The sixth season and final season of The Crown is expected to portray the heartbreaking moment Prince William and Prince Harry walked behind Princess Diana’s casket during their mother’s funeral procession.
The historical drama returns to Netflix on 16 November with the first four episodes of season six, followed by the final six episodes on 14 December. The last season of The Crown is set between the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, and features Princess Diana’s final moments before her untimely death in 1997.
The late Princess of Wales (played by Elizabeth Debicki) died age 36, following a high-speed car crash in a Paris tunnel. The fatal car crash also took the lives of her boyfriend, Dodi Fayed (played by Khalid Abdalla), and their chauffeur Henri Paul. The accident shocked the world and led to an outpouring of public grief, as many royal fans turned their attention to the British royal family – especially Diana’s sons, William and Harry.
Prince William and Prince Harry were just 15 and 12 years old, respectively, when they lost their mother. For Diana’s funeral on 6 September 1997, the young royals were instructed to walk behind their mother’s casket. William and Harry joined the funeral procession at St James’s Palace alongside their father, the then-Prince of Wales; Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer; and their grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, until the cortege arrived at Westminster Abbey.
Nearly 26 years later, the decision to allow the young boys to take part in the funeral procession has remained controversial. Earl Spencer previously told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that it was a “very bizarre and cruel thing” for Diana’s two sons to be asked to walk behind her body, and suggested he was “lied to” about the boys’ desire to take part in the procession.
Meanwhile, Prince Philip was reportedly very concerned for his grandsons’ well-being and was initially against the idea of them walking in the funeral procession. “We were all talking about how William and Harry should be involved and suddenly came Prince Philip’s voice,” a former government relations director told The Evening Standard, recalling a conference call with the duke ahead of the funeral. “We hadn’t heard from him before, but he was really anguished. ‘It’s about the boys,’ he cried. ‘They’ve lost their mother.’”
The duke is then said to have turned to William and Harry at dinner the night before the funeral, telling them: “I’ll walk if you walk.”
Although many members of the royal family and British aristocracy have opened up about the devastating funeral, which was watched by an estimated 2.5 billion people worldwide, the ones whose voices matter the most are none other than Diana’s sons: William and Harry.
Here’s everything William and Harry have said about Princess Diana’s funeral.
The Duke of Sussex has often spoken about the lasting effects his mother’s funeral had on his mental health. Back in 2017 – long before Prince Harry shared many details about Diana’s death in his best-selling memoir, Spare – he maintained that no child should’ve been asked to do what he and his brother did that day.
“My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television,” he told Newsweek. “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”
Harry opened up about the trauma of Diana’s funeral in the Apple TV+ docu-series, The Me You Can’t See. Speaking to Oprah Winfrey in 2021, Harry revealed that he had struggled with “sharing the grief of my mother’s death with the world”.
“When my mum was taken away from me at the age of 12, just before my 13th birthday, I didn’t want the life,” Harry recalled. “Sharing the grief of my mother’s death with the world…”
Harry then shared with Winfrey what he remembers most from that day. “For me, the thing I remember the most was the sound of the horses’ hooves going along the mall, red brick road,” he said. The duke revealed that he felt like he was “outside” of his body and just “doing what was expected” of him at the time, saying: “It was like I was outside of my body and just walking along, doing what was expected of me, showing one-tenth of the emotion everybody else was showing.”
Speaking about the public outpouring of grief for the late Princess of Wales, he said: “I was like, this is my mum. You never even met her.”
Harry later claimed in his memoir Spare, which was released in January 2023, that his father didn’t hug him and he “felt like a politician” as he greeted members of the public in the wake of her death. However, he recalled turning to his older brother for strength during the devastating procession. “I remember feeling numb. I remember clenching my fists. I remember keeping a little piece of Willy in the corner of my eye because it gave me strength,” he wrote.
Being the older brother and heir to the British throne, Prince William has a different recollection of his mother’s funeral than Harry. Much like Harry, William admitted that he felt “completely numb” following his mother’s death. In a BBC documentary marking the 20th anniversary of Diana’s passing, the now-Prince of Wales said that walking behind his mother’s casket was “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done”.
He recalled how his 15-year-old self used his long fringe as a “safety blanket” during the “very long, lonely walk” to Westminster Abbey. “I felt if I looked at the floor and my hair came down over my face, no one could see me,” William said.
When an alternative plan was suggested to have just William walk alone behind the casket, Harry objected – saying he didn’t want his older brother to go through the heartbreaking moment on his own. “It didn’t seem right that Willy would have such a hard time without me,” Harry wrote in Spare.
However, the heir to the British throne noted that it ultimately was the royal family’s “duty” to take part in the service. William told the BBC: “It wasn’t an easy decision and it was a sort of collective family decision to do that. There is that balance between duty and family and that’s what we had to do.”
The balance, he added, was “between me being Prince William and having to do my bit, versus the private William who just wanted to go into a room and cry, who’d lost his mother”.
Much has changed since the passing of Princess Diana in 1997. William and Harry, once united by grief, are now farther apart than ever before – both in their relationship and geographically, as the Duke of Sussex now lives in the United States with his wife, Meghan Markle, and their two children.
Following Prince Philip’s death in April 2021, the feuding brothers were reunited when they walked the funeral procession behind their grandfather’s casket. However, this time was different, as William reportedly requested that another member of the royal family walk between him and Harry. They were separated by Princess Anne’s son and their cousin, Peter Phillips.
But just one year later, the brothers were reunited again for their grandmother’s funeral procession in September 2022. William and Harry stood side by side despite their long-running rift, reminding fellow mourners of their mother’s funeral procession 25 years earlier.