Twenty years on from her death, Princes open up about their memories of mother Diana
The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry have revealed their intimate thoughts about their mother in a documentary featuring her closest family and friends. Picture: PA
The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry have spoken as never before about Princess Diana in an interview designed to teach a new generation about their mother.
The brothers, now aged 35 and 32, have given the most intimate insight yet into their childhood, as they opened their family photo album. In a 90-minute documentary, featuring the Princess’ closest family and friends, the Duke and Prince will bring their mother’s memory to life, detailing her efforts to give them a normal childhood and her love of pranks.
The Duke speaks of how he felt her presence as a source of comfort before his 2011 wedding to Catherine Middleton.
It will reveal how their parents’ divorce left them constantly travelling between houses, that their mother’s death was like an “earthquake”, and how Queen Elizabeth was at one point so concerned she took friends aside to check on the Princes.
Introducing the film at a Kensington Palace screening, the Duke said he and his younger brother had never spoken so frankly in public before, explaining that the 20th anniversary of the Princess’ death in August felt like an “appropriate time to open up a bit more”.
“We won’t be doing this again,” he said. “We won’t speak as openly and publicly about her again, because we feel that hopefully this film will provide the other side: from her closest family and friends, that you might not have heard before, from those who knew her best, and those who want to protect her memory and want to remind people of the person she was; the warmth, the humour, and what she was like as a mother.
“Harry and I feel very strongly that we want to celebrate her life, and this is a tribute from her sons to her.”
Sitting with Prince Harry to look at photographs and talk about memories had been “cathartic”, he added.
As well as her sons, the film also features the Princess’ brother, Earl Spencer, who speaks frankly about how the bitter divorce of their parents affected her; Sir Elton John, who sang at her funeral, and a host of friends.
The Duke and Prince have also taken part in a BBC documentary, due out later this year and focusing specifically on the week following the car crash that killed the Princess in Paris in 1997. They marked what would have been her 56th birthday last month by rededicating her grave at Althorp, the Spencer family home, and will commemorate the anniversary of her death in August.
“We want her legacy to live on in our work, and we feel this is an appropriate way of doing that,” said the Duke.
The family album
The ITV film opens with the Duke and Prince leafing though the Princess’ photograph album. Harry tells his brother: “Part of me never really wanted to look at them and part of me was waiting to find the right time where we could sit down and look at them together.”
One shows him on his first day of school, while another captures a beach holiday, where he is hugged tightly by his mother.
“She would just engulf you and squeeze you as tight as possible,” he recalls. “And being as short as I was then, there was no escape, you were there and you were there for as long as she wanted to hold you. Even talking about it now I can feel the hugs that she used to give us and I miss that. I miss that feeling, I miss that part of a family.”
Before the trauma of the Princess’ death, Prince William and Prince Harry endured the fall-out from their parents’ divorce, finalised in 1996 after a long and public battle.
“The two of us were bouncing between the two of them… we never saw our mother enough or we never saw our father enough,” Prince Harry says. “There was a lot of travelling and a lot of fights on the back seat with my brother, which I would win. So there was all of that to contend with. And I don’t pretend that we’re the only people to have to deal with that, but it was an interesting way of growing up.”
In a light-hearted moment, Prince Harry speaks with mock fury about the outfits he was compelled to wear as a child. The two young boys were photographed regularly in an array of elaborate and old-fashioned clothes.
“I genuinely think that she got satisfaction out of dressing myself and William up in the most bizarre outfits,” he says. “Normally matching. It was weird shorts and, like, little sorts of shiny shoes with the old clip on. I just think, ‘how could you do that to us?'”
A normal life
The Princess, her sons say, tried valiantly to teach them about a normal life, despite their privileges. “She made the decision that no matter what, she was going to ensure that both of us had as normal a life as possible,” Prince Harry says.
“And if that means taking us for a burger every now and then, or sneaking us into the cinema, or driving through the country lanes with the roof down of her old-school BMW listening to Enya, I think it was… all of that was part of her being a mum.”
Diana the prankster
Described as a “total kid through and through” by Prince Harry, the Princess attempted to embarrass her sons at every opportunity
Prince William tells how he once returned home, aged 12 or 13, to find Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell, the fashion models, waiting at the top of the stairs.
“I went red and didn’t quite know what to say and sort of fumbled, and I think I pretty much fell down the stairs on the way up,” he says. “I was completely awestruck.”
At other times, he says she would post him “the rudest cards you can imagine” to boarding school, leaving him in fear of being spotted by a teacher.
If she excelled as a mother, the Princess would have been an “absolute nightmare” as a grandmother, the Duke jokes. Saying he is “constantly” mentioning “Granny Diana” at home, he has also mounted photographs so Prince George and Princess Charlotte learn about her.
“It’s hard because obviously Catherine didn’t know her, so she cannot really provide that level of detail,” he says.
The Princess’ death, the Duke says, was like an “earthquake”.
“There’s not many days that go by that I don’t think of her, you know – sometimes sad, sometimes very positively,” he notes.
“You know, I have a smile every now and again when someone says something and I think, that’s exactly what she would have said, or she would have enjoyed that comment. So they always live with you, people you lose like that. My mother lives with me every day.”
Prince Harry says: “There’s not a day that William and I don’t wish that she was still around.”
He concludes: “You know, and of course as a son I would say this, she was the best mum in the world.”
Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy will be broadcast on Monday at 9pm on ITV © Telegraph