Tear-jerking moment at Diana's funeral between Prince Philip and his grieving grandson Prince William – when the Duke didn't think the cameras were watching

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  • Reading time:9 min(s) read

  • MailOnline looks back on his relationship with his grandson Prince William
  • Diana’s funeral was on this day, 26 years ago
  • Read: Prince William recalls hilarious moment Prince Philip was told to ‘jog on’

Prince Philip is often thought to have been the Queen’s steady hand throughout her reign, but he also had a significant impact on his grandson, Prince William.

While the Queen was the head of state, Prince Philip was often regarded as the head of the family, royal experts claim, looking after their four children, eight grandchildren and, later, their great-grandchildren.

Making more than 5,000 speeches in his life and becoming the first royal to carry out a television interview, Prince Philip had years of experience to hand down.

For Prince William and Prince Harry in particular, the Duke was said to be a guiding presence, offering them counsel and support in the dark days after their mother, Princess Diana’s death.

Prince Philip is often said to have been the Queen's steady hand throughout her reign, but he also had a significant impact on his grandson, Prince William. Pictured: The Duke and his grandson at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales

Prince Philip is often said to have been the Queen’s steady hand throughout her reign, but he also had a significant impact on his grandson, Prince William. Pictured: The Duke and his grandson at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales

On his death, Prince William paid tribute to his grandfather, saying Philip’s ‘enduring presence’ guided him ‘both through good times and the hardest days’.

This ‘enduring presence’ as well as his caring, grandfatherly nature was shown clearly during Diana’s funeral cortege on September 6, 1997.

Initially there had been no plans for Prince Philip to walk behind Diana’s coffin, as this role was intended for immediate family only.  

But after conversations with grandson, who asked to walk beside him in support as they followed the hearse, Prince Philip could not refuse.  

The Duke of Edinburgh joined his son Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry as well as Princess Diana’s brother Charles, 9th Earl Spencer, behind the coffin during her funeral on 6 September 1997, when the young royals were only 15 and 12.

Royal biographer Gyles Brandreth revealed in the ITV documentary Philip: Prince, Husband, Father: ‘It wasn’t his idea, but there was a tradition at royal funerals of members of the royal family walking behind the hearse.

‘There was no plan originally for Prince Philip to be part of that. Prince Philip said to Prince William, if it would help, I could walk alongside you.

‘So, he volunteered to do that, Prince William accepted the invitation, so far from being what was being reported, it was an act of grandfatherly kindness to try and offer support to Prince William.’ 

The Duke of Edinburgh joined his grandsons, his son, and Earl Spencer as they walked behind Princess Diana's coffin. It was later revealed Prince William asked him to walk beside him

The Duke of Edinburgh joined his grandsons, his son, and Earl Spencer as they walked behind Princess Diana’s coffin. It was later revealed Prince William asked him to walk beside him

Prince Philip can be seen putting his hand around Prince William as they walk under the arches at Horse Guards Parade. Prince Philip later told his religious advisor Martin Palmer that he did not think the cameras could see this

Prince Philip can be seen putting his hand around Prince William as they walk under the arches at Horse Guards Parade. Prince Philip later told his religious advisor Martin Palmer that he did not think the cameras could see this 

Before this Prince William and Harry had not wanted to walk behind their mother’s coffin.

Ingrid Seward in her book My Husband And I: The Inside Story of the Royal Marriage, writes: ‘At first William flatly refused. Charles pleaded with him and said that it would be utterly wrong of him not to accompany them.

‘Prince Philip weighed into the argument and eventually William agreed to take part – but only on the condition that his grandfather walked beside him.’

Philip reportedly said ‘It’s about the boys. They’ve lost their mother’ before telling his grandson, “I’ll walk if you walk'”. 

On the day, when he thought no cameras would be able to see, he whispered something in William’s ear, gently placing his arm around him as they passed underneath the arches of Horse Guard’s Parade.

Recalling the intimate moment, the Duke of Edinburgh later said ‘he didn’t think the cameras could see them.

Martin Palmer, who co-founded The Alliance of Religions and Conservation with the Duke of Edinburgh, explained: ‘There’s a moment where they go under the Horse Guards Parade Arch where it’s quite clear that Prince Philip – and I asked him about this he said, “Yes, I didn’t think the cameras could see us” – at that point he turns to William and comforts him.

Speaking in the documentary, Martin Palmer (pictured), who co-founded The Alliance of Religions and Conservation with Prince Philip, said the Duke of Edinburgh did not realise the cameras could see him when he tried to comfort William

Speaking in the documentary, Martin Palmer (pictured), who co-founded The Alliance of Religions and Conservation with Prince Philip, said the Duke of Edinburgh did not realise the cameras could see him when he tried to comfort William

Following the death of their mother, the Queen and Prince Philip became pillars in both William and Harry's life, offering guidance and support to both. Pictured: The Duke of Edinburgh and Prince William joking together at Runnymede in 2015

Following the death of their mother, the Queen and Prince Philip became pillars in both William and Harry’s life, offering guidance and support to both. Pictured: The Duke of Edinburgh and Prince William joking together at Runnymede in 2015

‘You’ve just got to watch that moment and realise here is a grandfather who is trying to help his young, very vulnerable grandson struggle through this awful awful moment,’ he adds.

