As the royal family found out that Princess Diana passed away, the Queen and Prince Charles decided to do all that they could to protect William and Harry.
On Aug. 31, 1997, Princess Diana was pronounced dead at 3 am after succumbing to the injuries she sustained in a deadly car crash. At 4:30 am, Prince Charles was told that the mother of his two sons was no more.
At that time, Britain and the world were hours away from displaying an outpour of grief for the People's Princess. But inside the Balmoral Castle in Scotland, the Queen and Prince Charles decided to prioritize Prince William and Harry. They decided not to wake them up; they waited for them to wake up on their own later in the morning before telling them.
Even though Prince Charles and Princess Diana had separated years before that fatal car crash in Paris, he was still heartbroken when he heard the news from the queen's private secretary.
"He was absolutely distraught. He fell apart. He knew, instantly, that this was going to be a terrible thing, that...he will be blamed, that they will be blamed, for the death of Diana," Tina Brown, the author of The Diana Chronicles, said in the TV documentary called Diana: 7 Days That Shook the Windsors, as quoted by E!
When Prince Harry spoke in the same documentary, his words suggested that Prince Charles was the one who broke the news to the boys, who were only 15 and 12 at the time. "One of the hardest things for a parent to have to do is tell your children that your other parent has died. How you deal with that, I don’t know," Prince Harry said, according to The Guardian.
"But he was there for us. He was the one out of two left. And he tried to do his best and to make sure that we were protected and looked after. But he was going through the same grieving process as well."
Going through his own grief, Prince Charles was determined to go to Paris to collect Princess Diana's body. However, the queen was against this and told him not to go. Neverthless, Prince Charles insisted and felt that it was only the right thing to do.
"Charles took the decision that he was going to Paris to bring back Diana's body," Richard Kay, journalist and friend of Princess Diana's, said in a Channel 5 documentary, according to Mirror. "This was a surprising and brave move. He was an ex-husband, he had no right to be there other than as the father of her sons. Charles wanted to take the royal flight to Paris but the Queen wouldn't allow it. Charles fought harder for Diana than he had ever fought for her in her lifetime."
Eventually, the Queen gave in. And during this time, Prince Harry had one last wish he wanted to carry out for his mother. He wanted to accompany his father to Paris to bring back is dear mother's body. However, Prince Charles decided against it, believed that it would be too much for a 12-year-old boy. Prince Harry lost his mother just a couple of weeks before he was about to turn 13.
After the young princes found out that their mother was gone, the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip did all that they could for William and Harry. It was already a tough time for the boys and the Queen did not want them to be exposed to the overwhelming, nation-wide grief that was evolving outside the walls of the Balmoral Castle.
"At the time, you know, my grandmother wanted to protect her two grandsons, and my father as well," Prince William said, according to E! "Our grandmother deliberately removed the newspapers, and things like that, so there was nothing in the house at all. So we didn't know what was going on."
Days after Princess Diana's death, the Queen said in a televised address, "This week at Balmoral, we have all been trying to help William and Harry come to terms with the devastating loss that they and the rest of us have suffered. No one who knew Diana will ever forget her. Millions of others who never met her, but felt they knew her, will remember her."
The next day, on September 6, Princess Diana's funeral was held and the family discussed the procession where the casket, carrying the People's Princess would be carried to Westminster Abbey. Initially, both Prince William and Prince Harry hesitated to walk behind their mother's coffin.
"If you don't walk, you may regret it later," Prince Philip told Prince William, according to a biography written by Sally Bedell Smith.
"I think you should do it. If I walk, will you walk with me?" The grandfather asked the young prince. And so, on the day of the funeral, thousands lined the streets while thousands of others watched the moment being telecasted as Prince William and Prince Harry walked behind their mother's casket, accompanied by their father, grandfather, and uncle.