Prince William was only 14-years-old when his parents, Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, ended their marriage in 1996. By then, the former couple had been formally separated for almost four years and had been caught up in a complex and very public divorce battle. The much-disputed divorce involved not only fights about assets and alimony checks, but also royal family honorifics, tales of emotional distress, and accusations of infidelity.
One of the most bitter disputes was about Princess Diana’s title. As the mother of a future heir to the throne, Princess Diana reportedly wanted to retain the right to be called “Her Royal Highness.” However, according to a New York Times report from that period, Prince Charles was “adamant” that Princess Diana give the styling up. This was reportedly despite Queen Elizabeth agreeing that his son’s ex-wife should be able to retain the title.
The loss of her title meant so much more than having to give up “Her Royal Highness.” It also meant that Diana would have to curtsey to members of the royal family, including her ex-husband and their two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.
Though Buckingham Palace issued a statement saying that Princess Diana would still be “regarded as a member of the royal family” and that she would “from time to time receive invitations to state and national public occasions,” the Princess of Wales was nonetheless apparently hurt by the decision.
At the time, Prince William was still a student at Eton College and had yet to take any official royal duties. Yet, he knew that he would someday have the power to make up for his mother’s losses. According to Paul Burrell, Princess Diana’s former butler, Prince William tried to comfort his mother by making a promise that was both bold and — ultimately — heartbreaking.
In an excerpt from his book A Royal Duty, Burrell wrote that Princess Diana turned to her son in her distress over losing the “HRH” title.
“She told me how he had sat with her one night when she was upset over the loss of HRH, put his arms around her and said, ‘Don’t worry, Mummy. I will give it back to you one day when I am king.'”
Sadly, Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris just over a year after Prince William made his touching promise. Since her death, both Prince William and Prince Harry have continued to honor her legacy, taking up many of the causes she championed during her life and keeping her memory alive in the hearts of those who looked up to her and those whose lives she touched.
Over the years, Prince William and Prince Harry have opened up about losing their mother and how her death has impacted their lives. Last year, during a visit to the Keech Hospice in Luton, England, Prince William spoke to a 14-year-old who had lost his own mother. According to the Telegraph, he told the young man that time would “make it easier” but that it’s perfectly normal to still miss his mom.
“I know how you feel. I still miss my mother every day — and it’s 20 years after she died.”
“The important thing is to talk about it as a family. It’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay for you to miss her,” he said.
It has recently come to light that the prince talks from experience. While promoting their Heads Together campaign, both Prince William and Prince Harry have revealed their struggles while coping with their mother’s passing.
In an interview with the Telegraph in April, Prince Harry said that he had “shut down all his emotions” after his mother passed away. It wasn’t until he was 28, nearly two decades after Princess Diana’s death, that he started to address his grief and talk about his feelings.
Fortunately, both princes appear to be doing much better these days and are surely making their mother proud.
[Featured Image by Dave Caulkin/AP Images]