Prince William Remembered How Prince Philip Helped Him Make the Hardest Decision of His Life
Buckingham Palace announced the death of Prince Philip on April 9, 2021, in a statement that read: “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. The royal family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”
On April 17, 2021, the royals gathered for the duke’s funeral, just like they did for Princess Diana‘s 24 years earlier. One of the images engraved in the minds of many from Diana’s procession is of a young Prince William and Prince Harry walking behind their mother’s coffin along with Prince Charles, Earl Charles Spencer, and Prince Philip. That moment may have never happened if Philip didn’t help his grandsons through it.
William decided to walk in procession after Prince Philip’s gesture
Prince William and Prince Harry were just 15 and 12 when their mom died following a car crash in Paris. When arrangements for the princess’s funeral were being made and it was suggested that the young princes participate, Philip voiced his opinion on that.
“We were all talking about how William and Harry should be involved and suddenly came Prince Philip’s voice,” a former government relations director told the UK’s Evening Standard, recalling a conference call with the duke in the lead-up to the funeral. “We hadn’t heard from him before, but he was really anguished. ‘It’s about the boys,’ he cried, ‘They’ve lost their mother.’”
When William began to wrestle with the decision of whether or not he could and should walk behind the coffin Philip offered to walk alongside him. Princess Anne recalled her father’s approach to helping her nephews at that time in an interview with ITV.
“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.'”
What William said about walking behind Princess Diana’s coffin
Prince Philip was true to his word and on Sept. 6, 1997, he walked right beside William as Diana’s casket was taken to Westminster Abbey for the service.
In 2017, the Duke of Cambridge spoke about that decision and how he felt walking in the procession that day with the world watching in the BBC documentary Diana: 7 Days That Shook the Windsors.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, that walk,” William recalled, adding that he used his long bangs as a kind of “safety blanket” during the ceremony. “I felt if I looked at the floor and my hair came down over my face no one could see me,” he explained.
“There is that balance between duty and family and that’s what we had to do,” William stated. He also said that he had to find the balance “between me being Prince William and having to do my bit, versus the private William who just wanted to go into a room and cry, who’d lost his mother.”