“One of the hardest things for a parent to have to do is to tell your children that your other parent has died,” Harry said in the 2017 BBC documentary Diana, 7 Days. “How you deal with that, I don’t know.”
Harry was just 12 when his mother died in a Paris car crash on August 31, 1997. At the time, he and his brother, Prince William, were with their father on summer vacation at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
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“[Our dad] was there for us — he was the one out of two left, and he tried to do his best and to make sure that we were protected and looked after,” Harry says. “But he was going through the same grieving process as well.”
Harry recalls his initial reaction to his mother’s death as “disbelief, refused to accept it. There was no sudden outpour of grief. I don’t think anybody in that position at that age would be able to understand the concept of what that actually means, going forward.”
William adds, “I remember feeling completely numb, disorientated, dizzy — and you feel very very confused. And you keep asking yourself, ‘Why me?’ the whole time. Why? What have I done, why has this happened to us?“
The family decided to remain at Balmoral, keeping the grieving princes away from the pressures of London — but disquiet about that decision built in the week leading up to Diana’s funeral on September 6, as the British public wanted some sign of the family sharing their sorrow.
William and Harry are also speaking about how their granny, Queen Elizabeth, went to great lengths to look out for them.
“At the time, my grandmother wanted to protect her two grandsons and my father as well. Our grandmother deliberately removed the newspapers and things like that so there was nothing in the house to read,” William recalls.
“We didn’t know what was going on,” he adds. “Back then there were no smart phones and things like that, so you couldn’t get your news. Thankfully, we had the privacy to mourn and to try to collect our thoughts and have that space away from everybody. We had no idea the reaction to her death would be quite so huge.”
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The Queen, William says, “felt very torn between being the grandmother to William and Harry and her Queen role, and I think everyone was taken aback of what happened and the speed it happened.”
William’s aunt, Diana’s sister Lady Sarah McCorquodale, says in the documentary that she supports the Queen’s decision. “She did absolutely the right thing. If I’d been her, I’d have done that. Why would you bring them into London? Why don’t you let them get over the shock, or the start of the shock in the bosom of their family?”
Says William: “All of us were in new territory. My grandmother and my father believed we were better served in Balmoral, having the walks and space and the peace to be with the family and not be immersed or having to deal with serious decision or worries straightaway.”