Philip’s four-letter fury over Diana: How Duke bellowed at Blair spin doctors ‘f*** off’ when they pressed for Princes to walk behind mother’s funeral cortege
Exchange came during a call between Buckingham Palace and Balmoral
Call came as the Blair government was accused of taking over the funeral plans
Duke lost temper after pressure to get the young princes to walk behind coffin
New details emerged last night of the explosive row between the Duke of Edinburgh and Tony Blair’s spin doctors over Prince William and Prince Harry’s roles at their mother’s funeral.
The ‘anguished’ Duke reportedly told No 10 officials to ‘f*** off’ after it was suggested the princes should walk behind Diana’s coffin – and he was backed by the Queen.
The exchange came during a telephone conference call between Buckingham Palace, where Mr Blair’s team, including spin doctor Alastair Campbell, had met Royal aides, and Balmoral, where the Queen and Prince Philip were staying with William and Harry.
The call, convened by the Lord Chamberlain Lord Airlie, came as the Blair government was accused of taking over the funeral plans.
The Duke lost his temper after pressure to get the young princes to walk behind the coffin and other ideas to ‘show the Royals cared’ about Diana were floated.
Creating a ‘Pied Piper effect’, whereby barriers were removed to allow the public to surge behind the procession. It was rejected by police on safety grounds;
Inviting Nelson Mandela and showbusiness stars;
Erecting a giant TV screen in a Royal park.
The call was also witnessed by Mr Blair’s No 10 ‘gatekeeper’ Anji Hunter. She has spoken of it in a new BBC film about Diana’s funeral. Earlier this year she described her shock at Prince Philip’s deep emotion in the call in which it was suggested the princes should follow the cortege. ‘I can remember – it sends a tingle up my back. We were all talking about how William and Harry should be involved and suddenly came Prince Philip’s voice. We hadn’t heard from him before, but he was really anguished.
‘ “It’s about the boys,” he cried, “They’ve lost their mother.” I thought, “My God, there’s a bit of suffering going on up there.” ’
Ms Hunter’s husband, Sky TV political commentator Adam Boulton, has provided an even more vivid account of the phone conversation – and the Duke’s fury. Mr Boulton says Philip swore when ‘Downing Street spinners kicked around what roles Harry and William should play in the funeral’.
Highly respected Boulton says in his book, Tony’s Ten Years: ‘The Queen relished the moment when Philip bellowed over the speakerphone from Balmoral, “F*** off. We are talking about two boys who have just lost their mother.”’
Asked last week about the Duke’s four-letter outburst, Mr Boulton said: ‘He was trying to remind everyone that human feelings were involved. No 10 were trying to help the Royals present things in the best way, but may have seemed insensitive. The princes were uneasy about walking behind the coffin, but No 10’s advice that the Royals had to be seen mourning in public was right.’
Mr Boulton says the Queen, who did not take part in the call, made it clear later that she supported her husband’s emotional response.
The Duke is known for his risqué jokes, but it is the first time he has been accused of using the F-word.
Mr Campbell also talks of the tension between Buckingham Palace and Downing Street over the funeral in the BBC film – Diana, 7 Days – to be broadcast this week.
In his version of the call in The Blair Years diaries, Campbell made no reference to swearing by the Duke. He claimed a reluctant William was persuaded to take part in the procession by Royal aides who convinced him it was ‘what his mother would have wanted’.
Campbell said there were fears Prince Charles could be lynched by an angry public if his sons did not walk alongside him. Boasting of his and Blair’s role in the funeral arrangements, Campbell said Blair’s ‘People’s Princess’ tribute to Diana ‘caught the public mood of mourning far better than the Royal Family’s traditional reserve’.
He added: ‘I got up the “People’s Funeral” line.’
And after watching the crowds surge towards the funeral cortege, he wrote: ‘I couldn’t resist saying [to Blair]… “I did that.” ’
Campbell said Blair had been ‘clear and firm’ in his dealings with the Queen and had pleaded with her to show her ‘vulnerable side’ to win back public opinion.
Campbell said the Royals later thanked Blair’s team for helping them to manage the funeral and curb public hostility to their treatment of Diana – but concedes they had doubts too. The Royals ‘wondered whether calling her the “People’s Princess” didn’t fuel the public feeling’ – and the Queen felt ‘sorely treated’, he said.
The long-running dispute over who made the decision that the two princes should take part in the funeral walk is at the centre of the BBC film, which exams the outpouring of public grief in the aftermath of Diana’s death – and its effect on Britain. In it, William says: ‘It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, that walk. It felt she was almost walking along beside us to get us through it.’
Prince Harry remembers being comforted by weeping members of the public in the days after his mother died. ‘People’s hands were wet because of the tears they had just wiped away,’ he says. Harry has said in the past that he and his brother should never have been put through the ordeal of walking behind the coffin. And Diana’s brother Earl Spencer claimed last month that a Palace aide ‘lied’ to him about the princes’ wishes.
In the event, the Duke of Edinburgh’s rage subsided and at the last minute he helped win round William, who had wanted to grieve in private. Former Tory MP and writer Gyles Brandreth, a close friend of the Duke, has revealed how ‘Prince Philip, who had not planned to walk, said to William, “If I walk, will you walk with me?” ’
Source: DAILYMAIL MAILONLINE
Tags: Prince William, Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Charles William and Harry, Diana’s Funeral, Princess Diana’s Funeral, Royal Funeral, British Royal Fans, British Fans, British News, UK News