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Prince Harry Talked About Grieving Princess Diana When He Was 12 Years Old

Princess Diana died at the age of 36 in a car crash in Paris.

by Kaitlin Kimont

Prince Harry was just 12 years old when he lost his mother. Princess Diana died in a car crash in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997. She was 36. Her sons were at the royal family’s Balmoral estate in Scotland when they received the news, and anyone who’s lost someone they love knows the grief that follows is overwhelming, confusing, and numbing. This week, Prince Harry talked about that experience as a child and how he felt pressured to act and feel a certain way.

The Duke of Sussex recently sat down for a filmed conversation with Nikki Scott, founder of Scotty’s Little Soldiers. Prince Harry serves as the global ambassador for the British charity, which supports military children whose parents have died in service. During the conversation, the two talked about how losing a parent affects children, with Scott recalling the moment she had to tell her 5-year-old son that his dad, Corporal Lee Scott, had been killed while serving in Afghanistan. “I literally shattered his world,” she told Prince Harry through tears. “He knew that life was never, ever going to be the same.”

Prince Harry then went on to share how he felt as a 12-year-old kid going through grief after his mother’s shocking death. “It’s so easy as a kid to think or convince yourself ... I would know, I was 12 ... that the person you’ve lost wants you or you need to be sad for as long as possible to prove to them that they’re missed,” the dad of two said. “But then there’s this realization of that they must want me to be happy.”

Prince Harry and Scott then discussed how important it is for kids to talk about the loved ones they’ve lost, even though it can be difficult. “That’s the hardest thing, especially for kids, I think,” Prince Harry said, “Which is, ‘I don’t want to talk about it because it will make me sad, but once realizing that if I do talk about it, and I’m celebrating their life, then actually, things become easier.’ As opposed to this sort of like, ‘I’m not going to talk about it’ and [you think] that’s the best form of coping, when in fact it’s not.”

The Duke of Sussex went on to say that “suppressing” your grief may help for a “period of time,” but it will ultimately “eat away at you inside.”

Prince Harry, who shares 5-year-old son Archie and 3-year-old daughter Lilibet with wife Meghan Markle, has previously talked about his experience of losing his mother as a child, and how he found himself coping with such an enormous loss. He admitted in his Netflix docuseries Harry & Meghan that he “blocked” his memories with Princess Diana. “I don’t have many early memories of my mum. It was almost like, internally, I sort of blocked them out,” he said. “But I always remember her laugh, her cheeky laugh. Her always saying to me, ‘You can get in trouble, just don’t get caught.’ I’ll always be that cheeky person inside.”

As it is for everyone, grief has been an ongoing journey for Prince Harry and has talked about sharing memories of his mother with his children to keep Princess Diana’s spirit alive. As he said in 2022, “Every day, I hope to do her proud.”