No flag flies over the Palace

Blair Defends Royal Family Against Criticism

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has defended the Royal Family against suggestions from some quarters that they should have done more to express their grief, saying they had much to cope with.

Many newspapers are questioning the reaction of the Royal Family to the death of the Princess, calling on the Queen to lead the people in mourning.

"Show us you Care" said the front page of the Express, while the Sun asked "Where is our Queen? Where is her Flag?"

The Sun: Posing difficult questions

The dilemma facing the Royal Family is that the traditional ways of the monarchy, caught in the rigorous private mourning, do not sit happily alongside the outpourings of those who are queuing outside St James's Palace.

But Mr Blair stressed that the Queen and her immediate family had much to cope with, citing the complex arrangements for the funeral as well as comforting Diana's children, William and Harry.

He made a point of saying he knew that the Royal Family shared the nation's grief. The comments bolstered the Palace's own statement, thanking the public for overwhelming support which it said was giving the family great strength.

The fact that there had been silence from the Palace since a brief communique on Sunday has led to perceptions in some quarters that the Royal Family was out of step with the outpouring of public grief over Diana's death.

Flag to Fly at Half-Mast

Buckingham Palace has announced that the Union flag will fly, for first time, at half-mast from Buckingham Palace during Princess of Wales' funeral. Normally the standard is flown whenever the Queen is in London. It is never flown at half-mast - symbolising the continuation of the monarchy.

The Queen has ordered the Royal Standard to be lowered from the Palace flagpole when she leaves to attend the funeral and the Union Flag will be flown at half-mast until midnight on Saturday. "This is a mark of respect for the Princess on the day of her funeral," said a Palace spokeswoman.