• Fri. May 12th, 2023

This won’t be the first time the Queen has endured adversity.

Apr 17, 2021

As the Queen prepares to say goodbye to Prince Philip, she faces one of her darkest moments. But it’s not the first time she has faced adversity. Photo / Getty ImagesAs the Queen prepares to say goodbye to Prince Philip, she faces one of her darkest moments. But its not the first time she has faced adversity.
It was Friday, September 5, 1997, the day before Princess Diana’s funeral, and the mood outside London’s St James’s Palace was sombre and tense, lapsing into anger towards the Queen.
Standing among the British people at the end of a long week in London, I could feel the palpable emotion gripping the crowd.
One woman explained it to me this way: “we don’t hate the Queen but we love Prince Diana. She was our princess and we want to know the Queen cares and is in mourning too.”
In the days since, I and hundreds of reporters had come to London for what the late legend Steve Dunleavy had cheekily dubbed “Princess Di week”, a rolling tide of feelings swamped the nation.
All week, mourners formed long lines around London’s palaces, Kensington, St James’s and Buckingham, to pay respects to their Queen of Hearts.
They wept openly. They were a nation in shock and wanted to discuss, with reporters from around the world, their disbelief and grief.
But as Princess Di week progressed and the sea of cellophaned flowers grew to engulf Kensington’s gate, denial turned to confusion and then began to rise up as fury.
Where was the Queen, why was there no Union Jack over Buckingham Palace?
On nearly every other building in London, the British flag was flying at half-mast. Why was the palace flagpole naked and bare?
It was a matter of royal protocol that the Royal Standard flew over wherever the Queen was currently in residence.
But the public wasn’t giving a damn about royal etiquette. They loved Diana and wanted the royals to show her respect.
Some even blamed the royal family for her demise: if Charles hadn’t cheated on her, she wouldn’t have been driving with a playboy in a Paris tunnel to her death.
The London tabloids whipped up the mood: “Speak To Us, Ma’am,” said the Mirror, “Your People are Suffering.”
The London Sun bannered “Where Is Our Queen? Where Is Her Flag?”, while the Express said, “Show Us You Care”.
The Royal Family was, as the movie The Queen has shown and no doubt The Crown will show, holed up in Balmoral on summer holiday in their Scottish palace.
Down in London, debate raged on the streets and in pubs and bars about the cold stiff upper-lipped royals versus the warm-hearted Diana.
Outside the palaces, British reserve had abandoned the people who formed the lines to leave more flowers, teddy bears and mementos, and to sign the books of condolence.
Books were set up at St James’s Palace, inside which Diana lay, and at Harrod’s, owned by Mohamed Fayed, the father of Dodi, who had died with Diana in the Paris tunnel crash.
Princess Diana’s kindness, her warmth, her breaking the mould of the royal family, her ousting from it and the apparently chilly and distant heart of the closed royal ranks was a hot topic of conversation.
Standing long into the cool evenings while holding candlelight vigils, Britons were happy to share their thoughts with reporters.
By Thursday, September 4, plans for Diana’s funeral in two days’ time were well under way.
The public knew of the procession which would escort Diana’s coffin on its journey from St James’s Palace to Westminster Abbey.
They didn’t yet know Elton John was crafting Goodbye England’s Rose to the tune of Candle In The Wind, but it had been reported special Diana touches would soften the occasion’s formality to reflect her life.
Princess Diana’s body had been lying in state in the Chapel Royal at St James’s since the Monday, so where was the Queen?
On that Thursday, the royal family finally emerged in Scotland.
After attending a service at nearby Crathie Church, they stopped to look and cards and flowers laid outside Balmoral castle.
The Queen, along with Prince Philip and Prince Charles in their kilts and the two young princes, William and Harry, paused at Balmoral’s gate.
On the same day, the Queen issued her now famous statement which said the royal family was hurt by suggestions it was indifferent to the country’s sorrow over Princess Diana’s death.
“The princess was a much loved national figure, but she was also a mother whose sons miss her deeply,” the statement said.
“Prince William and Prince Harry themselves want to be with their father and their grandparents at this time in the quiet haven of Balmoral.”
But the statement had been issued via the queen’s press secretary, Geoffrey Crawford, and the British people still wanted a personal message from their queen.
The statement promised they would get one, that the Union Jack would be flown at half mast over Buckingham Palace, and that on Friday the Queen would address the nation.
The official plan was for princes Charles, William and Harry to arrive in London on the Friday and visit Diana’s body at the Chapel Royal.
The Queen and Prince Philip were not due to arrive in London until overnight on Friday for the funeral at 11am on Saturday.
But the cold winds blowing from the south must have reached Balmoral, and there was a change of heart.
The crowds on the London streets on Friday September 5 were caught up in anticipation, straining to see, excited, but also still wracked with hurt.
Then out from the palace slid a large black car with giant windows, in it and dressed in black, were the Queen and Prince Philip.
The royal couple waved and a murmur rippled through the crowd.
People wept, but the feeling was less of despair and more of relief: the Queen cared, Britain’s monarch was reigning over them once more and in harmony with their grief.
That day at St James’s Palace, the Queen, Philip and their family paid their respects to Diana’s coffin inside the Royal Chapel.
Then they mingled with the crowds, Prince Charles and his two sons visiting the cellophane flower hills and speaking with mourners waiting to write messages in the mountain of condolence books, now topping 43.
That evening, the Queen addressed the nation.
“We have all been trying in our different ways to cope,” the Queen began.
“It is not easy to express a sense of loss, since the initial shock is often succeeded by a mixture of other feelings: disbelief, incomprehension, anger and concern for those who remain.
“We have all felt those emotions in these last few days. So what I say to you now, as your Queen and as a grandmother, I say from my heart.
“First, I want to pay tribute to Diana myself. She was an exceptional and gifted human being. “In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness.
“I admired and respected her for her energy and commitment to others, and especially for her devotion to her two boys ”
It was a short broadcast at 6pm, 17 hours before the long procession of Diana’s final journey began.
Britain could now sleep in peace.
The Queen was back, the ship was righted and the nation could get on with mourning their beloved Diana.