Princess Diana trauma sent Harry and William on drastically different paths

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Diana won over the nation during her 16 years as part of the Royal Family. Her compassion and natural warmth along with her private trauma meant she became the ‘People’s Princess’ and is still remembered for her incredible impact. Her chaotic marriage to Prince Charles added to the challenges Prince Harry and Prince William faced with life in the public eye.

The Prince and Princess of Wales used to bicker mercilessly, with both turning to extramarital relationships to find comfort. Both then later confessed to the affairs in bombshell public interviews, only worsening the challenges their sons faced.

Then, her sudden death from a car crash in 1997 left then 12 years old Harry and William, 15, struggling with unmanageable grief, which the royals have confessed still hangs over them to this day.

But according to royal author Robert Lacey in his new book, ‘Battle of Brothers’, Harry and William have learned different lessons from their mother’s tragedy.

He said: “Both brothers have been damaged by their upbringings; both have reacted by finding different solutions.

“There is so much pain and trauma in this story, going right back to the beginning.”

William, as the older child, was a source of comfort to Diana during her turbulent marriage and she would often cry on his shoulder.

In addition, the royal was weighed down at a young age with the knowledge that he would one day become the sovereign.

Mr Lacey claimed: “William’s response to all this was to become more reflective.

“The trauma of his parents’ marriage had matured him early, forcing him to abandon the egotism of infancy, to look beyond himself and to develop a precocious sense of duty.”

Harry was that bit younger, so affected differently by his parents’ split.

Mr Lacey told Good Morning Britain: “These young boys are the product of that marital turmoil and they took two opposite lessons from it.

“William took the lesson of duty. As he went through these difficult times, the prospect that he was going to be king was an inspiration for him, a strength for him.”

The Duke of Cambridge has often been recognised as the more careful of the two brothers, waiting a full seven years before proposing to his girlfriend Kate Middleton, after gradually integrating her into royal circles.

Mr Lacey continued: “That’s his priority and they have created a wonderful figurehead for the future.

“We’re not quite sure how we feel about King Charles III or Queen Camilla, but we do look forward to William and Kate.

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“Harry took the opposite conclusion from the turmoil of their parents’ loveless, arranged marriage that he was going to go for love.

“We’re looking at a clash between these eternal principles of love versus duty.”

Harry’s relationship with Meghan Markle has been described as a “whirlwind”, as the two were only dating for 15 months before he proposed.

They also came from very different backgrounds — Meghan was raised in LA by a single mother, while Harry was raised in the confined space of British royal estates weighed down by protocol.

However, it’s clear both the Duke and the Duchess of Sussex have the same outlook on life.

They both chose to prioritise their marriage and their son Archie in their fallout with the Royal Family.

Meghan once dismissed all the criticism she and Harry faced by claiming, “I’ve married this incredible man and this to me is just part of our love story”.

Speaking to the Fortune’s members-only Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit, the Duchess of Sussex also said: “Sometimes making the best decision for you and your family might not be the popular one.”

This was taken as an allusion to the Sussexes’ controversial decision to step down from the royal frontline earlier this year.

William, on the other hand, has always had to put his duty first as the second-in-line to the throne.

Mr Lacey also implied that it was these different priorities between the brothers which really drove a wedge between them.

He claimed that although the brothers were “raised to be close and protective of each other”, divisions grew between them when it became clear William was being prepared to be the monarch.

In contrast, Harry, as the spare, did not have a defined role within the institution.

‘Battle of Brothers: William, Harry and the Inside Story of a Family in Tumult’ by Robert Lacey was published by HarperCollins in 2020 and is available here.

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