Palace denies argument over Diana's funeral

Buckingham Palace last night denied claims by a Channel Four programme that Prince Charles angrily overruled Queen Elizabeth …

Buckingham Palace last night denied claims by a Channel Four programme that Prince Charles angrily overruled Queen Elizabeth who wanted to give Princess Diana a private funeral.

Meanwhile, Diana's brother, Earl Spencer, last night denied a claim by the television programme that he had argued with the royal family about funeral details.

Channel Four was last night standing over its report in which it quoted unidentified "high level sources" as saying that the royal family had wanted a private rather than national mourning for Diana.

The queen, her private secretary, Sir Robert Fellowes, and her advisers reportedly told Prince Charles that they wanted Diana's body to rest in a private mortuary and not in a royal palace before the funeral.

"A blazing row" erupted between the prince and Sir Robert Fellowes at Balmoral Castle, with Prince Charles telling the queen's secretary to "impale himself on his own flagstaff", according to Channel Four.

The dispute took place hours after Diana had died, the report said. Prince Charles reportedly agreed with the Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, on the need to transfer her body to Saint James's Palace, where it was kept until the funeral on Saturday.

Buckingham Palace last night issued a strong denial. "It is simply untrue to suggest that the queen ever opposed arrangements over where the princess's body would lie," a palace spokesman said, describing them as "a ragbag of nonsensical speculations".

Lord Spencer last night rejected any difference with the royal family after Channel Four claimed he also objected to a private funeral.

Lord Spencer was also said to have objected to the Duke of Edinburgh taking part in the funeral cortege to Westminster Abbey. Royal watchers have said the queen's husband was one of Diana's strongest critics.

He said: "To suggest that there were divisions between royal officials and me in the period after my sister's death is so far from the truth as to be laughable. We were united in the aim of giving Diana a suitable funeral and all arrangements up to and including the service were agreed amicably."

Meanwhile, the bodyguard who was the only survivor of the crash which killed Princess Diana yesterday regained consciousness, according to a spokesman for the Paris hospital where he remains in intensive care. But Mr Trevor Rees-Jones, who was travelling in the front passenger seat of the Mercedes S280 at the time of the crash, is not expected to be able to speak to police for several weeks.

Nearly 40 per cent of British people feel less favourable to the royal family since the death of Diana, according to a poll in today's Sun.

Some 39 per cent have a less favourable impression, 15 per cent more favourable and 43 per cent stayed the same, according to a MORI survey. However, 73 per cent said Britain should remain a monarchy.

The queen's broadcast and lowering of the flag for Diana were too late to avoid damage to the family, according to 44 per cent, while 42 per said it was timely and helped improve the royal image.

A massive 77 per cent agreed strongly that Earl Spencer's tribute had reflected the mood of the nation.

The princess's solicitors, Mishcon de Reya, said yesterday that donations to the Princess of Wales Memorial Fund continued to pour into Kensington Palace, with most cheques between £5 and £10. Approximately 350 callers an hour have pledged donations totalling £168,000 a day via a BT creditcard hotline.

The death of Diana appears to have given a sharp push to the drive for Australia to cut its last ties with Britain and become a republic. A Morgan poll published in Bulletin magazine yesterday said 53 per cent of Australians now backed the idea of removing Queen Elizabeth as head of state.

Almost 500,000 people watched the funeral on RTE1 on Saturday. €1 than all of the other channels combined." Early US figures show that it was watched by at least 20 million.

Meanwhile, the Tory leader, Mr William Hague, has called for Heathrow Airport be renamed in memory of Diana.