People's Funeral for People's Princess

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LONDON: There are few precedents for what is happening today. It isn't a state funeral, since Diana wasn't officially Royal at the end of her life. She lost the title H.R.H. along with her marriage. But somehow the nationwide outpouring of sentiment has made this somber event more than the usual pomp and circumstance. The Union Jack is flying half-mast at Buckingham Palace for the first time in the history of the monarchy a triumph of public pressure over traditional protocol. Neither President Clinton nor President Chirac are attending, but that doesn't matter to the estimated two million Britons who lined the route of the cortege in London.

If Diana was the people's Princess, this is most definitely the people's funeral. Across the country shops will shut, trains will stop, soccer matches and horse races will be cancelled and a two-minute silence will be observed. Westminster Abbey's program combines "traditional and modern elements" that means Elton as well as Elgar. Even the Palace has been infected by the need to accomodate an overwhelming grief: the Lord Chamberlain's office is manning a media-friendly "Command Center", connected to over 20 million phone lines.

And when it is all over, Diana will be laid to rest on a small island within the Spencer family estate itself allowing her sons to visit her in private, and giving her a peace she rarely knew in life.