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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK
Earl reflects on Diana's legacy

Earl Spencer made an emotional speech at Diana's funeral
Earl Spencer has been talking about the pain of losing his sister, and about the pride he has for his two nephews as the fourth anniversary of Princess Diana's death approaches.

In an exclusive live forum with BBC News Online, Earl Spencer said Princes William and Harry "had flourished into fine young men" and Diana "could not have done a better job as a mother".

The earl, who this month opened an exhibition commemorating Diana's life on what would have been her 40th birthday, said: "The pain lessens but the realisation is ever-constant with you."

It was tragic that she was taken when she had reached such an equilibrium in her life

Earl Spencer

Talking about his sister, he said he believed there had been a newfound "steel" about her just before her death, and was convinced there would have been "fascinating times ahead" for the princess.

During the online interview with BBC Royal Correspondent Jennie Bond, online viewers were able to e-mail their questions on a range of topics.

These varied from whether the earl thought Prince Charles or Prince William should be the next king to his views on Charles' relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles.

'Unique funeral'

Looking back to Diana's funeral, Earl Spencer said it had been a unique funeral with unique tensions".

He said: "Obviously there was what my family thought was appropriate and there were the normal ways that the Royal Court would deal with things and obviously a compromise had to be found.
Prince William
William has turned into "a fine young man"

"At the end of the day I was very happy with the service as it happened."

He said that prior to her death, Diana had reached a stage of maturity and direction that she had never experienced before.

"There was a sort of steel about her that hadn't always been there. It was tragic that she was taken when she had reached such an equilibrium in her life."

Has she still been alive today, he believed her good work would have continued.

The earl said: "She would have seen the landmine issue through as far as it could have gone... carried on pioneering difficult causes... taken enormous in her sons and where they have got to now...also I hope she would have found happiness in her private life too."

Proud uncle

He said he took great heart in the promising development in his two nephews, whom he said "needed extra care and attention" now they were without their mother.

He said both princes had "an incredible sensitivity and caring nature" which so reflected that of their mother's.

I am very glad at the way the press did not bother William and Harry in the same way that they did their mother.

Earl Spencer

"She would have been immensely proud of them," he added.

In the weeks following the fatal crash in Paris, Earl Spencer had been very public about his distaste for the press and the way they had "hounded" the princess.

But in Thursday's forum he said he was not one to harbour resentment, and was relieved that the press now respected the privacy of his nephews.

No comment on Camilla

Asked what he thought about the relationship between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, the earl said it was not his place to comment.

He said he had never met Camilla but had heard she was "a very pleasant lady", and he would be happy with any "situation" as long as his nephews were.

Asked if he felt hurt by the fact Charles has never visited Diana's grave at the Spencer's family home in Althorp, Earl Spencer said that was the prince's personal choice but he would always be welcome.

Fitting tribute

Asked what he thought would be the best permanent memorial to his sister, the earl replied: "I can understand people's impatience to honour Diana but certainly in this country there has always been a way of doing things and things tend to take time.

"I am sure at the end of the day there will be more public memorials."

But he believed a statue, which many have called for, would not be the best tribute.

"Diana was very photogenic but I've never seen a successful statute of her.

"A lot of Diana's appeal was her energy and you can't capture that in stone," he said.

He said he much preferred the idea of a fountain.

He said: "I like the fountain because the spirit and the freshness of the water seems to symbolise a lot more of what Diana was about."

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