How Prince Harry and Prince William Really Felt About Walk Behind Mom Princess Diana's Coffin

Both the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Sussex have talked about their mother's funeral, which is depicted in the final season of 'The Crown'

Tim Graham Photo Library  Prince William, Prince Harry and Prince Charles in 1997
Tim Graham Photo Library Prince William, Prince Harry and Prince Charles in 1997

The Crown returned to Netflix with the first part of its sixth and final season on Thursday. 

The new episodes focused largely on the whirlwind relationship between Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed — as portrayed by Elizabeth Debicki and Khalid Abdalla — in the weeks leading up to their deadly car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997, and part 1 ends with a recreation of the late royal's emotional funeral that took place days later on Sept. 6.

Episode four — titled "Aftermath" — includes Diana's then-teenage sons, Prince William and Prince Harry (portrayed by Rufus Kampa and Fflyn Edwards, respectively) walking behind their mother's coffin, with William asking at one point why everyone watching the procession was crying for someone they never knew.

The image of the two young royals walking behind Princess Diana's coffin became a lasting one for those who lived through it. And for both Prince William and Prince Harry, it's been something that they have since reflected on.

<p>JEFF J MITCHELL/AFP/Getty</p> Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Earl Spencer, Prince William and Prince Philip in 1997


Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Earl Spencer, Prince William and Prince Philip in 1997

Just 15 and 12 years old, Prince William and Prince Harry walked behind Princess Diana's funeral alongside their grandfather Prince Philip, their father King Charles and their uncle Charles Spencer. They were all followed by a cortège of​​ representatives from the many charities the Princess of Wales had been involved with before her death.

Both brothers confirmed in BBC's 2017 documentary Diana, 7 Days that it was a "group decision" for them to join, with Prince William saying, "It wasn't an easy decision, and it was a collective family decision to do that."

Spencer was against the idea, telling PEOPLE and 2017's The Story of Diana that he didn't believe that "tiny" Harry should have made the grueling journey. "I was just so worried — what a trauma for a little chap to walk behind his mum's body," Charles, 9th Earl Spencer, said. "It's just awful. And, actually, I tried to stop that happening, to be honest."

In his 2023 memoir, Spare, the Duke of Sussex wrote more about the decision for them to walk that day, revealing that "several adults were aghast" and that "mummy's brother, Uncle Charles, raised hell. 'You can't make these boys walk behind their mother's coffin! It's barbaric.' "

<p>Getty Images</p> Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Charles Spencer

Getty Images

Prince William, Prince Harry, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Charles Spencer

Related: Prince William Reveals Who Decided He and Harry Should Walk Behind Diana's Coffin

Prince Harry then revealed an "alternative plan" for Prince William to walk alone was pitched before being shut down. "Back came the answer. It must be both princes," he wrote, adding that "I didn't want Willy to undergo an ordeal like that without me. Had the roles been reversed, he'd never have wanted me - indeed, allowed me - to go it alone."  

"But before I knew it, I found myself with a suit on with a black tie and a white shirt, I think, and I was part of it," Harry recalled in the 2017 documentary. "Genuinely, I don't have an opinion on whether that was right or wrong. I am glad I was part of it. Looking back on it now, I am very glad I was part of it."

Describing the experience as a "long and lonely walk" in the same 2017 documentary, William added, "It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. But we were overwhelmed by how many people turned out, it was just incredible. There was that balance between duty and family, and that's what we had to do."

Prince William also described hiding behind his blond bangs, calling them “my safety blanket."

Looking back in Spare, Prince Harry said he felt "numb" during the walk but getting strength from his brother, who he kept in sight despite keeping his eyes on the ground.

"Most of all I remember the sounds, the clicking bridles and clipping hooves of the six sweaty brown horses, the squeaking wheels of the gun carriage they were hauling," he wrote. "I believe I'll remember those few sounds for the rest of my life, because they were such a sharp contrast to the otherwise all-encompassing silence."

STR/AFP via Getty Princess Diana's funeral in 1997
STR/AFP via Getty Princess Diana's funeral in 1997

Prince Philip supported his grandsons by reportedly telling them, "I'll walk if you walk."

Princess Anne also recalled the moment in an interview with ITV after Prince Philip's death. "I seem to remember them saying that, in fact, it was a question of, 'If you'll do it, I'll do it,' " she said. "That was him as a grandfather... 'If that's what you want to do and if you want me to be there, I will be there.' "

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Justin Setterfield/Getty Prince William and Prince Harry in 2022
Justin Setterfield/Getty Prince William and Prince Harry in 2022

Related: Prince William and Prince Harry at Queen's Procession Echoes Heartbreaking Walk at Diana's Funeral

Twenty-five years later, on Sept. 19, 2022, the brothers found themselves in a similar situation as they walked behind the coffin of their grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, who died at the age of 96 on Sept. 8.

Days later, the Prince of Wales and his wife, Kate Middleton, the new Princess of Wales, connected with the crowd during a walkabout in Sandringham. There, William revealed that the late Queen's ceremonial procession reminded him of the same ritual following the death of his mother.

A mourner in the crowd said Prince William spoke of how "difficult" it had been. "He said how difficult it was yesterday and how it reminded him of his mum's funeral," said mourner Jane Wells, The Telegraph reported. "Catherine said it's just been such a difficult time for all of them, for the whole family."

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