Even after 20 years,we can feel her warmth and her hugs
FAMILY, said Diana, Princess of Wales, ‘is the most important thing in the world’. From the moment she confided in her childhood nanny that her only ambition was to fall in love and have lots of children, to her final days with William and Harry, it was the philosophy she lived by.
It left a legacy of extraordinary pictures that – even two decades after her death – still speak eloquently about her relationship with her sons.
As Harry said last month: ‘She was the best mum in the world. She smothered us with love, that’s for sure. I miss having that mother to… give you those hugs and that compassion that everybody needs.’
William added: ‘She was extremely good at showing her love, showing what we meant to her, what feelings meant and how important it was to feel. Even after 20 years, I still feel that love... that warmth which is a huge testament to her.’
This summer the two princes have opened up to share their memories of their mother in a series of moving interviews in print and on television to mark the 20th anniversary of her death.
Their participation in ITV documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life And Legacy, broadcast last month, and tonight’s BBC special, Diana, 7 Days, has provided the most intimate portrait yet of Diana.
It is the first time the princes have spoken in depth about her life and loss and, they say, it will be the last.
‘Part of the reason that Harry and I want to do this is because we feel we owe it to her,’ William tells the BBC. ‘I think an element of it is feeling like we let her down when we were younger. We couldn’t protect her.’
On the same programme, Harry adds: ‘It’s never going to be easy for the two of us to talk about our mother, but 20 years on seems like a good time to remind people of the difference that she made, not just to the royal family, but also to the world.’
What emerges is how hard they have tried to keep alive the princess’s name and work, which they use as a paradigm for their own public service.
‘She had such warmth, she wanted to make people feel special,’ says William. ‘She realised she was in a unique position and could make people smile and feel better about themselves.
‘If I can be even a fraction of what she was, I will be proud and hopefully make her proud. Something so traumatic as the death of your mother when you are 15, it will either make or break you. And I wouldn’t let it break me. I wanted it to make me.’
But as Harry admits on the same programme: ‘When you are that young and something like that happens to you it is lodged in your heart and your head and stays there for a very long time.’
The best lesson the princess taught her sons was, adds Harry, ‘be yourself in everything you do and give as much as you can’. Just as she did for them.
Here, to celebrate the way she lit up her boys’ lives – and they lit up hers – we present the best pictures of their tooshort time together, with words taken from the princes’ tribute interviews.
The cuddles she gave them, the laughter they shared and the aching loss that they felt when she was taken from them so suddenly – all are laid bare in powerful reflections on the role Diana loved best of all: being mother to her two adored little princes.
She would just engulf you and squeeze you as tight as possible. Even talking about it now, I can feel the hugs she used to give us and I miss that feeling Harry
She was very informal and really enjoyed the laughter and the fun. She understood there was a life outside of palace walls William Our mother was a total kid through and through. When everybody says to me, ‘So she was fun, give me an example,’ all I can hear is her laugh in my head. And that sort of crazy laugh where there was just pure happiness shown on her face Harry
I genuinely think she got satisfaction out of dressing myself and William up in the most bizarre outfits – normally matching. It was weird shorts and little shiny shoes with the old clip-on. Looking back at the photos, it just makes me laugh and I think, ‘How could you do that to us?’ Harry
A sleepy two-year-old Harry sucks his thumb as he cuddles into his mother during a 1986 summer holiday to Majorca. Charles, Diana and the princes were the guests of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain
A delighted Diana is reunited with her boys (above) on the Royal Yacht Britannia in Toronto in October 1991, during the family’s firstever overseas tour as a foursome. She enfolds William in her arms (right and below right) before smothering him in kisses
Diana and William fail to hide their amusement at someone else’s expense in Windsor Great Park in 1991
The princes and their mother share a joke with Thorpe Park’s former manager Colin Dawson on the Loggers Leap in 1992
Diana often dressed her sons in matching outfits. They are pictured here in lemon shorts and white sweatshirts at Aberdeen Airport ahead of their Balmoral summer break in 1986 Identical blue shorts and striped tops for a dresseddown day at Smith’s Lawn polo in 1987 and (right) a formal suit-and-tie combination at the Royal Tournament in London’s Earls Court in 1988
Even William and Harry’s identical powder-blue dress coats couldn’t steal the limelight from Zara Phillips’s teddy muff during an outing in Sandringham just after New Year 1988