Since her tragic demise, both her sons have tried to honor.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on December 3, 2021. It has since been updated.
It's been over 24 years since Princess Diana lost her life in a devastating crash. While the whole world remembers her through timeless photographs, TV shows like The Crown, and film adaptations and documentaries, for her family, it's a loss that can never be replaced. And the one person who might find it harder than anyone else is her firstborn, William. Perhaps he never got closure on his grief. As a child, he saw his mother suffer from media attention, judgments, family stress, and perpetual conflict between being herself and being a princess in the public eye, bound by the rules dictated by the royal family. He also witnessed the turbulent relationship between his mom and dad and their bitter battle for divorce. While the couple separated in 1992, it wasn't until 1996 that she got a divorce.
This was reportedly because of disagreements on several issues, including money, access, and – most importantly – Diana’s title, states Marie Claire. Diana reportedly wished to keep her royal title "Her Royal Highness" considering that she was the mother of the future heir, and Queen Elizabeth II even agreed. But the publication claims that Prince Charles was "adamant" that Diana be stripped of the title and the privileges that come with it. Without having the titles Diana would lose all formal connections with her children and they would also outrank her, which means she had to comply with various royal rules like curtsying to her own children.
The Princess’ former butler, Paul Burrell, recalls how Prince William, just 14 years old at the time, tried to comfort his mother and soothe her "distress." In his book, A Royal Duty, Burrell writes, "She told me how he had sat with her one night when she was upset over the loss of HRH, put his arms around her and said, ‘Don’t worry, Mummy. I will give it back to you one day when I am King.'" She died one year after the divorce was finalized and his promise remained unfulfilled. If Prince William's sentimental interviews are anything to go by, he is still not over the grief of his mom's loss and it keeps coming back to him in pangs. In fact, in a recent interview, William candidly spoke about fatherhood and losing his mom which showed that the age-old wounds have not quite healed yet.
He was speaking to former professional footballer Marvin Sordell for the program focusing on men's mental health and football where the Duke of Cambridge admitted, "Having children is the biggest life-changing moment, it really is," quotes the BBC.
He went on, "My mother dying when I was younger - your emotions come back in leaps and bounds because it's a very different phase of life. And there's no one there to, kind of, help you, and I definitely found it very, at times, overwhelming." It is also possible that he might not have gotten a window to let his grief out since he couldn't be a child anymore after his mom's death, he had to be a dutiful prince and start preparing for his future kingly responsibilities.
In a candid interview with GQ he said, "Well, I am in the role I am in. But if I had mental health issues I would happily talk about them. I think the closest I got was the trauma I suffered when I lost my mother, the scale of the grief, and I still haven't necessarily dealt with that grief as well as I could have done over the years."
This interview with GQ was done around the time of her 20th death anniversary and every word that he spoke at the time, seemed to come from a deep, hidden place of grief and turmoil. When asked if he is looking forward to his mother's death anniversary or dreading it, he said, "I am not looking forward to it, no, but I am in a better place about it than I have been for a long time, where I can talk about her more openly, talk about her more honestly, and I can remember her better, and publicly talk about her better."
He added, "It has taken me almost 20 years to get to that stage. I still find it difficult now because at the time it was so raw. And also it is not like most people's grief, because everyone else knows about it, everyone knows the story, everyone knows her."
He concluded by saying grieving for him has been more difficult and different than others, "It is a different situation for most people who lose someone they love, it can be hidden away or they can choose if they want to share their story. I don't have that choice really. Everyone has seen it all."