Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer claimed Wednesday morning that Buckingham Palace “lied” to him by saying that Prince William and Prince Harry had wanted to walk behind their mother’s coffin.
The earl, who gave a controversial eulogy to his sister at Westminster Abbey in which he memorably declared that she was the “most hunted” person of the modern age, also said on Radio 4’s Today program that there have been four attempts to break into Diana’s tomb. She was laid to rest on an island in the middle of a lake at the Spencer family estate to keep away trophy hunters and ghoulish sightseers.
Spencer also said Queen Elizabeth—his godmother—accepted his “right” to speak as he did at Diana’s funeral, saying: “Somebody I know very well said to her ‘What do you think?’ and she said ‘He had every right to say whatever he felt. It was his sister’s funeral.’ So that’s all.”
However it is Earl Spencer’s claim that he was tricked into believing that Harry and William wanted to walk behind their mother’s coffin that is likely to attract most attention, because, in June, Harry spoke of his anger at being made to participate in the funeral procession, which was watched by millions.
Harry, who was 12 at the time of his mother’s death, 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.”
Earl Spencer said today: “I had been a passionate advocate for William and Harry to not to have to walk behind their mother’s body. I thought it was a bizarre and cruel thing for them to be asked to do.
“I was liaising with some courtier at Buckingham Palace and he mentioned it, and I went ‘Of course they are not going to do that,’ and he said ‘Well it’s been decided.’
“I did feel she [Diana] would have wanted me to speak for her in that particular regard. I said, ‘She just wouldn’t want them to do this.’
“There was lots of embarrassed coughing at the other end, and various other conversations, and then eventually I was lied to and told they wanted to do it, which of course they didn’t.
“But I didn’t realize that.”
Earl Spencer described the walk behind Diana’s coffin was the “most horrifying half hour of my life.”
He explained: “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.
“The feeling, the sort of absolute crashing tidal wave of grief coming at you as you went down this sort tunnel of deep emotion, it was really harrowing and I still have nightmares about it now.
“So there was the inner turmoil of thinking, ‘My God this is ghastly,’ but then the point of thinking these two boys are doing this and it must be a million times worse for them.
“It was truly horrifying, actually.”
He went on to criticize the behavior of “the paparazzi” and the tabloid press in Diana’s final years.
“I remember she told me about one man who promised to hound her until the day she died and said he would urinate on her grave.
“So she was dealing with a very dark side of the media and even at her funeral I thought it was appropriate to touch on that.”
Spencer said he wrote eulogy in an hour and a half while suffering insomnia in the days before the funeral.