Another plan suggested that the elder William walk without Harry. In his memoir, Spare, Harry recalls refusing to do so: “I didn’t want Willy to undergo an ordeal like that without me,” he wrote.
Eventually, Philip talked to the boys themselves. “I’ll walk if you walk,” he reportedly told them. So walk they did, flanked by Philip, Prince Charles, and Diana’s brother, Charles Spencer. Over 2.5 billion people watched them do so on television.
As for Harry? “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances,” he said. “I don’t think it would happen today.” The Earl of Spencer, meanwhile, called the decision “bizarre and cruel.”
William told the BBC in the 2017 documentary Diana, 7 Days that the walk was “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.” He admitted that he kept his head down the entire time just to get through it. “I felt if I looked at the floor and my hair came down over my face, no one could see me.”
Do they regret doing it? The now-Prince of Wales says it was a tough but necessary choice. “It wasn’t an easy decision, and it was a sort of collective family decision to do that. There is that balance between duty and family, and that’s what we had to do,” he told the BBC in 2017.
As adults, both men have spoken out about the deep pain this choice caused them—especially Harry. “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. After he left the royal family in 2020, he spoke more openly about the trauma: “The thing I remember the most was the sound of the horse’s hooves going along the Mall, the red brick road,” he said in the 2021 docuseries The Me You Can’t See. “By this point, both of us were in shock. It was like I was outside of my body. I’m just walking along and doing what was expected of me, showing the one-tenth of the emotion that everybody else was showing.” Eventually, he admits, the pain caused by his mother’s death—and his subsequent suppression of it—led him to seek therapy.