Prince Harry has claimed that there was a heated behind-the-scenes debate about whether he and Prince William should walk behind his mother’s coffin at her funeral.
The Duke of Sussex reveals in his book Spare that Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, objected vocally to the idea of the two young princes following the funeral cortege, describing it as “a barbarity”.
But when an alternative plan was suggested of having Prince William, then aged 15, walk alone behind the coffin Harry objected – saying he did not want his brother to undergo the ordeal on his own.
The insight into the difficult decision to have Prince William and Harry walk behind their mother’s coffin – an image that was seared into the consciousness of millions as images of the event were beamed around the world – came as the Duke described the shock he felt in the aftermath of Diana’s death.
The Duke writes in the Spanish translation of Spare that after he and Prince William met crowds of mourners outside Kensington Palace in the wake of Diana’s death in Paris, in August 1997, there was a discussion about the next day’s funeral.
‘Several adults were horrified’
The plan drawn up by palace officials was for the coffin to be carried on a gun carriage, drawn by the King’s Troop, the Royal Horse Artillery, with Princes William and Harry following on foot.
Harry writes in the book that “It seemed like a lot to ask for two children”, adding: “Several adults were horrified”.
The Duke claims that his uncle Charles, Earl Spencer, “flew into a rage”, saying: “You cannot force these children to walk behind their mother’s coffin. It’s a barbarity!”
Earl Spencer has previously stated that he felt he was lied to about the desire of William and Harry to walk behind their mother’s coffin.
His reaction at the meeting appeared to echo that of some who later witnessed the funeral cortege and felt too much pressure had been placed on the young Princes’ shoulders.
However when a suggestion was made at the meeting that William, as the eldest, should walk behind the coffin alone Prince Harry says he objected, saying: “It didn’t seem right that Willy would have such a hard time without me.”
He says that if the roles had been reversed William would not have wanted him to be the one to walk alone.
In what could be a reference to public criticism at the time of the Royal family’s reaction to Diana’s death, Prince Harry described the plan to have his brother walk behind the coffin as designed in all likelihood to “inspire compassion”.
In the end, as the world witnessed, Prince Harry joined the procession alongside Prince William, Earl Spencer, his grandfather The Duke of Edinburgh and the then Prince Charles.
In a moving passage of the book, which was published early in Spain, he recounts how he walked along behind his mother’s casket “feeling numb”, keeping his fists clenched and his eyes focused on the road.
He adds that what gave him the strength to continue walking was the sight of Prince William in the corner of his eye.