Nation Worries About Princes' Future
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 3, 1997;
LONDON, Sept. 2—Princess Diana had planned to return to London Sunday for a week-long reunion with her two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, before they left for the fall term at boarding school. But the boys were awakened before dawn that morning by their distraught father.
At first, they were told their mother had been in a serious accident. Minutes later, the unthinkable was confirmed. She was dead.
Just hours later, the boys accompanied Prince Charles to the weekly Sunday service in the small village church near Balmoral Castle in Scotland, where they had spent three weeks with their father and the royal family.
The two young princes wore suits with black ties; they were grim-faced but never shed a tear. There was no mention of their mother's name during the hour-long service or in the standard prayers for the royal family -- Diana was eliminated from the prayer list when she lost the title of "Her Royal Highness" last year.
In one shattering night, she was taken from them forever. "It's just a tragedy," said one mourner outside Kensington Palace, echoing the sentiments of thousands who have left notes of condolence for the boys. "I feel so terrible for the two princes."
The boys have remained with the royal family in Scotland, where they will stay until Saturday's funeral at Westminster Abbey. They have been joined by their former nanny, Tiggy Legge-Bourke, who has an affectionate, tender relationship with both princes.
Overnight, the almost hysterical devotion displayed this week for Diana has been transferred to her eldest son. Sporting the blond hair and lanky good looks of the Spencers, William is now her living embodiment. This is a mixed blessing for the monarchy: The next Prince of Wales will come to the throne with unprecedented public support, but with the hope that this future king carries all the best traits of his mother.
Of all Diana's many roles -- abandoned wife, party queen, fashion plate, humanitarian -- the one she cherished most was as mother to her two children. However history ultimately judges the late princess, she will be remembered as a devoted, passionate parent. The fiercest battles during her separation and divorce from Prince Charles were over time with her sons.
"It's well known that Diana and the boys were very, very close," says London psychiatrist Dennis Friedman. "She adored them and they adored her."
Friedman is the author of "Inheritance: A Psychological History of the Royal Family." Diana's death, he says, makes the boys psychological orphans. They've lost their mother, and have never truly had a loving relationship with their father.
Charles may care for his sons, says Friedman, but "he has always been a very distant father, as all members of the House of Windsor have been for generations."
Diana's legacy as a mother began with her insistence on raising the royal babies like other well-off British children of their generation.
There was national rejoicing when William Arthur Philip Louis was born June 21, 1982. England had a glamorous young royal couple and a new heir to the throne. Diana signaled her intentions to be a modern mother when she insisted on bringing her 9-month-old son on an official tour of Australia. William was the first royal baby ever to travel on a major trip with his parents.
Two years later, the crown had the heir and the spare. Henry Charles Albert David was born on Sept. 15, 1984. Diana's youth and her obvious delight in her babies led most people to think there would be many more. The secret was that the marriage was all but over. The closeness Charles and Diana experienced after William's birth was not repeated. Among intimates of the royal couple, it was whispered that Charles had yearned for a daughter, not another son.
Diana always insisted on a "normal" life for her sons, to whatever degree that was possible. Instead of tutors inside the palace walls, both boys attended nursery and elementary schools in London before they left for boarding school at age 8,_over her objections.
She was an active, deeply involved mother. She exposed them to places no royal prince had ever seen, and was criticized for introducing them to AIDS patients and the homeless. "I want them to have an understanding of people's emotions, of people's insecurities, of people's distress, of their hopes and dreams," she answered. More than anything, she wanted William to be a modern and compassionate king.
Diana arranged for her boys to have tea with Cindy Crawford. She took them to tropical islands, to ski resorts and to amusement parks. Some of the most endearing images of Diana and her sons are of them laughing together while on roller coasters and water rides. The three spent their last vacation together in the Mediterranean earlier this summer.
As a little boy, William was independent and confident. At 15, he is now considered to be the most like his mother: spirited but sensitive.
The child who once slipped tissues under a bedroom door because he heard his mother crying became her closest confidant. He was her sounding board, especially since the divorce last year, and many believed Diana leaned too much on the young shoulders of her beloved "Wills."
But they were very close. He was credited with the idea for the celebrated auction this summer of her dresses for charity.
William also inherited a deep distrust of the media from his mother. When he was 11 years old, the young prince had to be restrained from lashing out at photographers at a ski resort in Austria. He considers the press partially responsible for his parents' divorce, and he must be cajoled into even officially approved photo sessions of the royal family. If he blames photographers for his mother's death, commentators fear it would permanently destroy any relationship between the future king and the media.
Harry has evolved into the fun-loving, sporty prince. His grades have been less than spectacular, and his parents had decided their younger son would repeat his final year at Ludgrove to hone his academic skills and allow him to mature.
Suddenly, all plans for the princes are on hold. Speculation about who will fill their mother's role has dominated coverage of the two boys since Sunday.
Royal watchers say the presence of Tiggy Legge-Bourke is crucial. Although Diana had a deep rivalry with her over her affectionate relationship with the boys, Legge-Bourke is regarded as the woman most able to comfort them in their grief.
Prince Charles's longtime love, Camilla Parker Bowles, has never even met the two boys, because, it is rumored, Charles has not permitted it.
Neither boy will want for the advantages of life. The British press is reporting that most of Diana's $64 million fortune will be left to Harry because William, as heir to the throne, will automatically inherit his father's vast estates and income.
When in London, the boys had lived with Diana at Kensington Palace. Prince Charles's small palace apartments in the city would need to be refitted to accommodate two teenagers; most of the time the boys have spent with Charles has been at his country estate of Highgrove.
Most royal watchers believe the boys will return to school, but not immediately. When they do, William will return to Eton for his third year. After Harry's final year at Ludgrove, he will join his older brother at Eton; the headmaster has lifted the rigid academic requirements for admittance to the prestigious private school.
But it is the grief of the boys that most concerns people now. The London tabloids are urging Charles to be more expressive and loving: "Cancel all your engagements and give those two poor boys a cuddle," says the Sun. The general feeling, however, is that their father cannot comfort them.
"I think Charles needs a lot of love, but whether he's capable of giving it out -- I'm in doubt, says psychiatrist Friedman.
A columnist for the Times, a well-respected London paper, published a huge editorial today calling for a complete press ban on the young princes.
"I propose that the Princes William and Harry should now be a taboo subject for all media until each is 18," wrote Libby Purves. "No insulting platitudes about `the grieving process,' no opera glasses trained on their faces at the funeral, and in the months to come, no pictures captioned `Sad Harry learns to smile again.' "
But no one believes it will ever happen.
Not because William is the heir to the throne, but because he is Diana's heir.
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company