Prince Harry has opened up in Kensington Palace about his years of turmoil after two decades of not thinking about his mother, Diana Princess of Wales’ tragic death in Paris in 1997. The fifth in line to the British throne who was 12 when his mother died, said he had spent his adolescent years and twenties determined to block out dark thoughts about her passing.
“I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well,” he said.
“I have probably been very close to a complete breakdown on numerous occasions when all sorts of grief and sort of lies and misconceptions and everything are coming to you from every angle.”
The admission in a 25-minute podcast interview about his fragile state of mind with The Telegraph is one of the most revealing from a member of the Royal family renowned for their discretion but he conceded feeling “a little nervous, a little tight in the chest”. The Prince, together with his brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have set up Heads Together, a charity which promotes awareness of mental well-being.
He admits (laughing) to opening up to a shrink on numerous occasions: “I’ve done that a couple of times, more than a couple of times, but it’s great. He even took up boxing as an outlet for his aggression and frustration.
“During those years I took up boxing, because everyone was saying boxing is good for you and it’s a really good way of letting out aggression,” he said.
“And that really saved me because I was on the verge of punching someone, so being able to punch someone who had pads was certainly easier.”
Even though he had served two tours of Afghanistan, he was able to rule his experiences out as the the source of his mental problems.
“I can safely say it’s not Afghanistan-related. I’m not one of those guys that has had to see my best mate blown up next to me and have to apply a tourniquet to both their legs. Luckily, thank God, I wasn’t one of those people.”
Prince Harry said of his loss: “My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum, because why would that help?
“[I thought] it’s only going to make you sad, it’s not going to bring her back.
“So from an emotional side, I was like ‘right, don’t ever let your emotions be part of anything’.
“So I was a typical 20, 25, 28-year-old running around going ‘life is great’, or ‘life is fine’ and that was exactly it.
“And then [I] started to have a few conversations and actually all of a sudden, all of this grief that I have never processed started to come to the
forefront and I was like, there is actually a lot of stuff here that I need to deal with.”
On eventually seeking help, the Prince said: “It’s all about timing. And for me personally, my brother (Prince William), you know, bless him, he was a huge support to me. He kept saying this is not right, this is not normal, you need to talk to [someone] about stuff, it’s OK.
“The timing wasn’t right. You need to feel it in yourself, you need to find the right person to talk to as well.”
But he added: “I can’t encourage people enough to just have that conversation because you will be surprised firstly, how much support you get and secondly, how many people literally are longing for you to come out.”
The Princes are gearing up for the 20th anniversary of the death of their mother with a statue already commissioned to honour her memory and charitable works.