Apparently stung by suggestions he has been critical of his family, Prince Harry has partially retracted suggestions that he was made to walk behind his mother’s coffin as part of her funeral cortège against his will, and that the experience damaged him psychologically.
Earlier this year, Harry said he believed no child should be asked to walk behind their mother’s coffin in such a public way, and suggested the experience had compounded the trauma of his mother’s death.
Diana’s brother Earl Spencer also said that he opposed the decision to have the boys walk behind the coffin, but that the palace lied to him and told him the boys wanted to do it.
However in an interview for a new documentary, Diana: Seven Days, focusing on the events of the week following Diana’s death, Prince Harry says: “I think it was a group decision. Before I knew it, I found myself in a situation with a suit on and a black tie, a white shirt, I think, and I was part of it. Generally I don’t have an opinion on whether that was right or wrong. I am glad I was part of it.
“Looking back on it now, I am very glad I was part of it.”
The equivocal endorsement contrasts strongly to remarks made by Harry, who was 12 at the time of his mother’s death, in June, when 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.”
The interview forms part of a new documentary that will be screened Sunday in the U.K., ahead of the anniversary of Diana’s death on Aug. 31. Previews have been made available to the British media, and details of the interviews are plastered across most U.K. newspapers Wednesday.
Speaking about the controversial decision to have them walk behind the coffin, William says: “It wasn’t an easy decision and it was sort of a collective family decision to do that. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
“It was that balance between duty and family and that was what we had to do. I think the hardest thing was that walk. It was a very long, lonely walk.”
The documentary includes extensive interviews with the princes, and, having not mentioned their father in previous interviews, they seek this time to praise the way he supported them in the days after Diana’s death.
Charles’s popularity ratings have received a hammering in recent weeks as the public are reminded of Diana ahead of her anniversary.
Harry reveals it was his father who came to the boys to break the news.
He says: “One of the hardest things for a parent to have to do is to tell your children that your other parent has died.
“How you deal with that, I don’t know. But he was there for us, he was the one out of two left. And he tried to do his best to make sure we were protected and looked after.
“He was going through the same grieving process as well.”
William describes his confusion at the public’s open display of grief on the day of the funeral.
He says: “I couldn’t understand why everyone wanted to cry as loud as they did and show such emotion as they did when they didn’t really know our mother.
“Everyone was crying and wailing and wanting to touch us. It was very peculiar but obviously very touching. Again, I was 15 and Harry was 12, nothing can really describe it. It was very unusual.
“People wanted to grab us, to touch us. They were shouting, wailing, literally wailing at us, throwing flowers and yelling and sobbing and breaking down. They were fainting and collapsing.”
Harry adds: “People were grabbing us and pulling us into their arms and stuff. I don’t blame anyone for that, of course I don’t.
“But it was those moments that were quite a shocking. People were screaming, people were crying, people’s hands were wet because of the tears they had just wiped away from their faces before shaking my hand.
“It was so unusual for people to see young boys like that not crying when everybody else was crying. What we were doing was being asked of us was verging on normal then, but now…. Looking at us then, we must have been in just this state of shock.”
William also talks about the long-term impact of Diana’s death, saying: ‘When you have something so traumatic as the death of your mother when you are 15, it will either make or break you. And I wouldn’t let it break me. I wanted it to make me.
“I wanted her to be proud of the person I would become.”