Home News Prince Harry ‘idolised’ Diana but Prince William ‘understood’ her

Prince Harry ‘idolised’ Diana but Prince William ‘understood’ her


Prince Harry and Prince William unveil Diana statue in July

Harry and William’s relationship has been the subject of speculation since his and Meghan Markle’s shock exit. The couple’s departure reportedly created tensions in what was a previously close brotherly bond. Harry and William are understood to have not seen each other since July last year, when they unveiled a statue in tribute to their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. 

She tragically died in a car crash when William was 15 and Harry just 12. 

Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles suffered due to incompatibility and extra-marital affairs, and they divorced the year before she died. 

According to Tina Brown, author of ‘The Palace Papers’, Harry and William were “collateral damage” in the breakdown of their parents’ marriage. 

In an excerpt from the book, published in Vanity Fair this week, Ms Brown wrote: “From their earliest childhood, William and Harry were collateral damage in a cold war between their parents, one that could turn hot in front of them in alarming ways.”

Prince Harry / Princess Diana / Prince William

Prince Harry ‘idolised’ Diana but Prince William ‘understood’ her. (Image: Getty Images)

Prince Harry, Princess Diana and Prince William

The princes were in their mid-teens when Diana passed away. (Image: Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

She claimed that William and Harry’s two-year age gap gave the brothers unique perspectives. 

Ms Brown wrote: “The two-year age gap between them was critical in forging their distinctive world views and, equally so, in shaping their perceptions of their mother. 

“Prince Harry idolised Diana more and understood her less.”

As a teenager, William was aware of Diana’s press strategy, but struggled with the publicity of his mother’s private life at school. 

The brothers unveiled a statue of Princess Diana last year.

The brothers unveiled a statue of Princess Diana last year. (Image: Dominic Lipinski – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Ms Brown quoted historian Robert Lacey who suggested that William was “slumped on the sofa, his eyes red with tears,” following Diana’s bombshell 1995 interview with the BBC’s Martin Bashir. 

That same year, Diana had met the famous England rugby player, Will Carling, whom she began a romantic relationship with. 

Then, in 1996, William sat in on Diana’s interview with Piers Morgan, who was given permission to ask “literally anything”.

Retelling an anecdote from Mr Morgan’s own book, Ms Brown describes how William had a picture of Carling’s wife, Julia, on his dartboard at Eton. 

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Charles and Diana

Charles and Diana’s marriage broke down. (Image: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)

She wrote: “It suggests that her boundaries were dissolving and, with them, her judgement. 

“Not only was William used to hearing about her lovers, as Morgan notes, but he’d also found a way to deal with it at school.

“Tacking Julia Carling’s image onto a dartboard was a gesture of loyalty to his mother that also announced he knew exactly what the other boys were whispering about.”

William was privy to Diana’s “volatile love life” and by his early teens, the Duke was his mother’s “most trusted confidante”. 

Prince William with Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince Harry

William was a teenager during the break down of his parents’ marriage. (Image: Anwar Hussein/WireImage)

At this point, Harry was 11 years old and did not have the same understanding of his mother’s private life. 

Their differing perspectives echoes the differences in their recent words about Diana. 

In May 2021, Harry told his Apple TV series ‘The Me You Can’t See’ that he strongly identified with his mother. 

He said: “Family members have said, ‘Just play the game and your life will be easier,’ but I’ve got a hell of a lot of my mum in me.

Prince Harry

Harry stepped down from his role as a working royal in 2020. (Image: Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

“I feel as though I’m outside of the system but I’m still stuck there. The only way to free yourself and break out is to tell the truth.”

Similarly, he referenced his mother’s time as a royal in the Oprah Winfrey interview, saying that he “was seeing history repeating itself” in the treatment of Meghan. 

William’s assessment of his mother has been more complex. 

In May 2021, following an investigation into how Bashir had manipulated his way to getting her famous interview, the Duke of Cambridge said: “It is my view that the deceitful way the interview was obtained substantially influenced what my mother said.

Prince William

Prince William is second-in-line to the throne. (Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

“The interview was a major contribution to making my parents’ relationship worse and has since hurt countless others.

“It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those final years with her.” 

He described the interview as a “false narrative”. 

Since Harry left the Firm for a life in the US, the two brothers have lived very different lives. 

Prince Harry and Prince William

Harry and William’s brotherly bond was put under stress after Harry’s exit. (Image: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

Perhaps their perspectives of their mother’s final years played a role in their contrasting life decisions. 

Ms Brown wrote: “Her [Diana] sons express their lasting contempt for the press in different ways: William with a grim, steely obsession with control; Harry with tortured, vocal, frequently ill-judged condemnation, a never-ending flurry of lawsuits, and, finally, a burn-it-all-down gesture that his mother — who, despite her yearning to be free, held tight to her diadem — might have well understood.”

The Palace Papers is written by Tina Brown and will be published by Century on April 26.

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