During the much talked about divorce proceedings between Princess Diana and Prince Charles, Diana was stripped of her royal titles, which deeply upset her. Her son, William, made a promise to his mother to try and comfort her.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding was one of the most publicized events in the history of the British royal family in 1981. But when reports of the couple's troubled marriage surfaced, Diana gave a bombshell interview to the BBC citing the issues in their marriage. After the interview, a crisis erupted in the royal family, which prompted the Queen to send a letter to Diana.
"I have consulted with the Archbishop of Canterbury and with the prime minister and, of course, with Charles, and we have decided that the best course for you is divorce," the letter read. Near the end of their marriage, the couple hadn't been close for three years, but Diana didn't want a divorce.
Princess Diana was reportedly so upset at being stripped of her royal titles that William promised he would give them to her when he became kind. | Source: Getty Images
"That's rich! They get to decide whether I divorce!" an infuriated Diana responded. Diana reportedly only needed clarity to the matter of the troubled marriage, and divorce was not on the cards for her until the letter from the Queen. But just days after the Queen's letter to Diana, the divorce was announced.
CHARLES INSISTED DIANA BE STRIPPED OF HER ROYAL TITLES
Charles insisted to the Queen that Diana be stripped of her royal "Her Royal Highness" (HRH) titles during the divorce process. The Queen was not against Diana retaining her titles even after the divorce because she was the mother to Prince William, who was next in line to the throne after his father.
Nobody in and outside the royal family would be expected to curtsy to her without royal titles. She would also be expected to curtsy to her ex-husband and even to her children as she would automatically be lower than them. However, a more significant reason was that Diana would lose all connection to the royal family and any claim to the throne without any titles.
Princess Diana photographed in Italy during an official overseas visit. | Source: Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images
With Charles next in line to the throne, it was worrying to Charles to leave Diana with her royal titles intact because of her fame. She held the public's affection on levels that had never been seen before and was certainly a lot more popular to the public than Charles was.
But what mattered more to Diana during the divorce was that she could spend time with her children and have access to them through joint custody. "One thing I can always say about my mother is she smothered Harry and me in love. Twenty years on, I still feel the love she gave us, and that is testament to her massive heart and her amazing ability to be a great mother," William said.
WILLIAM HUGGED A CRYING DIANA AND MADE A PROMISE
Diana was reportedly so upset about losing the HRH titles that she was in tears. This prompted her mother, Frances Shand Kydd, to suggest to her that this may have been a good thing. Frances believed that Diana could make a better fresh start without the pressure of the royal titles. However, this suggestion didn't sit well with Diana, who cut communication with her mother for months after the suggestion.
The Prince and Princess of Wales return to Buckingham Palace by carriage after their wedding, 29th July 1981. | Source: Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images
Buckingham Palace released a statement announcing the decision to grant Diana and Charles an early divorce. The marriage ended eight months later, with a 'decree nisi' on August 28, 1996. Diana was awarded a £17 million lump sum and £350,000 a year to run her private office in the divorce settlement. She was also allowed to keep living at Kensington Palace.
According to Diana's butler and friend Paul Burrell, William witnessed his mother crying about being stripped of her titles and tried to comfort her by making a promise. "Don't worry, Mummy, I will give it back to you one day when I'm a king," he said. This conversation with William left Diana in tears. Sadly William never got to fulfill his promise as Diana died in a car crash a year later.
ROYAL TITLE COULD HAVE PREVENTED DIANA'S DEATH
Almost 20 years after the tragic car crash, William spoke candidly about how deeply he missed his mother. When the news of his mother's death became public, William felt he could not grieve and had to carry out his royal duties as well as possible. "All I cared about was, I'd lost my mother, and I didn't want to be where I was," he said.
The Prince of Wales, Prince William and Prince Harry look at floral tributes to Diana, Princess of Wales outside Kensington Palace on September 5, 1997 in London, England. | Source: Anwar Hussein/Getty Images
William added that he was in shock for many years, as the circumstances surrounding his mother's death and the public outpouring of grief was unusual to him. He added that being part of the royal family, he needed to show strength even after the loss of his mother, which made it even more challenging to grieve appropriately.
He added that as an adult, William reflected that his mother's ability to be vulnerable was probably one of the main reasons why the public was so enamored by her. But he chooses a slightly different path, being a little more stoic to protect his family. He said:
"But I am determined to protect myself and the children, and that means preserving something for ourselves. I think I have a more developed sense of self-preservation."
Diana losing her royal titles also meant losing the security that came with being a royal family member. If she still had access to the safety, she would not have been involved in a high-speed chase with the paparazzi and perhaps would not have been involved in the tragic car accident.