Harry: I never dealt with Diana’s death
Harry: I never dealt with Diana’s death
Prince Harry has spoken in deeply emotional terms about the effect the death of his mother has had on his life.
He was only 12 years old when Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997.
Twenty years later, the tragedy will be marked by a number of official events led by Harry and his brother Prince William.
Harry has spoken out about his mother’s death in a documentary to mark the tenth anniversary of the charity he set up in her memory, Sentebale. The documentary will be aired in Britain overnight (Aus / NZ time).
The 32-year-old admits: “I never really dealt with what had happened. It was a lot of buried emotion. For a huge part of my life I didn’t really want to think about it.”
The fifth in line to the throne said he was always inspired by his mother’s determination to make a difference to society’s most vulnerable.
And he suggested Sentebale, which he founded in 2006 to help children affected by HIV and Aids in Africa, had proved personally therapeutic.
“I now view life very differently from what it used to be,” he said. “I used to bury my head in the sand, and let everything around you tear you to pieces.
“And now for me, I can see exactly where I want to take it. The fact that I’ve managed to keep Sentebale going … for the last 10/11 years has been fantastic because now everything else I’m involved with makes sense to me and I’m just getting started.
“I need to make something of my life … I was fighting the system, going, ‘I don’t want to be this person’. My mother died when I was very, very young and I don’t want to be in that position. Now I’m so energised, fired up, to be lucky enough to be in a position to make a difference.”
Sentebale works in Lesotho, a tiny kingdom surrounded by South Africa which has one of the highest HIV rates in the world. In Sesotho, the language of Lesotho, the name means “forget-me-not”.
One in three children there are orphans, such are the ravages of the disease.
Harry founded the charity with Prince Seeiso of Lesotho, who he met on his gap year in the country, in memory of both their mothers.
Harry said: “What started as an idea of me turning round and saying, right, I’ve got a year off, I want to do something really constructive with my life, want to do something that makes my mother proud.
“Someone said, right, go to Lesotho. It’s like, where the hell is that? Now I can see exactly where I want to take it. I have huge amounts of passion for the causes and interests and charities I’m involved with.”
In the documentary, Harry jokingly refers to himself as a “ginger white prince” who arrived in Africa with little idea of what he wanted to do.
“At that stage I had no mechanism to be able to start a charity or make any more of an impact than literally being the ginger white prince to come and make these kids laugh,” he said. “To a certain extent this is a lot of unfinished business, unfinished work my mother never completed.”
Harry, who is dating US actress Meghan Markle, 35, said he hopes to continue working in Africa for the rest of his life – and pass his love of the continent on to his future children.
“Anybody that I have spoken to who has been to Africa, most of the people get it, and Africa gets it. For me personally, it is an escape,” he explained.
“Now not only have I found that escape, I have found a way to use the name and position for good. For me, now, I have this love of Africa and it will never disappear and I hope it carries on with my children as well.”
The documentary features contributions from celebrities who have worked with Harry over the years, including Sir Elton John, a close friend of Diana.
He said: “It is an incredible gift to have that talent, that ability to make people feel they are appreciated, they are thought well of, that they matter.
“I haven’t seen many people in my life able to do that. His mother was one and Harry is another.
“His mother would be so proud of him. Harry has done great work for 10 years. It has taken a big part of his life … because he really cares.”
Chris Martin of Coldplay, who performed in aid of Sentebale earlier this year, said: “The reason we get behind what Prince Harry is into is because we believe in it too. I’m always happy to align with someone who is being brave with their position.”
Earlier this year, Harry revealed he regretted not speaking about the death of his mother until he was 28 – 16 years after the tragedy.
At an event for the Heads Together mental health campaign, he said: “Everything can be OK but I really regret not ever talking about it.”