Princes side by side as Queen taken from Palace to Westminster

William and Harry’s role echoes that of 25 years ago when they followed Diana’s coffin on foot to her funeral

The Prince of Wales and Duke of Sussex walked side by side behind the Queen’s horse-drawn coffin as her body was led from Buckingham Palace to lie in state at Westminster Hall, ahead of Monday’s state funeral.

The Queen’s grandsons followed the same route down the Mall and Whitehall 25 years ago when as children they followed their mother’s coffin on foot to her funeral after she was killed in a car crash in Paris. On that day, Prince Harry was 12 and William 15.

The Duke of Sussex wore morning dress as a result of protocol that non-working royals cannot wear military uniforms at such public occasions. Reporting of that fact appeared to irk the duke and a spokesperson for him issued a statement late on Tuesday that appeared to ask the press to stop talking about it.

“His decade of military service is not determined by the uniform he wears and we respectfully ask that focus remain on the life and legacy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II,” they said. The duke served as an army captain and was deployed on two tours of Afghanistan. He wore his medals and honours. The Duke of York was also wearing morning dress rather than military uniform after he became a non-working royal following the scandal over his association with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

William, now the Prince of Wales, wore what is known as the RAF No 1 uniform with a garter sash, RAF pilot wings and a garter star chest order.

The prince has previously described the “very long, lonely walk” as “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done”, while the Duke of Sussex said later: “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances.”

The princes’ role in the Queen’s procession created fresh echoes of that moment but also reflected the efforts both men have made to show a publicly united front since their grandmother’s death.

The Prince and Princess of Wales left the ceremony at Westminster Hall walking side-by-side behind the Earl and Countess of Wessex. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex followed them, the only couple holding hands.

On Saturday, Harry and his wife, Meghan, and William and his wife, Kate, had arrived by car together for a 40-minute walkabout at Windsor, where they spoke at length to members of the public gathered to mourn the Queen.

Their appearance followed tensions between the brothers in the more than two years since January 2020, when the Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced on social media their decision to “step back” from royal duties.

From their new home in California, Harry and Meghan gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey in which she made claims about possible racism in the royal household and that the then Duchess of Cambridge made her cry in a row over flower girl dresses at her wedding.

Prince William (top left), Prince Harry (right) and King Charles III (left) walk behind Queen Elizabeth’s coffin during its procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall
Prince William (top left), Prince Harry (right) and King Charles III (left) walk behind Queen Elizabeth’s coffin during its procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall on Wednesday. Photograph: Getty Images

King Charles has been careful to speak warmly of his younger son and his wife in statements since the Queen’s death. In his televised address to the nation on Friday, he said: “I want also to express my love for Harry and Meghan as they continue to build their lives overseas.”

In his written tribute in to his beloved “Granny”, he said: “We now honour my father in his new role as King Charles III.”

The last time Charles and his two sons were seen together in public was at the service of thanksgiving for the Queen in St Paul’s Cathedral during the platinum jubilee celebrations in June.

In April 2021, they walked behind the Duke of Edinburgh’s coffin at his funeral with their cousin, Peter Phillips, sandwiched between them.


Robert Booth

The GuardianTramp

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