Forced to grieve in public gaze

Agonising pressure on sons as they cope with bereavement

To be robbed of a mother in such tragic and sudden circumstances would be devastating for any child. For Princes William and Harry, heirs to the throne first and foremost, their agony will be compounded by having to grieve in the public gaze.

At a crucial stage in their development, the boys have lost a mother who, however imperfect in other ways, always made them her first priority, lavished affection on them and tried to inject some sense of normality into their lives.

For 15-year-old William, in the throes of adolescence and, strikingly, the image of his mother, the emotional burden seems particularly intolerable. He already loathed the media for hounding Diana, for the part he believed they had played in the break-up of his parents' marriage, and the circumstances of her death are bound to exacerbate those feelings. Yet as a future monarch, he will have to learn to live inside a goldfish bowl.

Millions of strangers feel compassion towards these boys. But the public gaze is likely to make them clam up and conceal their emotions, according to Julie Stokes, a consultant clinical psychologist who runs a project for bereaved children in Gloucestershire. "And I can imagine that in the Royal household it is difficult to give vent to your feelings," she said.

"The Princes are not like other teenagers. They can't go out of the house, slam the door and run off to talk to their friends when they feel upset."

Prince William will find the media glare particularly difficult in the coming months. His hostility towards the press has been transparent since, aged 11, he turned on a group of photographers during a skiiing holiday in Austria and had to be restrained by detectives. His discomfort even when posing for pre-arranged pictures is palpable, and he was reportedly unhappy at being instructed by Buckingham Palace to "perform" for a photocall at Eton at the start of term. When the boys will return to school now is not yet clear.

Judy Wade, Royal correspondent for Hello! magazine, believes Diana instilled her own paranoia about the media in William, despite trying to train him to face the cameras by taking pictures of him herself from an early age. "William is almost mentally crippled by watching his mother being pursued," she said.

The fear of some of Diana's friends, as the boys struggle to cope with bereavement, is that they will revert to a traditional Royal upbringing remote from ordinary life. That they masked their grief to attend church at Balmoral on Sunday, keeping up appearances in accordance with Royal custom, could be the first sign of that.

Ms Wade, said yesterday: "Diana and the boys were exceptionally close. From their mother, they got normality. She took them to hamburger joints and to the movies, to visit the homeless. She was an important balance to the kind of life they lead with Charles."

Bob Houston, founding editor of Royalty magazine, said: "Diana's priority was to ensure that her children did not grow up in the kind of stifling atmosphere that her husband did."

With Diana gone, other adults in the Princes' lives will take on a key role in helping them to cope with their grief, adapt to the loss of their mother and, it is hoped, grow into well-adjusted adults.

Prince Charles, obviously, will be crucial. People who know him say that while he is not given to public displays of affection, he is not the emotional cold fish that he appears and will be a rock of support for his sons.

William is said to have developed a particularly good relationship with the Queen, his grandmother, in recent years.

Ahead of them lies the immediate ordeal of their mother's funeral and the national outpouring of grief that, in these early days, is probably magnifying their anguish.

"On one level, they may be proud that Diana's popularity made her so special," said Ms Stokes.

"On another, they may be outraged that their mother is being mourned as if she were public property.

"I think it will be almost impossible for them to grieve because they will feel as if the eyes of the world are upon them."

Others, though, believe Prince William is a sensitive, mature and intelligent boy who will learn to cope with his onerous responsibilities. Charles has said he is determined to shield both his sons from the burdens of Royal duties for as long as possible.

"They are remarkably normal compared to other Royals at their age," said Mr Houston. "Given the right kind of support, they have a good chance of growing up into sane and sensible adults."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Account Manager, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent Uncapped Commission Structure: ...

Sales Executive, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Charter Selection: This exciting entertainment comp...

Digital Producer / Digital Project Manager

£28 - 45k: Guru Careers: A Digital Producer / Digital Project Manager is neede...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz