CIVIC leaders have said they were surprised at the content of a service to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Diana Princess of Wales.

In his opening address at evensong at Sherborne Abbey last Sunday, the Rev Canon Eric Woods said the service was being held at the request of Princes William and Harry.

And the Rt Rev Timothy Thornton, Bishop of Sherborne, said that some could have found Diana "manipulative", while others might have noted her charity work.

Ferndown mayor Lesley Dedman said she felt both the introduction and the sermon had struck a wrong note with guests, which included every mayor or their representative from across the district.

"I am sure many of the congregation were delighted to be there to honour a young woman who, starting her public life as a girl of 20, put a huge amount of effort into her work for her charities," she said.

"I felt that in some quarters the spirit of what the Princes had intended for their much-loved mother was lacking."

Blandford mayor Cllr Steve Hitchings said the service was not quite what he had expected.

"It wasn't quite what I expected, it was quite formal. I probably expected more of a tribute to her," he said.

Lesley Nicholls, of Verwood, said: "I was expecting more of a celebration of the Princess's life. It was a very formal service."

The Bishop said he had tried to present a balance of many different views of Diana's life as a human being, and about the description many times used of Diana as "vulnerable".

"I was trying to make the point there are two sides of vulnerability," he said.

"Often we think a person who is vulnerable is weak and showing frailty but in order to do that you have to be strong."

He added: "If people have taken offence, I'm sorry."

Canon Woods told the Echo he was surprised to hear of the criticism as many people had thanked him for the opening remarks and the bishop's balanced sermon.

"I was simply saying why we were having the service. Princes William and Harry required that every county in the country should have just one service as near as possible to August 31 (the anniversary of Diana's death)."

Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, Mrs Anthony Pitt-Rivers, said she felt the occasion had been in keeping with the wishes of the Royal Family and that it was a dignified and appropriate way to remember Diana's death.