Prince Philip’s letter: After Diana.
In February, 2015, a letter was sold at auction. This was highly significant in the history of the British royal family.It was written by Prince Philip, five days after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.
Eighteen years previously, Diana had been killed in a car crash in Paris.
Prince Philip,pictured on the left with Queen Elizabeth II, wrote the letter to his niece expressing his feelings about Diana and his distress at her death and the way it was affecting the family.
This applied particularly to his two grandsons, Diana’s children William and Harry.
The family, including the two boys, were at Balmoral in Scotland when the news broke about Diana. Her ex-husband, Prince Charles, broke the news to his sons. The family then did what most families would do in those circumstances – they mourned together and the top priority for the Queen, Prince Philip and Prince Charles was to look after and protect the boys.
That day – a Sunday – they took William and Harry, then aged fifteen and twelve, to the local church so they they could pray for their mother and receive comfort.
Unfortunately, the British press were whipping up the general public into frenzy, ignoring the fact that the queen, like any other grandmother of now motherless children, put them first.
Almost unbelievably, the press decided that in fact, the royal family should put the people first and return to London – in other words, have their grief on public display. The royal family has never publicly displayed emotion whenever possible but the media was now demanding it ‘on behalf of the public’.
The public, of course,
‘knew’ Diana from the tabloid newspapers. For the royal family, they really knew Diana as a person and despite the divorce between her and Charles, she was still the mother of the two boys. And yet the media wanted the royal family to mourn publicly ‘for the people’. Prince Philip, in his letter, made it plain that this attitude made it far more difficult to comfort and console the boys.
Thanks to the media hysteria, we saw the heartbreaking sight of the whole family, including the boys, reading the cards on the floral tributes and speaking with members of the public who were gawping at the spectacle.
Wait … two boys, one not yet in his teens, have lost their young mother in a tragic accident and they are expected to appear in public just a few days later?
Because the newspapers say so? The Queen was advised to do so. The boys had to ‘perform’. On their best royal behaviour, they had to shake hands with people who never knew their mother and thank them for their condolences. That is a hard enough thing for an adult to do at a parent’s funeral but for boys, with the world’s media cameras following every move? Prince Philip obviously ‘strongly expressed’ in his letter how the media’s behaviour and criticism was unacceptable.
The family was even criticised for taking the boys to church. the letter reads: ‘We have even been criticised for “forcing” the boys to go to church on Sunday, the day of the accident.’ He then points out that churches are for praying.
There is a video in existence showing the family looking at the floral tributes that were left outside Balmoral. This must have been within two or three days of Diana’s death. It shows young Harry clutching firmly to his father’s hand. He was clearly distressed but nevertheless, the public demanded to see him and the rest of the family. I’m not very proud of the British media, I have to say.
But hey, it sold newspapers. Isn’t that what it was all about?
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