Prime Minister Tony Blair was among the dignitaries waiting on the tarmac when the RAF jet bearing Diana's body in the cargo hold arrived back on British soil. The coffin, covered in the harps and lions of the red, white, purple, and gold royal standard, was then lifted out of the belly of the plane by an RAF honor guard and slowly walked to a waiting hearse.
While Charles headed back to Balmoral to be with his sons, the hearse drove to the Hammersmith and Fulham Mortuary in West London for a second postmortem by John Burton, who was then Coroner of the Queen's Household, and his deputy Michael Burgess -- this one conducted according to British law. Diana's personal physician was also there to observe. "I have to attend an autopsy now" he told Diana's sisters, "and it's not going to be easy."
The results of the second autopsy would again raise eyebrows among conspiracy theorists. After they were shown the top-secret English autopsy report, Dominique Lecomte and Andre Lienhar -- the French pathologists who had done the partial embalming of Diana in Paris—wrote a memo critical of the coroner's findings. A decade later, the potentially explosive memo and the autopsy report -- either or both of which might prove a cover-up -- remained under lock and key.
Neither Charles nor the Queen would ever question the circumstances surrounding the crash itself, why ninety minutes had passed before the ambulance carrying Diana arrived at a hospital just 3.8 miles from the crash site, or what either of the autopsies may have revealed. "It is not in their nature to ask difficult questions," a longtime courtier conceded. "They are simply not interested in much more than horses, dogs, and foxhunting. They prefer to keep their heads buried in the sand."
Such was the case in the days leading up to Diana's funeral. Even as a sea of flowers lapped at the palace gates and hundreds of thousands of mourners poured into central London, the Queen refused to interrupt her holiday at Balmoral. Nor would she agree to fly the flag over Buckingham Palace at half-mast, something traditionally done only on the occasion of the sovereign's death. "We did not fly the flag at half-staff for Sir Winston Churchill," she huffed. "We are certainly not going to fly it at half-staff for her." The public's growing resentment was echoed on the front pages of Britain's newspapers. let the flag fly at half mast, trumpeted the Daily Mail. The Mirror pleaded speak to us ma'am -- your people are suffering, while the Sun simply asked where is the queen when the country needs her? where is her flag? and the Daily Express demanded show us you care.
Polls showed that 66 percent of Britons now believed the monarchy was doomed. Fifty-eight percent wanted William, not Charles, to be their next King. "The monarchy must bow its head," warned constitutional expert Anthony Barrett, "or it will be broken."
Britons might have felt even more strongly had they known that the Queen had nixed initial plans to have Diana buried on the grounds of Windsor Castle (as Dr. John Burton, Coroner to the Queen, had been led to believe) and was even resisting Charles's plea for a large public funeral. Her Majesty wanted the Spencers to go ahead with their original plans for a small private service. Again Elizabeth pointed out that, despite her phenomenal popularity, Diana did not qualify for either a state funeral or a royal one. There was simply no precedent for it.