Sarah Sands: Harry has rescued the 'People's Princess' from the howling mob

The younger of the princes is the one least afraid of showing emotion, but both must be more damaged than we have assumed
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The Independent Online

The moment that Tony Blair haltingly spoke those words: "She was the People's Princess", he handed the memory of Diana over to mob rule. The voices of her two sons, then aged 15 and 12, could not be heard above the noisy grief and demand for revenge.

Their tribute, simple white roses and a card saying just "Mummy" was no match for the piles of cellophane-wrapped bouquets rotting in Kensington Palace Gardens. Prince Harry summoned his speech on Friday from a deep wound so that he could reclaim "mummy" from the traders and the conspiracy theorists and the squabbling family and friends and the crazy, avenging Harrods owner, Mohamed al Fayed, all waving their pound of Diana's flesh.

It was Diana's youngest son, so small and determined in his oversized suit as he walked behind her coffin, so manly and warm-blooded at her memorial service, who came to reclaim her memory.

Afterwards, he looked pro-foundly shaken by his act of catharsis. Harry spoke longingly of his mother's "physical presence". An obvious difference between life before and after Diana was her capacity for hugs. The physical touch, once awkward for the Royal family, was plainly on display at the ceremony on Friday.

Princes Harry and William sought kisses under guests' elaborate hats and kissed their father on both cheeks. Their exchange with him before the service was unlike the smiling, generalised good will for the rest of the family. Prince Harry checked his notes, aware of their emotional significance.

I thought that he and William surveyed their father lovingly. They did not wish to cause him pain. Like many children of divorced parents, they behave rather better than adults: more sensitive, less self-righteous, anxious above all for reconciliation.

The Camilla problem should never have been theirs. They were trying to do right by everyone at this service. But the Queen shrewdly saw it coming. It would have been terribly difficult for Harry to talk about his mother's qualities, with the television cameras pointed at Camilla.

Instead, the cameras lingered on Prince Willliam, who kept his eyes down in private sorrow, and on the Queen who is experienced enough at this sort of thing to angle her hat as a facial disguise.

Tina Brown, author of The Diana Chronicles, told me that she feared the princes were more damaged than they appeared. How could they not be?

Yet it is Harry who is willing to speak of it, to say movingly in public that he loved and lost "the best mother in the world". Wil-liam gives away much less, as befits an older brother, and a future King.

President Bush's fickle friendship with Britain is wearing thin

Many Americans, including President George Bush and Condoleezza Rice, have spoken of the intense emotion they felt after 9/11, when they saw TV footage, from Buckingham Palace, of the band of the Coldstream Guards playing "The Star Spangled Banner" in loyal tribute to their US friends.

Tony Blair's intimate and unconditional support of America has had some ugly conse-quences, as General Sir Mike Jackson now points out, but for that period it was a sweet embrace. Friendship feels all the stronger when it excludes others.

During the run-up to the Iraq war, the falling-out between America and France was good for our national morale. Yet White House friendships can be as fickle as those of 13-year-old girls. It was Bill Clinton who warned Tony Blair that Bush would love him until he found someone else to do his bidding. The Prime Minister's pledge to "act in the British interest" in Iraq, echoed by David Miliband this week, has brought chill winds from the White House. Suddenly, America's staunchest friend is called feeble, defeatist and cynical.

Is it a coincidence that Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, also felt free to lay into us this week for failing to control the poppy crop in Helmand. For now, we are fighting – and dying – to control the ground, let alone the country's agriculture.

The reason for our overstretch is that we are still stuck in Iraq. It would not be unreasonable for the Americans to thank us for four years and hundreds of deaths and injuries.

If Moqtada al-Sadr's Madhi army pledges to stop attacks in return for release of prisoners, this is no worse than in Northern Ireland. America did not care about "terrorism" then.

This time, Michael O'Hanlon, from Brookings Institution in Washington, says scornfully: "I do not think the British have become so cynical or so defeatist that they would release the worst militia leaders – who have British blood on their hands – simply to be assured an easy retreat."

Now the White House has turned its charm on the French. Our loyalty to America has lost us credibility in the Middle East, so we are no longer so useful. The French have a much stronger hand. Perhaps Cecilia Sarkozy ditched a picnic lunch with President Bush because she knew wooing when she saw it.

Why bother with France?

I don't know if it's shifting geo-politics or a bad weather, but friends have returned from holidays in northern France a little sour this year.

They complain about loss of French character, a decline in the quality of food and in English-style drizzle.

The fact is that many places are better in our imagination. I went to the Impressionists by the Sea exhibition. France looks marvellous in the hands of Monet and Renoir. Why bother with the real thing?

Janet Street-Porter is away

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