Princess Diana’s death was a shock to the world. Millions worldwide mourned the “People’s Princess,” and her funeral became the most-watched broadcast in history. Many felt that they had lost a family member. But for some, that was their reality.
Prince William and Prince Harry were only children when they lost their mother and famously walked behind her coffin before she was laid to rest. The brothers were at Balmoral at the time of the accident, and what went on the following day was nothing short of a significant trauma.
Prince William and Prince Harry spoke with their mother earlier, the same day she was involved in the horrific car crash in Paris that took her life. In an interview about their mother, the Prince of Wales revealed the heartbreaking last words he ever told her.
At approximately 12.23 am, in the early hours of August 31, 1997, Princess Diana’s car crashed in The Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris, France. She and her boyfriend, the Egyptian-born film magnate Dodi Fayed, were traveling in the car together from the Ritz Hotel — accompanied by a driver and bodyguard. They were pursued by paparazzi journalists and crashed at high speed in the Paris tunnel.
Princess Diana’s tragic death
Diana’s partner, Dodi Fayed, and the car’s driver, Henri Paul, were found dead inside the vehicle. Meanwhile, her bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, survived.
The beloved princess received lengthy treatment by medics at the scene but suffered a cardiac arrest while in the ambulance. By six minutes past two in the morning, Diana had reached the hospital.
Upon arrival at the hospital, Diana underwent an X-ray that revealed she had suffered severe internal injuries. As a result, she immediately received a blood transfusion.
Just 15 minutes after arriving, Diana suffered another cardiac arrest. Surgeon MonSef Dahman performed a surgical procedure, but the princess’s injuries were too grave. Her heart would not restart.
MonSef Dahman became the one in charge of trying to keep Diana alive. In an interview with the Daily Mail, he told the story of what happened that night.
“The thought that you have lost an important person, for whom you cared personally, marks you for life,” he told the British news outlet.
“We tried electric shocks, several times and, as I had done in the emergency room, cardiac massage,” Dahman explained.
Dahman and his medical team fought to keep Diana alive. But in the end, there wasn’t much they could do. He explained that the Pitié-Salpêtrière hospital was one of France’s best centers for these types of emergencies, and saving people brought in made him “happy and proud.”
In Diana’s case, he felt hope at the beginning. But ultimately, they couldn’t save her.
While surgeons in Paris fought to keep Princess Diana alive, far away, at Balmoral in Scotland, her two children, Prince William and Prince Harry, stayed with their father, King Charles, and their grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II.
How William and Harry found out about Diana’s passing
William was born two years before Harry, but both brothers had a wonderful childhood. Their mother knew the importance of their future. But she also understood that – even though they weren’t like other children – they had to be given a childhood as close to normal as possible. It was something that, later in life, Prince William and his wife, Kate, would apply to their children’s upbringing.
When Princess Diana died, the royal family was, of course, in shock. Though Diana and Charles had divorced less than a year earlier, her eldest son, William, would one day become King, and Harry was tipped to have an essential role within the monarchy.
The children – William, then age 15, and Harry, then, age 12 – were asleep when the news broke. When they woke up, Queen Elizabeth II knew how important it was to protect the two princes.
She instructed her staff at Balmoral to let the young boys sleep in before telling them to hide all the TVs and radios in the Castle. Then, when they went to church the following morning, Her Majesty forbade everyone from mentioning Diana’s passing.
Harry claimed in his book Spare that his father “didn’t hug him” after Diana’s death. The two children were, of course, in shock and were devastated. Speaking in the documentary Diana, 7 Days, William recalled how he felt “completely numb,” “disorientated,” and “dizzy” when the tragic news arrived.
“You feel very, very confused. And you keep asking yourself, ‘Why me?’ All the time, ‘Why? What have I done? Why? Why has this happened to us?'” William said.
“There’s nothing like it in the world,” he explained in the documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy. “There really isn’t. It’s like an earthquake has just run through the house and through your life and everything. Your mind is completely split. And it took me a while for it to actually sink in.”
