Prince Harry is still haunted by memories of Princess Diana’s funeral: ‘No child should be asked to do what I did’

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Kayleigh Dray
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In 1997, Princess Diana – often referred to as “the people’s princess” – was killed in a car crash in Paris. She was just 36.

The nation went into a state of mourning, laying thousands upon thousands of flowers outside St James’s Palace. Millions tuned in to watch footage of her royal ceremonial funeral. However, the most iconic image – and perhaps the most heart-rending one – was the sight of the late royal’s young sons, Prince William and Prince Harry walking along behind their mother’s coffin.

These boys – aged 15 and 12 respectively – lost their mother just seven days earlier, but were forced to maintain a stiff upper lip and share their grief with the world.

And now, speaking about the occasion 20 years later, Prince Harry (now 32) has admitted that he is still haunted by memories of how he had to behave that tragic day, saying: “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that.”

Speaking openly and honestly in a new interview with Newsweek, he says: “My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television.”

He adds: “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”

There’s no denying that losing his mother at such a young age – and that pressure to bottle up his emotions – had a huge impact on Harry’s life. He's previously described himself as having “[shut] down all my emotions for the last 20 years” and during that time, he was known as the ‘rebellious’ royal: drinking often, once donning a Nazi costume, and famously partying naked in Las Vegas.

However, when he was 28, the prince followed the advice of his older brother, William, and sought help in dealing with the grief he had bottled up for years.

“My mother died when I was very young,” he says. “I didn't want to be in the position I was in, but I eventually pulled my head out of the sand, started listening to people and decided to use my role for good.

“I am now fired up and energized and love charity stuff, meeting people and making them laugh.”

Harry continues: “I sometimes still feel I am living in a goldfish bowl, but I now manage it better. I still have a naughty streak too, which I enjoy and is how I relate to those individuals who have got themselves into trouble.”

He adds powerfully: “Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”

It is not the first time that Harry has opened up about his mental health.

Earlier this year, he sat down with mental health awareness campaigner, Bryony Gordon, and confessed that he had come close to “a complete breakdown” on numerous occasions after repressing the death of his mother.

“I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well,” said the royal, speaking on the inaugural episode of her podcast Mad World.

“I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions when all sorts of grief and sort of lies and misconceptions and everything are coming to you from every angle.”

Prince William, similarly, has been more open recently about dealing with grief.

In an unexpectedly personal interview with GQ magazine, the Duke of Cambridge explained: “I am in a better place about it than I have been for a long time, where I can talk about her more openly, talk about her more honestly, and I can remember her better, and publicly talk about her better.

"It has taken me almost 20 years to get to that stage. I still find it difficult now because at the time it was so raw. And also it is not like most people’s grief, because everyone else knows about it, everyone knows the story, everyone knows her.

“It is a different situation for most people who lose someone they love, it can be hidden away or they can choose if they want to share their story.”

Images: Rex Features


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.