Prince William has re-opened one of the great controversies surrounding the funeral of his mother, Princess Diana, by revealing that he felt his mother’s presence beside him and believed she was “getting us through it” as he and his brother walked behind her coffin on the day of her funeral.
The heartbreaking sight of the two brothers walking in the funeral cortege has come to be one of the enduring images of Diana’s death. Palace sources have always claimed that the boys wanted to make the walk, however there have long been counter-rumors that they were railroaded into it without fully understanding the implications of what they were undertaking.
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.”
Princess Diana’s brother Earl Spencer claimed in an interview with BBC Radio 4 that Buckingham Palace “lied” to him by saying that Prince William and Prince Harry had wanted to walk behind their mother’s coffin.
Spencer, 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, said: “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.”
In clip released from a new BBC documentary to mark the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death, William says: “It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, that walk. It felt she was almost walking along beside us to get us through it.”
His brother Harry says he remembers being comforted by members of the public whose “hands were wet because of the tears they had just wiped away.”
Diana, Seven Days, will be broadcast next week and will also feature interviews with members of the royal household and then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.
In a recent Channel 5 documentary, Diana: Seven Days That Shook The World, it was claimed by Tony Blair's former head of government relations Anji Hunter that William initially refused to join the procession, saying he wanted to grieve privately, however he agreed after being persuaded by other members of the family including his grandfather Prince Philip.