Farewell, Stiff Upper Lip

Prince William: ‘I’ll Never Get Over’ Princess Diana’s Death

The royals are learning to talk publicly about their emotions. Now Prince William is opening up about his mother’s death.

© Toby Melville / Reuters

Prince William has followed his brother Harry’s example and opened up about the devastating psychological effects his mother’s death had on him.

Earlier this week, Harry told a Daily Telegraph podcast that he spent 20 years “not talking about” his mother’s death, which led to “two years of total chaos” in his mid-twenties. He said he suffered panic and rage attacks and came close to a complete breakdown.

Now William is sharing his own emotional trauma following his mother’s death 20 years ago.

William will be seen baring his emotions in a BBC documentary due to air Thursday night about the London Marathon, of which the young royals are now the official patrons and which is being run in support of the Heads Together mental-health campaign.

In the film, entitled Mind Over Marathon, William, Harry, and Kate will be seen spending time with different runners, asking them about their training and how it had helped their mental health.

In the film, one participant, 39-year-old Rhian Burke, asks the duke’s advice on how to help her two surviving children cope with the death of their father and 1-year-old brother, who both died within five days in 2012.

She says: “Can I ask you one question? When your mum passed away, you were obviously a bit older than my children. But I obviously worry about them growing up. They’ll be OK, won’t they?”

The duke replies: “They’ll be absolutely fine. With a mum like you, they’ll be absolutely fine.

“Because you’re aware of all this, you’re already a step ahead of what could happen. You try and understand your emotions a lot more than probably someone who’s just lived life without any issues, and that’s quite critical.

“It’s explaining to them what those emotions mean, why they feel like they do. Once you start rationalizing a little bit and you understand, ‘OK, so I’m really angry or really down or really upset about something,’ then you can kind of relativize it and sort of deal with it.

“Like you said, the shock is the biggest thing.

“I still feel, 20 years later about my mother, I still have shock within me. You know, 20 years later. People go ‘Shock can’t last that long’ but it does.

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“You never get over it. It's such an unbelievably big moment in your life that it never leaves you, you just learn to deal with it.”

He encourages her to provide a “blanket of stability and understanding” for her two children.

The duke says of his mental health now: “I’m very lucky, I’ve got a good support network around me. For those who don’t have that network, that’s where the first cracks start to appear.”

Harry, who was 12 when his mother died, said in the podcast that he spent his teenage years and twenties in denial and “shutting down” about her death.

“I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well,” he said.

“I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions when all sorts of grief and sort of lies and misconceptions and everything are coming to you from every angle.”

Asked whether he had been to see a “shrink” to offload his thoughts, Harry said: “I’ve done that a couple of times, more than a couple of times, but it’s great.”