Princes William and Harry walked behind the Queen’s coffin in a doleful scene reminiscent of when, as boys 25 years ago, they followed the casket of their mother Princess Diana as it was taken on a similar procession through central London.
Prince William has revealed joining the solemn procession as his late grandmother made her final journey from Buckingham Palace on Wednesday brought back heartbreaking memories of his mother Princess Diana. William, now the Prince of Wales, said the moment had been “very difficult”. Daily Express royal coresspondent Richard Palmer tweeted: “Prince William told a woman sympathising with him at Sandringham that the procession yesterday had been ‘very difficult’ and had reminded him of walking behind his mother’s coffin. He told another woman: ‘Don’t cry now, you’ll start me.'”
Roya Nikkhah, Sunday Times royal editor, tweeted: “The Prince of Wales has said walking in the #Queen’s cortège yesterday brought back memories of walking behind his mother’s coffin for Diana’s funeral procession in 1997 when William was 15, while viewing tributes to #QueenElizabethII in Sandringham with the Princess of Wales.” Princes William and Harry walked side by side behind their grandmother Queen Elizabeth’s coffin on Wednesday. The scenes were reminiscent of when William, now the Prince of Wales, and his brother Harry had walked behind the coffin of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales during her funeral in 1997, aged just 15 and 13.
In 1997, after Diana was killed aged 36 in a car crash in Paris, William and Harry, aged 15 and 12, walked through central London in her funeral cortege, one of the defining images of their lives. Both brothers have spoken in the past of the lasting trauma they endured after their mother’s death and that long, gruelling walk, during which they maintained a stoical facade despite the grief and turmoil they were feeling. William said in 2017 that the shock of Diana’s death still lingered within him. He said in a TV programme: “You never get over it. It’s such an unbelievably big moment in your life that it never leaves you. You just learn to deal with it.” The Duke of Sussex later said of the moment: “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that.”
Harry said in a 2021 TV documentary series: “It was like I was outside my body, just walking along, doing what was expected of me, showing one tenth of the emotion that everyone was showing,” revealing that he had later used alcohol and drugs to numb the pain. The brothers, whose relationship has become strained in recent years, took part in solemn procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall, where the Queen’s body will lie in state for four days until her funeral on Monday. It was also a symbolic show of unity as William, 40, and Harry, 37, are said to be barely be on speaking terms after a bitter falling out in the last couple of years.
Their father King Charles was just in front of them with the late Queen’s other children. Charles’s wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, William’s wife Kate, Princess of Wales, and Harry’s wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, travelled to the hall by car. The brothers were close for many years after Diana’s death, but their lives have taken different turns in recent years. William, who dedicates himself full-time to his royal duties, is now next in line to the throne. Harry lives in the US, having stepped away from his own royal duties since 2020.
Harry and Meghan gave a bombshell interview to Oprah Winfrey in March 2021 in which the duchess talked about her unhappiness and isolation during her time as a working royal after she married the prince in 2018. Harry described feeling trapped by royal life and criticised his family for failing to support his wife. Meghan also said there had been “concerns and conversations” within the family when she was pregnant with her son Archie about what colour his skin would be. Buckingham Palace responded, saying “some recollections may vary” though the issues raised were “concerning”.
Since the Queen’s death last Thursday, there have been signs that the Royal Family are trying to patch things up with Harry and Meghan. In his first address as sovereign, Charles said he loved them, and the following day the couple joined William and Kate on a walkabout among crowds of mourners near Windsor Castle. The Prince of Wales’ heartbreaking admission comes as he arrived at the main gates to Sandringham House in Norfolk to view floral tributes to the Queen with his wife Kate.