diary.

She wrote back to tell her that she had been asked to attend by Princes William and Harry, who have organised the service. With such an endorsement, it is now more than likely that she will take a front-row seat in the Guards Chapel in London to mark the 10th anniversary of Diana's death.

The duchess's assistant private secretary, Amanda MacManus, told Ms Funnell, a grandmother from Brighton: "The Duchess has asked me to explain to you that Prince William and Prince Harry have personally asked her to attend the Memorial Service in August. As such, Her Royal Highness feels it is appropriate that she should attend."

The letter, revealed yesterday, dates from January, showing that concern over who should be on the guest list has rumbled on all year.

As one of the founders of Diana Circle UK, a group that campaigns to "keep Princess Diana's memory alive", Ms Funnell clearly disagrees with the use of the word "appropriate".

She said: "I find it reprehensible that the woman who caused Diana so much pain and torment should be present at her memorial service. I suspect that protocol dictated that William and Harry had to invite her, but she is the last person that should be there."

When Diana died in a car crash in Paris on 31 August 1987 it sparked a national outpouring of grief, with millions lining the streets on the day of her funeral. However, the memorial service will be a much more select affair, with only 500 guests expected to attend.

Adding to the controversy surrounding the guest list are those who believe they have been excluded from the event, those dubbed "Team Diana" for their closeness to the princess following her divorce. These include Patrick Jephson, a former private secretary, Ken Wharfe, a bodyguard, and Paul Burrell, the outspoken butler who wrote two books about the princess's life.

Mr Burrell told a gossip magazine last week: " This is further evidence of how out of touch the royal advisers are. The princess bore no resentment towards Camilla, but that doesn't mean she would have invited her to an intimate gathering of friends – which is surely what a memorial service should be."