A new documentary airing this week sheds light on how the late Duke of Edinburgh comforted Prince William during Princess Diana’s funeral, 24 years ago.
Philip: Prince, Husband, Father, which is due to air at 9pm on ITV on Tuesday, gives an intimate glimpse into life as the Queen’s husband, from colourised clips of the couple as newlyweds to more solemn moments in his life.
The Duke walked with Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry behind the coffin of Princess Diana during her funeral on 6 September 1997, when the young royals were only 15 and 12.
Speaking in the documentary, Martin Palmer, who co-founded The Alliance of Religions and Conservation with Prince Philip, said the late Duke of Edinburgh quietly comforted his grandson William by touching his back when he thought no one could see them.
He explained that Prince Philip was keen to make sure the now Duke of Cambridge, 39 and Duke of Sussex, 37, did not grow up in a ‘dysfunctional’ family, the Telegraph reported.
‘There’s a moment where they go under the Horseguards Parade arch where it’s quite clear that Prince Philip – and I asked him about this he said, “Yes, I didn’t think the cameras could see us” – at that point he turns to William and comforts him,’ Martin said.
‘You’ve just got to watch that moment and realise here is a grandfather who is trying to help his young, very vulnerable grandson struggle through this awful awful moment,’ he added.
‘He knew what it was like to be a member of a dysfunctional family and he tried his hardest to make sure that did not happen to his grandchildren,’ he added.
Martin added it was not the Duke of Edinburgh’s idea to have the two young boys walk behind their mother’s coffin.
Prince Philip, who said the funeral was about the boys, offered to walk with them in support.
His biographer, Gyles Brandreth, said the Duke was not meant to take part, but did it as an act of grandfatherly kindness.
The two princes were meant to walk behind Diana’s hearses with their father, the Prince of Wales, and their uncle, Earl Spencer.
Royal author Ingrid Seward said William was reluctant to take part in the walk at first, but Philip reportedly said: ‘I’ll walk if you walk’,’ The Sun reported in April.
‘At first William flatly refused [to walk during the funeral]. Charles pleaded with him and said that it would be utterly wrong of him not to accompany them,’ she said.
‘Prince Philip weighed into the argument and eventually William agreed to take part – but only on the condition that his grandfather walked beside him.’
‘Philip reportedly said: “It’s about the boys. They’ve lost their mother”,’ she added.
In the 2017 BBC Documentary Diana: Seven Days, both Prince William and Prince Harry reflected on their mother’s funeral.
William recounted how he struggled to find the ‘balance between me being Prince William and having to do my bit, versus the private William who just wanted to go in a room and cry because he’d lost his mother.’
Harry, who later said no child should be asked to walk behind their mother’s coffin, said in 2017: ‘Generally, I don’t have an opinion on whether that was right or wrong. I am glad I was part of it. Looking back on it now, I am very glad I was part of it.’
The Duke of Edinburgh also stepped up to comfort the princes after their mothers death.
Tina Brown, who wrote The Diana Chronicles in 2011, said he offered them ‘gruff tenderness and outdoor activities like stalking and hiking to tire them out.’
In April, both Prince Harry and Prince William walked behind the Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin with their cousin Peter Phillips after he died in his sleep on April 9.