‘At that point he turns to William who he is walking beside and comforts him, and you just have to watch that moment to realise here is a grandfather who is trying to help his young very vulnerable grandson struggle through this awful, awful moment.

‘He knew what it was like to be a member of a dysfunctional family and he tried his hardest that this would not happen to his grandchildren.’

In the 2017 BBC Documentary Diana: Seven Days, both Prince William and Prince Harry reflected on their mother’s funeral.  

William recalled struggling to find ‘the balance between me being Prince William and having to do my bit, versus the private William who just wanted to go in a room and cry because he’d lost his mother.’

His brother Harry later said no child should ever be asked to walk behind their mother’s coffin. He said in 2017: ‘Generally, I don’t have an opinion on whether that was right or wrong. I am glad I was part of it. Looking back on it now, I am very glad I was part of it.’

Following the death of their mother, the Queen and Prince Philip became pillars in both William and Harry’s life, offering guidance and support to both.

William reportedly went to his grandfather to discuss his future with Kate Middleton in the early days of their relationship.

the Duke of Edinburgh Prince William paid tribute to his grandfather, saying Philip's 'enduring presence' guided him 'both through good times and the hardest days'. Pictured: Prince William and the Duke of Edinburgh on November 11, 2007

the Duke of Edinburgh Prince William paid tribute to his grandfather, saying Philip’s ‘enduring presence’ guided him ‘both through good times and the hardest days’. Pictured: Prince William and the Duke of Edinburgh on November 11, 2007

Following the death of their mother, the Queen and Prince Philip became pillars in both William and Harry's life, offering guidance and support to both. Pictured: A young Prince William in Aberdeen with his grandfather waves to the crowds at Crathie Church

Following the death of their mother, the Queen and Prince Philip became pillars in both William and Harry’s life, offering guidance and support to both. Pictured: A young Prince William in Aberdeen with his grandfather waves to the crowds at Crathie Church 

A report published in the Express in 2007, after William and Kate had broken up for a brief period, a source said: ‘After they split up, William confided to his grandparents that he was not sure if he loved Kate enough.

‘Now they are back together, the Queen wants William to do the right thing – either marry the girl or let her go.

‘She would rather they broke up for good now than get married only to have it end in divorce if five years’ time.’

It was at this time his grandfather told him frankly that ‘he cannot keep stringing along with Kate forever’.

Later on, William still continued to confine in his grandfather, turning to him for advice on his decision to split household with Prince Harry back in 2019.

It is understood he chose to ring the Duke of Edinburgh at Sandringham because he values his ‘wise counsel’.

Prince William continued to lean on his grandfather, even through adulthood, where he often relied on the Duke for his 'wise counsel'. Pictured: Prince William and the Duke of Edinburgh at the 10th memorial service for Diana

Prince William continued to lean on his grandfather, even through adulthood, where he often relied on the Duke for his ‘wise counsel’. Pictured: Prince William and the Duke of Edinburgh at the 10th memorial service for Diana

Prince William, as well as his younger brother Harry, were also influenced by the conservation work the Duke, who became the first UK president of the World Wildlife Fund, carried out during his life. Pictured: Prince Harry, Prince Philip and Prince William at the start of the Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham Stadium in 2015

Prince William, as well as his younger brother Harry, were also influenced by the conservation work the Duke, who became the first UK president of the World Wildlife Fund, carried out during his life. Pictured: Prince Harry, Prince Philip and Prince William at the start of the Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham Stadium in 2015

Prince William, as well as his younger brother Harry, were also influenced by the conservation work the Duke, who became the first UK president of the World Wildlife Fund, carried out during his life.

Paying tribute to his grandfather, Prince William released a statement which read: ‘My grandfather’s century of life was defined by service – to his country and Commonwealth, to his wife and Queen, and to our family.

‘I feel lucky to have not just had his example to guide me, but his enduring presence well into my own adult life – both through good times and the hardest days. I will always be grateful that my wife had so many years to get to know my grandfather and for the kindness he showed her.

‘I will never take for granted the special memories my children will always have of their great grandpa coming to collect them in his carriage and seeing for themselves his infectious sense of adventure as well as his mischievous sense of humour.

‘My grandfather was an extraordinary man and part of an extraordinary generation. Catherine and I will continue to do what he would have wanted and will support The Queen in the years ahead. I will miss my Grandpa, but I know he would want us to get on with the job.’




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