Seven days after Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in Paris, her funeral marked the beginning of a new chapter as the British monarchy almost lost its place in the hearts of a mourning nation.
The 107-minute royal ceremonial procession from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey on 6 September 1997 was witnessed by 2.5 billion people worldwide, 33.5 million Britons on television, one million on the motorways and streets of London, and 2,000 dignitaries, heads of state and celebrities in the abbey.
There were only five people behind her carriage, with their heads down.
At 10am, as the abbey bell rang, Diana’s sons Prince William, 15, and Harry, 12, walked the last 34 minutes from St James’s Palace between their father Prince Charles, Diana’s brother Charles Spencer (Earl Spencer) and their grandfather . Prince Philip.
In an outburst of grief not seen in modern British history, the crowd sobbed and hollered as they saw the princes follow their mother’s coffin.
The decision to involve Diana’s young sons was not taken lightly. As history has it, it was Prince Philip who stepped in to make sure the royal event was forever documented in history.
In 2017, the film of Channel 5, Diana: 7 days that rocked Windsor, noted that Prince William refused to walk in the procession for several days. On the morning of the funeral, he changed his mind.
“Eventually it took Prince Philip convincing William to do it, and he gave him a grandpa-like hug and said, ‘If I come too, will you do it?'” says Diana’s friend Richard Kay.
“I didn’t know they were going to do that. It sent shivers down my spine and I just thought, oh my God, how dare you,” recalls Angie Hunter, who was then British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s director of government relations.
Royal commentator Dickie Arbiter was also interviewed for the documentary: “It was quite a difficult experience for them and they handled it with such aplomb … it’s unbelievable.”
“Whose heart today cannot go out with these boys … who can avoid choking at the sight of them … the almost unbearable moment when they take their place behind their mother’s coffin,” said the film’s narrator.
How their lives changed forever
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge
Biographer Sally Bedell Smith detailed William’s reluctance to do anything public, saying that Prince Philip told the boys that if they didn’t go, they might regret it later.
William graduated from Eton and met Kate Middleton at St Andrews University.
Fittingly, they married eight years later in a fairytale ceremony at Westminster Abbey in 2011. They have three children: Prince George, born in 2013, Princess Charlotte, born in 2015, and Prince Louis, born in 2018.
Prince William, second in line to the throne, is set to move to Adelaide Cottage in Windsor so all his children can attend the same school and the family can be closer to the Queen.
He is involved in many charities, including wildlife conservation, environmental issues and homelessness, which Diana was also involved in.
His dedication and sense of duty never wavered.
In the 40th year of William Fair of vanity wrote that he and his father were close and engaged in the modernization of the monarchy.
“They’re absolutely on the same page, in fact they’re closer now than they’ve ever been,” said a family friend Fair of vanity.
“They talk almost every day and have a very loving and genuine connection. They believe in the monarchy, that it has a real purpose and that it has a future. They recognize that it needs to be modernized and that there will be changes in the future as the Queen’s reign comes to an end.’
Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex
After that, Harry started seeing his ex Costumes actress and influencer Meghan Markle in 2017, they were never destined to stay in Britain.
They left official duties in 2020 after two years in the royal family and moved to the US to escape a perceived lack of support from the monarchy.
They have two children, Archie, 3, and Lilibeth, 1, and live in a $14 million estate in Montecito, Calif., where they live a very different lifestyle that includes Spotify and Netflix deals worth $175 million.
Thinking about walking behind Diana’s coffin, Prince Harry said in 2017 that no “child should be asked for this”, but later admitted that he was “very happy to be a part of it”.
Harry has a strained relationship with William that many royal commentators have described as irreconcilable. He supports many of Diana’s charitable and humanitarian causes, including AIDS/HIV.
Royal commentators have been saying how devastated Diana would have been.
“I highly doubt they will reconcile,” Diana’s biographer Andrew Morton is quoted as saying. Marie Claire magazine in August.
“In this regard, a lot of wishful thinking can be taken for granted. The closest parallel is George VI and Edward VIII. George VI idolized his brother as Harry idolized William.
“They were inseparable. But then he abdicated, went abroad, and relations were never the same. William and Harry are in a similar situation.”
Charles, Prince of Wales
After Diana’s death, there was a public backlash against Charles and it was many years before he was back in the hearts of the British people.
Charles eventually sought the Queen’s approval to resume his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles. They married in 2005 and she became the Duchess of Cornwall.
His popularity has taken a decade to grow, with recent polls showing 48 percent of Britons think he will do well if he becomes king.
Camilla has gone from being a horrible stepmother to being the queen when Charles takes the throne.
After Charles Spencer, Diana’s brother, gave a rousing eulogy about her being the most hunted woman on Earth that sent shockwaves around the world, many hoped he would carry on her legacy in some way.
As an astute historian, he did just that.
Princess Diana’s final resting place is at Althorpe Park in Northampton. Charles was the guardian of the estate after the death of his father John Spencer in 1992.
He regularly shares news about its beautiful grounds and history, including recent photos on his social media of well-wishers leaving flowers and messages at the gate in the run-up to Diana’s death.
“On behalf of your mother and sisters, I assure you that we, your blood family, will do our best to continue the imaginative path you have guided these two exceptional young men, so that their souls are not simply mired in duty and tradition. but can sing openly as you planned.” he said in his eulogy.
He continues to keep her spirits up.
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021)
“The British royal family nearly lost their place in the nation’s hearts,” reads the film’s synopsis.
There is no doubt that Prince Philip’s actions on the day of Diana’s funeral helped set the broken monarchy back on course.
Prince Philip died aged 99 on April 9 last year, two months before his 100th birthday.
He was the longest serving royal consort in world history,