In the days following Princess Diana’s tragic death on August 31, 1997, the royal family went about business as usual. They even attended church services the very next morning without mention of her death.
In fact, things seemed so normal that Prince Harry—who was 12 at the time—didn’t actually know whether the news was real or not.
Biographer Tina Brown’s Channel 5 documentary Diana: 7 Days That Shook The Windsors revealed heartbreaking details about how Harry and his older brother, Prince William—who was 15 at the time—had to handle the painful loss.
“Prince Harry actually asked his father, ‘Is it true that Mummy’s dead?'” Brown explained. “The children couldn’t understand why everything was as normal, except a couple of hours earlier they’d been told their mother had died.”
According to Brown, the royals’ initial reaction to Diana’s death was to “do as they had always done,” which meant going to church at Balmoral where they where staying due to the fact that it was a Sunday.
Other than going about business as usual, another thing that caused some backlash that day was the fact that Crathie Kirk church made absolutely no mention of Diana’s death during the services. This caused people to believe they were treating her with the same “cold detachment” they always had, even after her death.
Royal biographer Ingrid Seward summed up the public reaction in the documentary, saying, “The first thing we saw of the boys was when they were going to church for Sunday service. And people were saying, ‘How could they? These boys have just lost their mother.'”
However, the documentary suggested that Queen Elizabeth II firmly believed any reference to their mother would be “heartbreaking” for William and Harry, and she even ordered all TVs and radios to be removed or hidden at Balmoral to protect them from the traumatizing details of her death on the news.
As you may recall, Diana was killed in a car accident in the Pont de l’Alma road tunnel in Paris, France. Dodi Fayed and Henri Paul, the driver of the Mercedes-Benz, were also pronounced dead at the scene. Originally, people blamed the paparazzi for the accident, but it was later discovered that Paul had lost control of the car while driving drunk.
Both Harry and William have opened up quite a bit in the recent months leading up to the 20th anniversary of their mother’s death.
They’ve both admitted to burying their emotions regarding such a tragic loss. Prince Harry said he learned how to shut off his feelings and only sought emotional support after he came close to several breakdowns.
Prince William recently opened up to GQ about his similar experience, saying, “I am in a better place about it than I have been for a long time, where I can talk about her more openly, talk about her more honestly, and I can remember her better, and publicly talk about her better.”
The royal continued, “It has taken me almost twenty years to get to that stage. I still find it difficult now because at the time it was so raw.”