Prince William on Diana: 'She Was Taken at Only 36, Just Slightly Older Than I Am Today'
"Harry and I feel that our mother lives on in the countless acts of compassion and bravery that she inspires in others," Prince William said
Twenty young recipients traveled to St. James’s Palace to receive the Legacy Award set up by the Diana Award charity to recognize the “monumental impact” they have made on society.
The royal brothers gave a moving speech before they handed out the much-deserved awards.
“This summer marks 20 years since our mother died. She achieved so much in her life. From helping to shatter the stigma around AIDS, to fighting to ban landmines and supporting the homeless — she touched the lives of millions,” William, 34, said.
“The truth is, though, that she was taken at only 36, just slightly older than I am today. But of course, we can never know what our mother would have gone on to do,” he continued. “But in one sense Harry and I feel that our mother lives on in the countless acts of compassion and bravery that she inspires in others.
“Seated here today are twenty extraordinary young people who are doing just that. We are all too accustomed to stories about young people’s lack of connection to their communities and families. I see every day in my work, as our mother did in hers, that this just simply is not true – these 20 young people are just the tip of the iceberg. We all need to celebrate what today’s generation are achieving.”
Harry, 32, added: “One of the things our mother taught William and I was the value of doing good when no one is watching. She visited hospitals late at night to comfort patients; she spent hours writing letters to privately support the work of others; she achieved a lot by shining a spotlight, but she worked just as hard when the cameras were gone. “It is this spirit of quiet selflessness that unites these 20 recipients of the Legacy Award.
“Our mother once said that if we all play our part in making our children feel valued, the result will be tremendous. This result was tremendous.”
Among the remarkable stories of social activism and selfless volunteering was that of Mercy Ngulube, 18, from Cardiff, Wales, “who has used her own personal painful experience of stigma and discrimination to drive her commitment and pursuit of equality for young people living with HIV,” the charity says. Mercy, who was born with HIV, has campaigned against the stigma of HIV and AIDS often anonymously by using “social media to counter and correct online misinformation about HIV and challenge negativity and ignorance.”
She is the current chairman of Children’s HIV Association Youth Committee that campaigns on behalf of young people living with HIV and met Harry in Durban at an international conference on HIV and AIDS.
Arnold, from Lakeland, Florida, tells PEOPLE that William had told him “he cared a lot about anti-bullying and how he loved what I was doing and Prince Harry was talking how important it was what I and others do. He was talking about using social media as a tool to spread the message. It was really great.”
“What we need to give you all are the tools, the toolbox for the digital world. You need to have the right tools to be able to smash the stigma out there and tear down barriers,” the prince told him.
“Meeting the princes was amazing. It wasn’t just a meet-and-greet they were genuinely interested in what we did and were asking questions. You can tell they care a lot.”
At the ceremony, Prince Harry joked with Dickinson that she was the most talented fellow redhead in the room.
As she received her Legacy Award from the brothers on stage, Harry leaned forward and told her she was “by far the most impressive redhead there!”
“They both said congratulations and that I deserve it,” she said of getting one of the 20 awards.
One of the judges on the panel s Julia Samuel, Founder Patron of Child Bereavement UK and a friend Diana, who said she “was humbled by reading the extraordinary achievements of every young person who was nominated for this award.”
“The winners are truly inspirational — often coming from extremely difficult circumstances. It left me feeling profoundly hopeful for our future knowing these young people will be part of that future and our future leaders.”
Tessy Ojo, the Diana Award’s chief executive, added, “Today is about two things; celebrating young people for their selfless contribution to society, their courage and bravery, sometimes in the face of adversity and demonstrating to young people that we, as a collective, value them.”
In addition to meeting Diana’s sons at the palace, the winners will be able to access the Diana Award’s development program that helps enhance their skills in four key areas of leadership, community development, social entrepreneurship and technology for good.