Princess Diana’s Brother Charles Spencer Gave a Chilling Speech at Her Funeral That Still Resonates

The world was still reeling from Princess Diana’s death when she was laid to rest on Sept. 6, 1997. No one could believe that the vibrant, beautiful mother of two was really gone forever after being involved in a tragic car accident in Paris.

The Princess of Wales had a dramatic, public royal funeral that culminated in a ceremony at Westminster Abbey. Two thousand people attended the event while a record 32 million watched on television, making it one of the most popular televised events in history.

Everything about that day — from her young sons William and Harry stoically following her coffin to Elton John’s special song — remains etched on the hearts of everyone who watched. But it was Diana’s brother Charles who really made waves with his epic eulogy that’s still just as shocking today as it was then.

Princess Diana funeral
Princess Diana funeral | David Levenson/Getty Images

The royal family didn’t expect Princess Diana’s brother to be so harsh

It’s no secret that Diana’s relatives had negative feelings toward the royal family. When Diana married Charles, she was a naïve yet hopeful young woman seeking true love. But by the time she died, Diana was jaded, bitter, and impossibly scarred by her disastrous marriage and being hounded by the media. While the royals weren’t directly responsible for Diana’s death, they weren’t innocent either.

Diana’s younger brother Charles, the ninth Earl Spencer, held nothing back during his speech. Funeral attendees may have been expecting a tearful remembrance of Diana’s life. Instead, they felt the full brunt of her brother’s fury at those he felt were responsible for her death.

Charles Spencer’s was direct and honest speaking about Diana’s legacy

Charles Spencer
Earl Spencer | John Stillwell – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images

It’s been decades since Princess Diana’s funeral, yet people still remember it now — especially that speech.

Charles started out praising Diana, but not pretending she was someone she wasn’t.

“Diana was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of beauty. All over the world she was a symbol of selfless humanity. All over the world, a standard bearer for the rights of the truly downtrodden, a very British girl who transcended nationality. Someone with a natural nobility who was classless and who proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic.

There is a temptation to rush to canonize your memory, there is no need to do so. You stand tall enough as a human being of unique qualities not to need to be seen as a saint.

For all the status, the glamour, the applause, Diana remained throughout a very insecure person at heart, almost childlike in her desire to do good for others so she could release herself from deep feelings of unworthiness of which her eating disorders were merely a symptom.

The world sensed this part of her character and cherished her for her vulnerability whilst admiring her for her honesty.”

He not-so-subtly accused the British press of ruining Diana’s life

Princess Diana
Princess Diana | Anwar Hussein/WireImage

Charles went on to describe how Diana’s life became so different.

“Fundamentally she had not changed at all from the big sister who mothered me as a baby, fought with me at school and endured those long train journeys between our parents’ homes with me at weekends,” he explained.

It is a tribute to her level-headedness and strength that despite the most bizarre-like life imaginable after her childhood, she remained intact, true to herself.”

But she was seeking an escape before she died. Her brother Charles said,

“She talked endlessly of getting away from England, mainly because of the treatment that she received at the hands of the newspapers. I don’t think she ever understood why her genuinely good intentions were sneered at by the media, why there appeared to be a permanent quest on their behalf to bring her down. It is baffling.

My own and only explanation is that genuine goodness is threatening to those at the opposite end of the moral spectrum. It is a point to remember that of all the ironies about Diana, perhaps the greatest was this — a girl given the name of the ancient goddess of hunting was, in the end, the most hunted person of the modern age.”

Charles concluded by vowing to protect William and Harry

Princess Diana funeral
Princess Diana funeral | David Levenson/Getty Images

Finally, Charles implored the public to protect William and Harry from suffering the same fate as their mother at the hands of the press.

“She would want us today to pledge ourselves to protecting her beloved boys William and Harry from a similar fate and I do this here Diana on your behalf. We will not allow them to suffer the anguish that used regularly to drive you to tearful despair.

And beyond that, on behalf of your mother and sisters, I pledge that we, your blood family, will do all we can to continue the imaginative way in which you were steering these two exceptional young men so that their souls are not simply immersed by duty and tradition but can sing openly as you planned…

William and Harry, we all cared desperately for you today. We are all chewed up with the sadness at the loss of a woman who was not even our mother. How great your suffering is, we cannot even imagine.”

The speech pulled no punches. But perhaps that’s exactly what we all needed to hear.