Young princes say a dignified and tearful farewell
September 6, 1997
Web posted at: 8:09 p.m. EDT (0009 GMT)
LONDON (CNN) -- With the eyes of a mournful nation and a curious world fixed upon them, Princess Diana's two young princes paid tribute to their mother Saturday with a solemn, dignified walk behind her funeral cortege to Westminster Abbey.
As her flag-draped coffin came up the Mall near St. James's Palace, Prince William, 15, and Prince Harry, 12, joined the procession carrying Diana through the streets of London, past the silent, weeping throngs of people who adored her.
Walking between them was their uncle, the Earl Spencer, Diana's brother. At either side were their father and grandfather, Prince Charles and Prince Philip. Behind were more than 500 representatives of the charities to which their mother had devoted her title, her time and her heart.
Tall, blond Prince William -- bearing a resemblance to his mother so striking on this sad day -- kept his head bowed during most of the journey. He cast up his eyes occasionally, in a gesture reminiscent of Diana during her early "shy Di" days as a royal.
The red-headed Prince Harry looked straight forward, his fists balled tightly at his sides. The quintet walked, dry-eyed but with mournful expression, behind the gun carriage carrying the princess.
The tears would come later, once the boys were inside the abbey and out of the intrusive reach of cameras.
On top of Diana's coffin were three flower arrangements, one from her siblings and mother and one each from her sons. The wreath of white roses from Harry bore a card inscribed, simply and powerfully, "Mummy."
As the procession passed through the Horse Guards arch and out of public view, the television cameras picked up the boys receiving a quick, reassuring pat -- Harry from his father, William from his grandfather. But as they walked back into public view, the moment ended and the air of detached dignity returned.
At the entrance to the abbey, the Earl Spencer put a guiding hand behind the boys as they began their walk down the long aisle, behind the Welsh Guards bearing Diana on their shoulders to a catafalque at the other end.
By agreement with the Spencer family and the royal family, broadcasters did not film the princes and other family members during the funeral service, giving them the opportunity to mourn without intrusion.
The boys seemed on the verge of tears as the assembled congregation sang the first hymn, "I Vow to Thee, My Country." William had reportedly requested that it be played, knowing that it was one of his mother's favorites.
But the tears came in earnest when Elton John sang his popular "Candle in the Wind," reworked with lyrics that began, "Good-bye, England's rose, may you ever grow in our hearts..."
As John began, Harry buried his face in his hands and sobbed. William became tearful upon hearing the line, "All our words cannot express the joy you brought us through the years."
During his tribute to his sister, the Earl Spencer addressed the young princes and their sorrow directly.
"We are all chewed up with sadness at the loss of a woman who was not even our mother," he said. "How great your suffering is, we cannot even imagine."
William appeared visibly moved as his uncle, before queen and country, vowed that Diana's "blood relatives" would make sure that the boys would have the kind of broad-minded upbringing that their mother so wanted for them -- so they could "sing openly" instead of being immersed in duty and tradition.
He also vowed to protect them from being hounded by the media as Diana was.
After the service, William and Harry, accompanied by their father, went by train to Northamptonshire, where Diana was laid to rest during a private ceremony at the Spencer family estate, Althrop. The service was attended only by close family members, and details were not released.
With the ceremonial portion of this sad day at an end, Diana's young princes left Althrop with their father and were believed to be bound for Highgrove, Prince Charles' home in western England.