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Camilla pulls out of Diana memorial service at last hour

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Just days after the Duchess of Cornwall publicly defended her decision to attend the memorial service marking the tenth anniversary of Princess Diana's death, she has had a change of heart. Explaining her last-minute about-turn, she said that although she'd been "touched" by Prince William and Harry's invite to Friday's service and "wanted to support them", she had concluded it was best not to attend.

"On reflection I believe my attendance could divert attention from the purpose of the occasion, which is to focus on the life and service of Diana," she said in a statement. "I'm grateful to my husband, William and Harry for supporting my decision."

It is thought Camilla was uneasy about attending the service in the first place but had been persuaded by Prince Charles to accompany him. She had earlier defended accepting her step-sons' invite to a member of the public, telling them in a letter that her presence would be "appropriate".

Camilla will now remain at Balmoral, where she is currently holidaying with her husband, while Charles, the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Earl and Countess of Wessex take front-row pews at the Guards Chapel in London's Wellington Barracks.

The 500-strong congregation is expected to include more than 30 royals, as well as the Spencer family, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, some of Diana's former staff, and celebrity pals including Elton John and Cliff Richard.

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The Duchess has expressed concern her attendance at Diana's memorial service would "divert attention from the purpose of the occasion"

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