Diana 1961-1997: The tragedy - Anger, guilt and the challenge for her two `little men'

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A mother's death is nearly always hard to take, at any age, but when she dies just as her children are entering their teens, just as they are beginning to flap their wings in preparation for their flight, this is perhaps the worst time of all. At a moment when 15-year-old William and 12-year-old Harry should be looking forward, with the stability of their mother to keep them secure in the background, she is suddenly gone, in a single, cruel flash. No long illness to prepare them; just a tragic shocking accident that came completely out of the blue.

Apart from the misery of losing pretty much of a super-mum, with her spontaneous kisses, her own obvious enjoyment when she accompanied them to the movies, McDonald's or Alton Towers, there will be anger and guilt.

Prince William has long played, to an extent, the little man around the house. He has been of the James James Morrison Morrison Wetherby George Dupree type of boy, who "took great care of his mother, though he was only three. `Mother,' he said, said James, `Mother,' he said, said he, `Don't go down to the end of the town without consulting me.'" Although it's an arch poem, by AA Milne, it sums up precisely the responsibility that even the smallest of boys can feel for their mothers; and when, as in this case, she did go down to the end of the town and never come back, William may well feel immense, irrational guilt.

The boys' feelings will not be helped by the fact that in the Royal Family, their mother was always an outsider, and, however much they may make declarations of affection now, she and they often appeared at loggerheads. And who have the boys got to turn to now? Only the bogeyman of her life, the Royal Family.

In reality I have no doubt that Prince Charles, who has seen his sons for six months of every year, Tiggy Legge Bourke, who has been an affectionate nanny figure to them, and the rest of the relations, will be supportive, but there is no getting away from the boys' feeling that to blend in with that side of the family will be siding with the enemy, disloyal to their mother. They will be put into a tremendously difficult situation.

They will, too, be enraged and overwhelmed by the enormity of the situation. Adults all round them will be yakking on about the Princess's great work for charity, her beauty, her kindness, her heroism, and William and Harry will feel in the background. What about us, they will be saying? Aren't we, who were the most important people in mum's life, now still more important than anything? We couldn't care less how many mine victims she cuddled, it's our cuddles we'll miss.

The Princess of Wales pretty much lost her own mother when she ran off when Diana was six. This always caused her great problems. Her death will cause the boys enormous problems, too. But perhaps, and hopefully, she will have given them just enough good mothering to help them through this awful, tragic time in their young lives.

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