Diana's children face terrible loss
Eyes of world focus on young princes
In this report:
September 1, 1997
Web posted at: 8:57 p.m. EDT (0057 GMT)
LONDON (CNN) -- It was only a year ago that Prince William,
15, and his brother Harry, 12, went through their parents'
very public and rather testy divorce.
Working through such an experience can be difficult enough,
but now they must contend with something far more difficult:
the loss of an adored mother. And they must do so while
suffering the relentless spotlight of public attention as
scions of the British royal family.
Princess Diana's traumatic death in a high-speed chase
through the streets of Paris shocked and saddened the world,
and there has been no little concern for her sons.
Leading child and adolescence psychiatrist Dora Black, a
former director of The Traumatic Distress Clinic in London,
says a mother's death is difficult for any child. For William
and Harry, the glare of publicity may make it even more
"It could make it much more difficult to express their
feelings," Black says. "Presumably there will be cameras
upon them, but they have been brought up to cope with it in a
way that Princess Diana wasn't."
Children over 10 cope better
Only hours after learning of their mother's death,
princes attended church
with their father, Prince Charles, in Scotland. And although appearing a trifle pale, they appeared
to be composed.
"They were very good, indeed, despite what must have been
going through their minds and their hearts in the last six
hours," the Rev. Robert Sloan told The Daily Telegraph
Although adolescence is a difficult age, studies have shown
that children over 10 cope better with the sudden death of a
parent and experience less lasting psychological damage.
"Any traumatic bereavement is likely to produce problems
for children, but adolescents are no more vulnerable to
lasting problems than adults," says Black.
The princes lived in palaces, but their mother went out of
her way to show them life outside. She took them on trips to
Disneyland and other amusement parks, as well as to hamburger
restaurants and local cinemas. She also introduced them to
homeless people and AIDS victims in an attempt to make their
lives as "normal" as she could.
William 'serious and bright'
Novelist Lord Geoffrey Archer told CNN that the princess
described William, who has already been hailed as a future
star of the royal family, as "serious and bright."
William, a lanky 6-foot-1, is about to begin his third year
at Eton College, a venerable boarding school that has
educated the sons of Britain's elite for more than 500 years.
Despite his youth, he is quite popular in England, and
something of a heartthrob as well.
The princess described Harry, who turns 13 on September 15,
as "mischievous, fun and adorable." He is also something of
an athlete, and enters his final year at the Ludgrove school
William was particularly close to his mother, who was barely
out of her teens when she gave birth to him, and even advised
her during the divorce proceedings.
Diana made no secret that she hoped he -- not his father --
would be Britain's next king, a sentiment shared by many. And
yet, says Archer, she told him that Prince Charles was "an
outstanding father, and a very good influence on the
children. She actually made a point of saying it."
Richard Kay, the Daily Mail's royal correspondent and a close
friend of Diana's, said she called him six hours before she
died, and said she was troubled by a call from William.
Future king despises the media
He was being required by Buckingham Palace to "perform," Kay
said. "They wanted him to carry out a photo call at Eton."
What troubled Diana and William was that Harry was not
"She was very conscious that both of them had a role to
play," said Rosa Monckton, president of Tiffany and Co., and
a friend of Diana's. "She was grooming Harry to be of support
to his brother."
As a future king, William must cope with the media he already
despises and which have been accused of playing a role in his
mother's death. His antipathy for the media is so well-known
that some commentators are worried.
"If it turns out that the hated cameras played some part in
his mother's death, few would blame him for turning his back
on them forever," wrote Robert Hardman in The Daily Telegraph, a conservative daily newspaper. "For a future king to harbor such a loathing for the public eye, however, could damage the monarchy."
Princes need space and time
Such concerns are for the future, however. At the moment,
there are more immediate concerns. There is still their
enormous sense of loss and grief, the funeral Saturday in
Westminster Abbey to contend with and a burial near Diana's
family home in Northamptonshire.
Tony Carr, a clinical psychologist and bereavement counselor,
said research shows that a sudden death away from home is the
hardest for relatives to deal with, and Black suggests that
it would help the princes to see their mother's body one last
She said that grieving and attending the funeral would also
help, as would being able to talk about their grief with
someone with whom they feel comfortable.
Said Black, "They will need space and time to come to terms
with their loss."
Correspondent Donna Kelley, Reuters and The Associated Press
contributed to this report.
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