So as her private secretary sat down to draft the most important speech of her reign, he was faced with two problems. He knew that the queen would not say anything that she did not mean. And he knew that Elizabeth II was definitely not mourning Diana in the way that most of her subjects were.
The condolence-book queuers and the mischief-making editors were correct in their hunches. Their emotionally controlled sovereign considered that there were several more important things in life and death than the passing of Diana. At the top of that list was the queen's own idea of enduring royal dignity, which she had upheld for forty-five years and which she was not prepared to forfeit with empty gestures.
To those who knew Diana personally, the princess's saintly public aura — massively magnified in death — was compromised by a private wilfulness on a major scale. It extended far beyond self-indulgence to a pattern of deceit and narcissism that poisoned her relations not only with her royal in-laws but with her charities, her most loyal servants, and even with her own blood family, the Spencers. In the last summer of her life she had had bitter rows and had been in a state of prolonged "no speaks" with both her mother and her brother Charles.
For many years Elizabeth II had done her best to keep working with what she called her daughter-in-law's "difficult side." She genuinely admired Diana's idealistic impulses and empathy with the public, and she gave full weight to the princess's role as a future queen and mother of a future king. But the previous year, at the beginning of the couple's divorce negotiations in 1996, Diana had engaged in a sally of deception at the expense of the queen herself. She lied about what she had said face-to-face to the queen, and her blatant dishonesty had shocked Elizabeth II and angered her profoundly.
The most important issue in the queen's eyes was the institution of monarchy that she was pledged to protect — and by the end of Diana's life she had come to feel that the princess was undermining it. From that perception stemmed the difference between the queen's feelings and those of many, if not most, of her subjects. A dangerous gap had been created, and tomorrow's speech would have to close it.
The royal plane touched down at Northolt, the RAF air base fifteen miles west of central London, at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, 5 September, the afternoon before the funeral. Helicopters were hovering overhead, and their cameras followed the royal car as it threaded its way through the suburbs of west London, past the BBC in Shepherd's Bush, through Paddington and across Hyde Park, finally to bring the queen back to her palace.
"I had some trepidation," confesses one royal aide, "as to what was going to happen when they got out of the car. Perhaps people would jeer or hiss at her."
Geoff Crawford had sketched out the route she would follow down the barricade of flowers against the railings, and there were plain clothes police looking for trouble in the crowd. In fact, the mood of people around the gates was warm and welcoming — "a universal saying," as one participant remembered, "of 'Well, at last you're back.' "