Prince William too called the grim walk as "one of the hardest things I've ever done."
When Prince William and Prince Harry walked through the streets of London on September 6, 1997, behind Diana's casket, the world saw the love they exuded for their mother, mixed with the pain of losing her so devastatingly.
As they walked along with their father, Prince Charles, their grandfather, Prince Philip, and maternal uncle, Charles Spencer, the people looking on only saw two young boys paying respect to their mum. What they didn't see was the hurt and pain in their eyes.
In an interview with Newsweek in 2017, the Duke of Sussex opened up about his traumatizing experience as a little boy when he had to walk behind his mother's coffin. He said, "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," he added.
Diana's brother, Charles Spencer echoing Prince Harry said that it was the "most horrifying half hour of my life." According to Independent UK, he added, "It was truly horrifying, actually. We would walk a hundred yards and hear people sobbing and then walk round a corner and somebody wailing and shouting out messages of love to Diana or William and Harry, and it was a very, very tricky time."
According to historian Robert Lacey's book Battle of Brothers: The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult, Charles Spencer was against the idea of the young boys walking behind the coffin for the procession to Westminster Abbey, reports People. “Spencer felt quite sure that Diana would have been horrified at the idea of her sons having to endure such an ordeal,” Lacey wrote. “He had already told Charles as much.” This led to a heated debate between Spencer and Prince Charles during which the Prince passed certain offensive comments about Diana. “Prince Charles had no doubt that he should walk the long route with both his sons beside him," Lacey writes, and in the end, the boys joined him.
After losing a mother's warmth at a very young age, Harry admits that Diana's death scarred him. He found himself in headlines all the time but for all the wrong reasons. He was being portrayed as the party boy who smoked and drank too much. In 2012 he was photographed partying in Las Vegas with women.
“My search began when I was in my mid-20s,” he said and added, “I needed to fix the mistakes I was making." During an interview in 2017 with the Telegraph‘s Bryony Gordon in the first episode of her new podcast, Mad World, he revealed that he was "very close" to several breakdowns as he had bottled up his grief and emotions of Diana's loss all those years.
Giving more details he confessed, "I can safely say that losing my mom at the age of 12 and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years has had quite a serious effect on not only my personal life but also my work as well." He added, "My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum because why would that help?”
This made two years of his life into "total chaos." He recalled, "I was on the verge of punching someone." But, with the support of his brother Prince William, at the age of 28, he went to therapy to help himself cope with everything that he was feeling, reported ET Online.
As far as Prince William is concerned, being the older brother didn't change the fact that he too was a child who had lost his mother. But being the older one he had to choose between being a confused teen and a young man strong enough to take care of his little brother.
In a 90-minute documentary, Diana, 7 Days, he admitted that walking behind his mother's casket was "one of the hardest things I've ever done," as reported by BBC.
The Duke of Cambridge, who was just 15 years old at the time, divulged that he used his fringe as a "safety blanket" as they walked which was a "very long, lonely walk". He said, "I felt if I looked at the floor and my hair came down over my face, no-one could see me."
He further added, "It wasn't an easy decision and it was a sort of collective family decision to do that... there is that balance between duty and family and that's what we had to do."
He revealed that the balance he was talking about was "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."