Royal heartbreak as Alastair Campbell disclosed William’s feelings on funeral procession

Prince Harry: Charles and William won't 'extend arms' says Rae

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Princess Diana’s tragic death is one of the most heartbreaking news stories of the century. The People’s Princess died in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997. A week later, she was honoured with a public funeral that remains one of the most watched events in history, as an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide viewed or listened to the service, while another three million crowded the streets of London to follow the procession.

Princes William and Harry famously walked behind their mother’s coffin as the procession made its way through.

They were accompanied in the procession by their father, Prince Charles, and their grandfather, Prince Philip, in addition to Earl Spencer, Diana’s brother.

According to extracts from Alastair Campbell’s diary, published in the Guardian in 2011, there was a particular reason why Prince William was asked to be there.

Mr Campbell revealed some feared the Prince of Wales could have been attacked if his son was not there.

He wrote that concerns over the Prince of Wales’ safety following his ex-wife’s death emerged during a conference call on September 4, 1997.

This was conducted with courtiers who were with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at Balmoral.

Mr Campbell said Prince Charles’s press secretary, Sandy Henney, was sent to Balmoral to tell William that his mother would have wanted him to follow her coffin at her funeral.

Mr Campbell said: “Sandy Henney had been sent up to try to explain why he might do it.

“She was obviously saying it was what his mother would have wanted, while there was also the fact it would avoid the risk of Charles being publicly attacked.”

According to Mr Campbell, the Queen’s then deputy private secretary, Sir Robin Janvrin, said that if William did not follow the coffin, “then Charles couldn’t ‘for obvious and understandable reasons’”.

Mr Campbell noted: “They realised that if William doesn’t go behind the coffin, they have a real problem because Charles would have to go behind the coffin with Charles Spencer.

“There was no way he could do that without the boys.”

The former spin doctor added there was doubt over whether Princes William and Harry would be willing to make the walk, though.

He said: “William was refusing to speak to anyone and he was consumed by a total hatred of the media.

“It was pretty clear that he really felt strongly about the role of the media vis-a-vis his mother, and would not want to be doing anything that he felt was for them.

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“He was being strong and clear about what he wanted.

“But as Tony Blair said, they were just one of the things he would have to deal with as King, and he’d need help.

“He felt that if he loved Diana as she had wanted him to, there was the chance he would set his mind on becoming King but having nothing to do with the rest of them.”

Mr Campbell added: “I sensed the boys were holding firm, and they seemed to feel it was being done for the media and the public, not for their mother.”

In 2017 Channel 5 documentary on Diana’s funeral, “7 Days”, Prince William told viewers that walking behind his mother’s coffin was “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done”.

The Duke of Cambridge, who was 15 at the time, recalled using his fringe as a “safety blanket” during the “very long, lonely walk”.

2008 book “Tony’s Ten Years: Memoirs of the Blair Administration” by Sky’s political editor Adam Boulton also revealed the Duke of Edinburgh was vehemently against the idea.

Mr Bolton recalled how an anguished Duke of Edinburgh, backed by the Queen, said “f*** off” to Government spin doctors when told about the plan.

He wrote: “The events of that week in September 1997 were very sad, but as the spinners from Downing Street came to Buckingham Palace and started to kick around what roles Harry and William should play in the funeral, the Queen had relished the moment when Philip had bellowed over the speakerphone from Balmoral: ‘F*** off’.

“‘We are talking about two boys who have lost their mother’.

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“Once the arrangements had been sorted out Blair read the lesson very melodramatically that day in the Abbey.

“Blair had been helpful reading the public mood when Diana had died but he was also presumptuous.”

The call was reportedly witnessed by Anji Hunter, who worked for Mr Blair.

The Duke of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex were seen talking together as they left the funeral of their grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, last month.

The brothers spoke as they left St George’s Chapel in Windsor, alongside the Duchess of Cambridge.

It was the first public meeting of the pair since Prince Harry stood down from royal duties more than a year ago.

The princes walked with their cousin Peter Phillips in between them, as they walked behind their grandfather’s coffin on its short journey to the chapel.

At the funeral service, the 30 members of the congregation wore face masks and socially distanced in line with COVID-19 restrictions, with the Queen seated alone.

Also alone, Prince Harry sat on the opposite side of the aisle to his brother and sister-in-law Catherine.

Prince Harry’s wife, Meghan, who is pregnant with their second child, did not attend the funeral on the advice of her doctor and instead stayed at their home in California.

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