Princess Diana warned William and Harry to 'never fall out' and would've been 'devastated to see bond destroyed'June 26, 2021
WHEN Princes William and Harry announced that they had commissioned a memorial to Princess Diana in the run-up to the 20th anniversary of her death in 2017, they did
so in a joint statement that declared: “We hope the statue will help all those who visit Kensington Palace reflect on her life and her legacy.”
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And what a legacy it is. Not only does she remain one of the most famous and celebrated women in the world – not to mention a style icon – but in shaking up the establishment, she also changed the royal family forever.
Katie Nicholl, author of Harry And Meghan, says: “I think Diana’s legacy must be her enormous capacity for supporting the most vulnerable in society. She used the unique position she had to shine a spotlight on those who had no voice.
"She was way ahead of her time, unafraid to push at royal boundaries and protocol. She really made a difference. She didn’t have time to fulfil her legacy because her life was tragically cut short, but her sons are continuing her work in different ways.”
Certainly, Diana breathed new life into the monarchy when she walked down the aisle of St Paul’s Cathedral on July 29, 1981, in her David and Elizabeth Emanuel puffball gown, watched by a global television audience of more than 750 million.
Prince Charles was 32, heir to the throne and one of the most senior members of the royal family. She was a 20-year-old ingénue, aristocratic but with little experience in the ways of the world. The couple went on to have William the following year and Harry in 1984, but the marriage was doomed.
Charles and Diana separated in 1992, although it was not until her 1995 Panorama interview with now-disgraced journalist Martin Bashir in which she famously said: “There were three of us in this marriage”, that the Queen ordered them to divorce. That was finalised in 1996 and just a year later, Diana was killed in the Paris car crash that caused shockwaves and outpourings of grief across the globe.
Many believe that William and Harry were her greatest achievement – by the time they announced the plans for her memorial, the two boys who touched the hearts of the nation as they walked behind their mother’s coffin in 1997, had grown into admirable young men and remained the closest of brothers.
But fast-forward four years, and the legacy of the People’s Princess is in danger of being overshadowed. Although both William and Harry are expected to be at Kensington Palace’s Sunken Garden on Thursday – which would have been their mother’s 60th birthday – for the unveiling of the memorial, they are now sadly estranged. Relations are said to be at an all-time low, to the point where it’s difficult to see how they might be repaired.
While William, wife Kate, and their children George, seven, Charlotte, six, and Louis, three, will be able to glimpse the statue from the windows of their apartment
in Kensington Palace, Harry is now living in California, having stepped down as a working royal along with his wife Meghan, 39, their two-year-old son Archie and baby daughter Lilibet Diana, born earlier this month.
According to Katie, Diana would be distraught to see the brothers divided. “She would be hugely proud of both the boys, without a doubt. But I imagine she would find it devastating to see the bond they once shared so destroyed,” she says.
“Diana always said to them when they were younger: ‘Whatever you do, don’t fall out. Your brother is the only person who can understand what you’re going through.’
“In fact, I believe that if she were around today, they wouldn’t have got to this stage. Charles doesn’t get involved, but she would have got them together and banged their heads together. She would be deeply upset about the way things have gone.”
Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine, agrees. “I think Diana would be quite unhappy about it. She always wanted them to look after each other and be the best of friends. She might be proud of Harry for having the guts to move to America, but I think she would be sad that he was so far away. Towards the end of her life, she considered moving to America, but then she realised she would be too far away from her boys.
“And I don’t think she would think it was a good idea that Harry told the world of his troubles. I believe she would have thought it better to keep them private.”
Both Charles and Diana always wanted their sons to be treated equally, even though William was the future king. Diana used to call her youngest son Good King Harry, or GKH for short, because he was so happy-go-lucky, and even confronted the Queen Mother when she felt she was showing favouritism to William.
“Charles and I work hard to ensure both boys receive equal amounts of our time and love, but others in the family seem to concentrate on William,” she once said.
However, Harry is very much his mother’s son as far as his tempestuous relationship with the media goes. Diana’s Panorama interview is still making headlines around the world, and at the time it caused just as much of a stir as Harry and Meghan’s tell-all chat with Oprah Winfrey earlier this year.
Katie thinks that Diana would have had conflicting feelings about her daughters-in-law.
“She would have been thrilled that William found the perfect match in Kate,” she says. “But it’s hard to know what she would have made of Meghan. She would have loved the fact that Harry married a bi-racial, divorced Hollywood actress. This was Harry shaking things up, whether that was or wasn’t what he set out to do.
“But I believe even Diana would have had some reservations about the things they’ve done, the speed with which they’ve executed them and the bombs they’ve dropped on the royal family.
