Philip comforted ‘very vulnerable’ William at Diana’s funeral: ‘Grandfatherly kindness’

Prince Philip: Royal family share their memories of late Duke

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New ITV documentary ‘Philip: Prince, Husband, Father’ will be broadcast on Tuesday at 9pm. The programme, made in honour of the Duke of Edinburgh who died at the age of 99 earlier this year, will draw on rare archive footage and audio recordings of Philip talking about his role as prince, husband and father. It will include colourised footage of the Queen and Philip in their younger years, before Her Majesty’s accession to the throne, as well as the Duke’s own interviews, in which he discusses a wide range of topics.

The documentary will also see a selection of royal experts and associates of Philip sharing their memories of the longest serving British consort. 

Philip famously told a young William and Prince Harry that he would walk alongside them at Diana’s funeral in 1997, after the Princess of Wales died in a car crash in Paris. 

Yet in the documentary a friend of Philip, Martin Palmer, claimed that contrary to popular opinion, it was not Philip’s decision two have the two grieving princes walk behind their mothers coffin.

Mr Palmer also explained that the Duke of Edinburgh had personally told him of a moment in which he comfortingly touched William on back because he thought they were out of shot of the cameras. 

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Mr Palmer said: “He comes in for criticism for that but it was not his choice, not his idea. 

“And there’s a moment where they go under the Horseguards Parade arch where it’s quite clear that Prince Philip ‒ and I asked him about this [and] he said ‘Yes, I didn’t think the cameras could see’ ‒ at that point he turns to William and comforts him.”

Mr Palmer, who co-founded The Alliance of Religions and Conservation with Philip, added: “You’ve got to watch that moment and realise here is a grandfather who is trying to help his young, very vulnerable grandson struggle through this awful, awful moment.  

“He knew what it was like to be a member of a dysfunctional family and he did his damndest to make sure that did not happen to his grandchildren.”

Writer and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth also stressed that it was not the Duke of Edinburgh’s idea for William and Harry to walk behind their mothers’ hearst. 

He said: “It wasn’t his idea but there was a tradition in the Royal Family of walking behind the hearst. 

“There was no plan originally for Prince Philip to be part of that. 

“Prince Philip said to Prince William, ‘If it would help I can walk alongside you.’

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“So far from being what was reported, it was an act of grandfatherly kindness.”

William and Harry were 15 and 12 respectively at the time of their mother’s tragic death.

The public experienced a wave of unprecedented collective mourning, while her funeral was watched by an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide. 

Harry has since spoken about the horror of the funeral procession and insisted that no child should have been made to walk behind their mother’s coffin so publicly.

Speaking to Newsweek magazine in 2017 he said: “My mother had just died and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching while millions more did on television. 

“I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances.

“I don’t think it would happen today.”

Meanwhile William told the BBC in 2017 that the decision for the grieving sons to walk behind Diana’s coffin was a “collective family decision.”

The Duke of Cambridge said: “I just remember hiding behind my fringe, basically, at a time when I had a lot of hair, and my head’s down a lot ‒ so I’m hiding behind my fringe.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, and it was a sort of collective family decision to do [the walk].

“There is a balance between duty and family, and that’s what we had to do.”

He added that within him, there was a sense of conflict “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.”

Watch ‘Philip: Prince, Husband, Father’ on ITV on Tuesday at 9pm.

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