In August 1997, Princess Diana's tragic death instantly made headlines all over the globe. For heartbreakingly understandable reasons, there's one person who initially didn't believe the news — her youngest son, Prince Harry, who was just 12 years old when the Paris car crash killed Diana, Dodi Fayed, and Henri Paul.
In the immediate aftermath of Diana's death, the royal family made every effort to keep everyday life as normal as possible for Harry and his brother Prince William, who was 15 at the time. Less than 24 hours after receiving the news, they even attended church services where no mention of Diana's death was made. According to Tina Brown's Channel 5 documentary Diana: 7 Days That Shook The Windsors, things felt so normal that Harry didn't know whether or not the news was true.
"Prince Harry actually asked his father, ‘Is it true that Mummy's dead?'" Brown explained. "The children couldn't understand why everything was as normal, except a couple of hours earlier they'd been told their mother had died."
According to the documentary, the royal family responded to Diana's death by "do[ing] as they had always done" and that meant attending Sunday mass at Balmoral like usual. Diana's name wasn't uttered at the service and, according to the documentary, Queen Elizabeth II ordered that all TVs and radios be removed from Balmoral because she feared the news reports would traumatize William and Harry.
As many of us recall, the media coverage of Diana's death was frequently sensationalized and insensitive, so this was probably a wise decision, but it certainly must have created tremendous confusion for her young children.
As the 20th anniversary of Diana's death approaches, both Harry and William have opened up about how they coped with losing their mom at such a young age. Harry recently revealed that he "learned to shut off his feelings" for many years, and didn't seek support until 2014. At his older brother's urging, he went to counseling and he says it helped a great deal.
Harry has used his platform to urge others to seek help rather than suffer in silence. “You will be surprised, firstly, how much support you get,” he said.