“Diana dropped them on Charles by suggesting he wouldn’t have been a suitable king, but she would never have dared to criticise the Queen. Harry and Meghan haven’t been as clever as she was.”
But I believe even Diana would have had some reservations about the things they’ve done, the speed with which they’ve executed them and the bombs they’ve dropped on the royal family.
Ingrid also believes Diana would heartily approve of Kate but may have found Meghan more difficult to get along with.
“I think she would love Kate because she could see she was exactly what William needed – someone strong but who wouldn’t overpower him. But I think she would find Meghan difficult because she is such a strong character and so was Diana. So I could see clashes there. I don’t see Meghan standing back and taking advice from Diana.”
However, there is still hope for the future. Despite their current rift, both William and Harry have inherited Diana’s common touch and her ability to reach out to people in a way that hadn’t been done before she arrived on the scene.
In 1987, Diana opened Britain’s first HIV/Aids ward at London’s Middlesex Hospital, shaking hands with patients and publicly challenging unfounded fears that you could catch Aids through touch. Ten years later she walked across a minefield in Huambo, central Angola, raising the profile of the work being done to clear land mines around the world and paving the way for the United Nations Mine Ban Treaty.
Notably, Harry has followed in her footsteps, setting up his charity Sentebale in 2006, providing psychosocial support for children living with HIV and Aids in southern Africa. And during his 2019 royal tour of South Africa, he walked through a minefield during a visit to Dirico, Angola, to see the work of the land mine clearance charity the Halo Trust.
Meanwhile, William has taken his mother as his parental role model (Prince George has even worn his dad’s hand-me-downs), having a hands-on approach to parenting and introducing them to people from all walks of life.
It was Diana who broke the mould when she and Charles took nine-month-old William to Australia in 1983 during their first tour as a married couple – until then it had been the norm for royal children to remain at home while their parents were away, sometimes for months on end.
Thirty-one years after Diana bucked that trend, William and Kate did the same, introducing the world to Prince George, who was also nine months, during their tour of Australia and New Zealand in 2014.
William, too, has kept his mother’s legacy alive in his charitable work, choosing the homeless charity Centrepoint – where Diana took him as a child – as his first patronage.
He said at the time: “That example of selfless service that Centrepoint represents has stayed with me, and that is why it was the first charity that I wanted to be associated with.”
Both he and Kate have been visible during lockdown working on their Heads Together campaign, a subject close to Diana’s heart as she herself suffered from depression, bulimia and mental health problems.
And Kate’s work in the early years field would surely have impressed her late mother-in-law, who loved children from the moment she worked in a nursery school before she became royal.
Katie says: “I think in many ways Diana paved the way for the younger generation of royals, in terms of parenting, tours, in the causes she campaigned for such as leprosy, land mines, Aids – difficult, gritty issues. Her legacy lives on in her sons and daughters-in-law.
"Kate’s focus on addiction would be something that would have really resonated with Diana. The issues Kate took on in her first few years as a royal were really brave and I think that Diana would have admired and celebrated that. She would have encouraged them, especially in areas such as mental health.”
Ingrid Seward says Diana wanted her legacy to be the work she did on land mines, but that’s not necessarily the way things have worked out.
“She wanted to have a serious legacy, not something that was frippery and fashion-related. But I think her real legacy is her boys as well as the work she did. She was extraordinary in the way she brought a whole new way of doing charity work to the royal family – getting up close, touching people, and actually connecting with people, rather than just a smile and a handshake. She never wore gloves – I don’t remember any royal family members doing that before.
“It’s been reflected in the next generation. I remember the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Party at the Palace [in June 2002] when Harry and William came out at the end to shake hands with the crowd and everybody said: ‘Gosh they are like their mother’. You never see the Queen do that, or Prince Charles, or Princess Anne.”
Had she lived, what would Diana be doing today? Undoubtedly, she would have been a devoted and hands-on grandmother to George, Charlotte and Louis, and would have been saddened if she was unable to see Archie and Lilibet as often as the Cambridges. It is also unlikely that she would have given up her charitable causes.
“She recognised the unique platform she had and I’m sure she would still be using it today,” says Katie. “But I think she would have learnt to navigate the line between her private and public life with age and experience, and she would be proud of how William, in particular, has managed that.
“Diana would have houses in America and the south of France – places she could retreat to. But I think a philanthropic streak was part of her and would have continued.”
Most people would hope that, had she been here to celebrate her 60th birthday, she would have finally found true love, peace and happiness in being a figurehead for the vulnerable in society, as well as a mother of two and grandmother of five.
But one thing is certain: she would be heartbroken that the bond between her boys is shattered.
- How To Dress Like A Princess by Claudia Joseph (£9.45, Splendid) is out now.
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