On Monday, the funeral was held for Queen Elizabeth II, who died earlier this month at the age of 96, ending a 70-year reign as the UK’s monarch.
The funeral was attended by 2,000 people, and watched by countless others around the world. And for many, the event evoked the memory of another royal funeral held 25 years ago, after the untimely death of Princess Diana.
Diana’s funeral was viewed by an estimated 2.5 billion people, and watching Prince William and Prince Harry attend Queen Elizabeth’s coffin no doubt brought back memories of watching them, as young boys, walk behind their mother during her funeral procession.
And for Harry, the experience of losing his mother, and having all the eyes of the world on him as he grieved, was a traumatic experience that has taken decades to overcome.
Left ‘scarred’ by his mother’s death
Diana, Princess of Wales — the first wife of now-King Charles and mother of Prince William and Prince Harry — was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997, when she was just 36.
The event shocked the world and caused widespread mourning. And much of the public’s sympathy went to her two young sons who were now left motherless: William was just 15 at the time, and Harry was 12.
Seeing the young princes march behind their mother’s coffin was one of the most unforgettable and heartbreaking moments of Diana’s widely-viewed funeral — but for Harry, it was traumatizing to have the spotlight on him during such a vulnerable time.
“My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me, while millions more did on television,” he told Newsweek in 2017. “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that under any circumstances.”
In the same interview he said he was “scarred” after his mother’s death, and was “adrift” for many decades. His erratic behavior often landed him in the tabloids, and caused a headache for the royal family.
By his 30s, Harry began trying to get his act together. In 2018, he married his girlfriend Meghan Markle in a highly-publicized wedding ceremony.
It was Meghan, he says, who encouraged him to seek therapy to properly address the trauma he experienced from Diana’s death.
“I am one of the first people to recognize that firstly, I had a fear of — when I first went to therapy — a fear of losing,” Harry said in the docuseries The Me You Can’t See, as quoted by People.
“It was only when a couple of people close to me started to say, ‘This isn’t normal behavior, perhaps you should look into this or perhaps you should go and seek help.’ Now immediately, I was like, I don’t need help,” he said.
“It was meeting and being with Meghan, I knew that if I didn’t do therapy and fix myself, that I was going to lose this woman who I could see spending the rest of my life with.”
In 2020, the couple made headlines, and caused a royal scandal, when they announced they would be retiring from royal duties and moving to the United States, becoming financially independent from the family.
They further caused controversy during a 2021 interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which they discussed their mental health issues caused by the royal family. They also alleged inappropriate comments from a member of the royal family about the skin color of their then-unborn son, Archie.
While Harry and Meghan have been building a new life for themselves in the US after breaking off from royal duties, the interview has caused a rift in the royal family — and some awkwardness whenever Harry is called back home.
‘Afraid’ to attend Philip’s funeral
In 2021, Prince Philip — the husband of Queen Elizabeth and Harry’s grandfather — died at the age of 99.
In the lead-up to Philip’s funeral, much of the media attention was focused on Harry, as it was the first time he traveled back to England since the interview. Speculation focused on how Harry would interact with his brother William and father Charles at the funeral.
But for Harry, returning home for the funeral was challenging for a different reason. It meant reentering the media spotlight that he had tried to escape, and the trigger of anxieties that began with Diana’s funeral.
“I was worried about it, I was afraid,” Harry told the Associated Press. He said while his work in therapy “definitely made it a lot easier,” “the heart still pounds.”
Queen Elizabeth’s funeral
All the friction in the royal family was set aside in recent weeks following the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Harry reportedly had an especially close relationship with his grandmother, and rushed to be by her side after reports of her declining health. However, he reportedly did not arrive in time before she passed.
Despite the turmoil in the royal family, they seem to have patched things up, at least enough to be together through the 10 days of official mourning for the late queen.
Harry reportedly offered an “olive branch” to his father, the new King Charles, and Harry and Meghan were seen walking with Prince William and Kate as they attended the Queen’s coffin.
Harry hasn’t yet spoken about his experiences during the Queen’s funeral, such as whether it brought upon the same anxieties that Diana’s and Philip’s funerals caused for him.
However, it is clear that Harry was genuinely upset by his grandmother’s passing, and was seen wiping a tear from his eyes.
Losing your mother at a young age is very difficult, and it’s clear Diana’s death left an impact on Harry that he is still dealing with decades later.
We hope the royal family can find peace and be together during this time of loss.
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