This August will be the 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and to mark the occasion the Duke of Cambridge and his brother, Prince Harry, will be speaking for the first time about their immediate reaction to the loss of their mother in a new BBC1 documentary. The documentary’s current working title is simply Diana.
The Princes have recently made several public speeches before about their own mental health, including an appearance on BBC1’s Mind Over Matter Marathon. There is a growing awareness about the state of mental health within the UK and the attitudes surrounding it, particularly the ingrained social stigma about expressing grief and personal trauma. Some have spoken favourably about high profile figures such as Prince William and Prince Harry openly discussing their own experiences with grief and anxiety, and hope that it will help break social barriers and encourage more people to open up about their feelings.
Talks regarding a documentary on the Princes’ reaction to the death of Diana, the Princess of Wales, began slightly before their appearance on Mind Over Matter. Indeed, the interviews for the documentary have already been recorded.
While the two had spoken of their mourning and the struggles they’ve gone through following the event, they have never actually spoken of the immediate aftermath, the funeral or their initial responses to the news of the car crash in Paris nearly twenty years ago. Still quite young at the time — Prince William was 15 years old and Prince Henry 12 — special efforts were made by The Queen and the Government to shield the Princes from the ensuing media storm that followed, and they’ve never really spoken of it since.
The Duke of Cambridge stated that their motivations for breaking their silence lay in a feeling of filial debt. “We feel we owe it to her…I think an element of it is feeling like we let her down when we were younger. We couldn’t protect her. We feel we at least owe her 20 years on to stand up for her name and remind everybody of the character and person that she was. Do our duties as sons in protecting her.”
Twenty years on, the two agreed that now was as good a time as any to talk more openly about their mother, her death, and their experiences in processing the news of it. While they admit that it was never easy and remains difficult, they were also touched at the time by the huge outpouring of grief and emotion from the public.
“[It] was shocking,” said Prince Harry, “It was beautiful at the same time, and it was amazing, now looking back at it, it was amazing that our mother had such a huge effect on so many people…I think it’s never going to be easy for the two of us to talk about our mother, but 20 years on seems like a good time to remind people of the difference that she made not just to the Royal Family but also to the world.”
The documentary was announced by Alison Kirkham, BBC commissioning director, alongside 30 hours’ worth of other new programming to be released by the BBC. The BBC will retain editorial control, and further details regarding the show will be released over the summer.