News of Princess Diana's death shook the world, but it was even more heartbreaking for her boys, Princes William and Harry, who had to walk behind their mother's coffin. As it turns out, it had not been their decision to do that.
Princess Diana was beloved by fans far and wide. She was beautiful, warm, and oozed grace, generosity, and kindness. She was revered by women worldwide and was the pinnacle of resilience and self-discipline.
That is why her death on August 31, 1997, shattered the world, and many could not come to terms with the fact that she was gone. But even more devastating was that she had left behind two children, William and Harry, who were 15 and 12 respectively, at the time.
Left: Young Princes William and Harry on the day before their mother's funeral. Right: William and Harry follow behind their mother's casket on the day she was laid to rest on September, 6, 1997 | Source: Getty Images
In an interview with Newsweek, Harry shared how difficult it had been to deal with his mother's death, let alone walking behind her on the day of her funeral. He said as Town & Country reports:
"I don't think any child should be asked to do that under any circumstances."
There are two sides to every story, and this one was no exception. Years after Diana's demise, Princess Anne gave a different perspective to the story.
Princess Diana with her sons, William and Harry in Hyde Park on May 7, 1995 in London, England. | Source: Getty Images
Speaking to ITV's Chris Ship, Princess Anne disclosed that Prince Philip, the boys' grandfather, had encouraged the boys to join the one-mile procession to Westminster Abbey.
The brothers would later reveal that their walking in the procession had been "a group decision" but would not mention names. In retrospect, Harry shared how glad he was to have participated as he felt he'd made his mother "proud."
THE DEVASTATING DEATH OF PRINCESS DIANA
Princess of Wales with her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, at the piano in Kensington Palace | Source: Getty Images
William recalls feeling completely dizzy, disoriented, and numb but is thankful to his father and grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, for shielding them and helping them grieve in privacy.
Queen Elizabeth had to disregard her title for a moment and comfort her grandkids as a grandmother and not as the queen.
The princes recall their grandmother hiding newspapers from them so they could not see what others had to say about their mother or the intense media coverage following her death.
Princess Diana With Her Sons Prince William And Prince Harry Standing On The Steps Of Wetherby School On Prince Harry's first day of school in September 1989 | Source: Getty Images
The family also encouraged the boys to speak openly about their feelings concerning Diana's demise. But even decades after the tragic loss of their mother, the princes still look back and wish they had done things a little differently.
In the 2017 HBO special titled "Our Mother Diana: Her Life and Legacy," which marked Diana's 20th death anniversary, they recalled how brief their last phone call to their mother had been.
Being young, they had been keen to finish the call and go back to playing with their cousins at the Queen's Scottish retreat, Balmoral. Unbeknownst to them, that would be the last time they spoke to their mother.
Princess Diana, Prince William, and Prince Harry at "Thorpe Park" amusement park on April 13, 1993 | Source: Getty Images
Harry says had he known that he'd been hearing his mother's voice for the last time, the conversation could have been different.
PRINCESS DIANA RETURNS HOME
Princess Diana was finally laid to rest in her childhood home in Althorp Park, North Hampshire, England, on September 6, 1997. As it would be for anyone, their mother's demise hit the boys hard. However, even more devastating events followed Diana's death.
As Diana's flag-draped coffin came up the mall near St. James's Palace, the boys walked behind their mother's casket. William says while he had a duty to fulfill as a prince, he also admits that it was one of the hardest things he ever had to do.
Princess Diana on June 2, 1997 | Source: Getty Images
The stoic walk behind Diana's cortège was strenuous on the boys, and they had to hide their grief for a moment. They walked alongside their grandfather, Prince Philip, their uncle, Earl Spencer, and Prince Charles.
The boys were beside themselves with grief as Elton John sang his famous song "Candle in the Wind," after which Earl Spencer paid tribute to his sister, saying to the boys, as CNN reports:
"We are all chewed up with sadness at the loss of a woman who was not even our mother. How great your suffering is, we cannot even imagine."
Diana, Princess of Wales, wears an outfit in the colors of Canada during a state visit to Edmonton, Alberta, with her husband. | Source: Getty Images
BIZARRE AND CRUEL THING
While Earl Spencer had been part of the procession, accompanying the boys as they walked down the Westminster Abbey, he later disclosed that he'd been lied to about William and Harry wanting to join the procession.
Earl Spenser says he had been a "passionate advocate" for the boys not to walk behind their mother, but someone at the palace told him the plan was already in place and that the boys had wanted to do it.
Princess of Wales, Diana, arriving at the Serpentine Gallery on June 1994, in a gown by Christina Stambolian in London | Source: Getty Images
He hated seeing his nephews, who were still massively grieving their mother, having to go through the process, calling it a "bizarre and cruel thing." Earl Spencer opened up about it during the 20th anniversary of Diana's demise, saying, as BBC reports:
"I said she [Diana] just would not want them to do this, and there was lots of sort of embarrassed coughing and various other conversations."
IF I DO IT, WILL YOU?
After years of speculation about who was behind the decision to let the boys join the procession, Princess Anne came clean about it in 2021, disclosing that Prince Philip had highly influenced the decision to participate.
From left: Prince Philip, Prince William, Charles Spencer, Prince Harry and Prince Charles walk behind Princess Diana's casket at her September 6, 1997 funeral. | Source: Getty Images
The princess says that as his way of showing support to the princes, Prince Philip wanted them to know that he would be there for them whatever they chose to do.
On the night before the funeral, the family was deliberating on the following day's events when Prince Phillip made the boys an offer. He had told them he'd walk with them, saying, according to Insider:
"If you'll do it, I'll do it."
Prince William and Prince Harry at St James' Palace on October 10, 2018 in London, England. | Source: Getty Images