“It was very difficult to communicate”
Family members tried to talk to William and Harry about what had happened. The two had just lost their dear mother, and it was hard to grasp what had happened.
“The family came together, and Harry and I tried to talk as best we could about it,” he said in Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy. “But being so small at that age, it was very difficult to communicate or understand your feelings. It’s… very complicated.”
On September 6, 1997, Princess Diana was laid to her final rest. An estimated 2.5 billion people watched the funeral, and viewers saw how the two young children, William and Harry, walked behind their mother’s coffin in the cortége.
“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,” Harry told Newsweek. “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”
Princess Diana was buried at her family’s estate of Althorp, on a small island in the middle of the Oval Lake. Naturally, moving on was very hard. However, despite their immense sorrow, they tried to maintain a positive image towards the public and put on a brave face.
“Slowly, you try and rebuild your life, and you try and understand what’s happened, and I kept saying to myself that, you know, my mother would not want me to be upset,” William said. “She’d not want me to be down. She’d not want me to be like this. I kept myself busy as well—which is good and bad sometimes—but allows you to kind of get through that initial shock phase.”
Princess Diana prioritized her children over everything, whether she was a princess or not. She tried to protect them the best way she could, but Diana was afraid she’d lose them when she and Charles were heading towards a divorce.
William and Harry’s last-ever phone call to Diana
According to biographer Howard Hodgson, author of the 2007 book Charles: The Man Who Will Be King, Diana feared that Queen Elizabeth and Charles wanted to separate her from her children.
“She was well aware that the Queen had the constitutional right and authority under common law to take control of both boys’ care and education,” Hodgson wrote, as quoted by Express.
“As such she could become the boys’ guardian or even appoint one: this would probably be their father and that might lead to Diana’s exclusion if she finally burned all her bridges with the Royal Family.”
Hodgson added that Queen Elizabeth never intended to separate Diana from her sons. But Diana believed the Queen and Charles “had already hatched such a plot and were only waiting for the right moment to execute it.”
Diana, William, and Harry always kept in contact, no matter if she was close to home or in another part of the world. The same went for the night of August 30, 1997, when she called her children from Paris.
In the documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, William and Harry spoke more about the last time they spoke with their mother, though, Harry said he couldn’t remember what they talked about.
“But all I do remember is regretting for the rest of my life how short the phone call was. If I’d known that that was the last time I was going to speak to my mother, the things I would have said to her,” the now-estranged Duke of Sussex said.
“Can I go off?”
“Looking back at it now — it’s incredibly hard. I have to deal with that for the rest of my life: not knowing that it was the last time I’d speak to my mum, how differently that conversation would have panned out if I’d had even the slightest inkling that her life was going to be taken that night.”
Prince William had some more clear memories of what the call involved. And he will never forget the last few heartbreaking words he uttered to his mother.
“The very last memory I have is a phone call from Balmoral. At the time, Harry and I were running around, minding our own business, playing with our cousins, and having a very good time,” William said. “Harry and I were in a desperate rush to say, ‘Goodbye, see you later, can I go off?’ If I’d known what was going to happen, I wouldn’t have been quite so blasé about it. That phone call sticks in my mind quite heavily.”
Despite the horrible car accident that took their mother’s life, William and Harry grew up into respectable men thanks to the love and support of their family. Still to this day, and most likely for all days to come, they will continue to honor their mother’s legacy.
On July 1, 2021, on what would have been Diana’s 60 birthday, Prince William and Prince Harry attended the unveiling of a new bronze statue of their mother in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace.
“Today, on what would have been our Mother’s 60th birthday, we remember her love, strength and character – qualities that made her a force for good around the world, changing countless lives for the better,” the brothers said in a shared statement.
“Every day, we wish she were still with us, and our hope is that this statue will be seen forever as a symbol of her life and her legacy.”
Rest in peace, Princess Diana. Please share this article on Facebook with friends and family to honor her!
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