It was a defining moment for Prince William and his younger brother Prince Harry. The pair joined their father, uncle and grandfather in walking behind the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales — their mother — in a heartwrenching procession. The decision was made by the Royal Family for the brothers, who were just 15 and 12 at the time, to take part in Diana’s cortege as a sign of continuity. However, according to a royal author, King Charles III is “haunted” by the choice which went on to deeply affect both of his sons.
Christopher Anderson’s new book ‘The King: The Life of Charles III’ will be published next month. It is the first biography of Charles since he has become monarch and chronicles his life so far.
Appearing on this week’s episode of the Royally Us podcast, Mr Anderson discussed his book, pointing out various significant moments in the King’s life; in particular, he noted a haunting decision he believes Charles “deeply regrets”.
One of the most moving images of the 20th century came about in September 1997, when young Princes William and Harry took part in the funeral procession for their mother Princess Diana and walked solemnly behind her coffin.
Watched by melancholy crowds, William and Harry walked through central London as part of her funeral cortege, alongside Charles Spencer, her brother, and then-Prince Charles and Prince Philip.
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William has previously spoken about how difficult it was to walk behind his mother’s coffin. In a 2017 documentary, he told the BBC about the “very long, lonely walk,” calling it “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done”.
He admitted he tried to use his hair to hide because he “felt if I looked at the floor and my hair came down over my face, no one could see me”. The prince went on to say it wasn’t “an easy decision” to join the procession and described it as a “sort of collective family decision to do that”.
He continued: “There is that balance between duty and family, and that’s what we had to do,” adding there was a difference “between me being Prince William and having to do my bit, versus the private William who just wanted to go into a room and cry, who’d lost his mother”.
Similarly, his younger brother has spoken out about the walk, telling Newsweek in 2017: “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. I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”
In an interview with the BBC two months later, the Duke of Sussex said he didn’t “have an opinion whether that was right or wrong” to join the walk, and said he was “very glad” to have been a part of the day.
The Queen’s funeral marked a solemn reunion for the brothers who walked side-by-side during the emotional procession. Royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams told Metro.co.uk the scene symbolically echoed the 1997 funeral, saying it could bring back awful memories for the Princes but coming together following the Queen’s death proves they are “unified in mourning”.
He said: “We must hope the brothers walking behind the coffin will remind the world of what happened in 1997 but hopefully unlike what followed then, this will be a step along a road that will be positive. What the world sees is one thing, but what goes on behind the scenes is another thing.”
He added: “Reconciliation has to start somewhere for the brothers, and at this deeply emotional time it is incredibly symbolic they stood closely together behind the Queen’s coffin. We saw at Windsor Castle at the weekend the body language between all four of them [William, Harry, Kate and Meghan Markle] was quite distant, but I think on such an occasion like today they will be closer together.
“It is not just about today, but it is also about what happens in the coming weeks and months. It is all down to trust, and the trust is being rebuilt between the brothers step by step and will take time to resolve.”