Why Insiders Say Princess Diana Would Be Particularly Proud of Harry
"More than anyone else, she would understand Harry's need to protect his son."
Last year, Prince Harry told reporter Tom Bradby in his now infamous ITV interview, "I will always protect my family, and now I have a family to protect," referring to his wife, Meghan Markle, and his son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor. In his and Meghan's decision to step down from their senior royal roles, that's exactly what Princess Diana would believe Harry had done, according to friends of the late princess. Insiders say Diana would have been "very proud" of Harry for his commitment to his son, because, as one royal insider said, "Diana always put her boys before everything else."
"She was fiercely devoted to them and wanted them to live as normal a life as possible," Diana's friend continued. "More than anyone else, she would understand Harry's need to protect his son. He was always destined to be on a different path than [Prince]William, a future king, so Diana would have understood Harry putting Archie first, even if that meant leaving England."
In his ITV interview, Harry went on say he would "not be bullied into a game that was responsible for killing [his] mother." "Everything that she went through, and what happened to her, is incredibly important every single day," he added. "And that is not me being paranoid, that is just me not wanting a repeat of the past."
Days before the 23rd anniversary of his mother's death—which stunned the world into sadness on August 31, 1997—Harry appeared happy and relaxed as he took part in a video call with the Rugby Football League in honor of the league's 125th anniversary. He told the group he was "loving" his "fantastic" new life in California with Meghan and revealed, "Our little man is our No. 1 priority, but our work after that is the second priority." He continued, "And we're just trying to do everything we can to do our part to make the world a better place."
Last month, a spokesperson for Harry and Meghan confirmed they'd found their forever home in Montecito in Santa Barbara, California. "The Duke and Duchess of Sussex moved into their family home in July of this year," said their representative. "They have settled into the quiet privacy of their community since their arrival and hope that this will be respected for their neighbors, as well as them as a family."
Harry, who is patron of the Rugby Football League and serves as the Honorary President of England Rugby, told the group on the Zoom call he was "unbelievably fortunate" to have "a little space outside" to play with his 15-month-old son. "I need to get him playing some Rugby League," he joked. His greatest challenge, he said, was tracking down "a few mini rugby balls," which are proving "impossible to find."
"There is no doubt that Harry will be a very active father to Archie and very likely instill in him the same love of sport he has," said another friend of the late princess. "He and William were very active children, always running about, which is something both Diana and the Prince of Wales very much encouraged. Living in California, father and son will surely be enjoying a lot of time together outside as Archie gets older."
Harry said he was looking forward to the Rugby League World Cup in 2021, and he also revealed Archie will very likely get to spend time in the future with the rest of the royal family when travel restrictions are lifted and he and Meghan can bring their son to visit the U.K. "I definitely plan on coming back," Harry said on the video call. "I would have already been back if it hadn't been for COVID."
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Queen Elizabeth had invited Harry, Meghan, and Archie to join her at Balmoral this summer. According to reports, the couple had accepted her invitation, but were prevented from going due to ongoing concerns about the pandemic.
Harry's comments about wanting to return to the U.K. as well as his and Meghan's recent remarks about their continued commitment to the Queen's Commonwealth Trust may be an indication that there's been a thaw in the somewhat chilly relations between the couple and the royals since their official exit at the end of March.
"Harry remains very close to the Queen and the Prince of Wales," said a source. "He and William have spoken a few times since the Prince of Wales was diagnosed with the virus. The family very much wants to see their relationship mended. It will take some time, but it is thought that the distance has given both William and Harry time to sort themselves out about their falling out."
Last week, Harry and William issued a joint statement announcing new details on the statue they commissioned in honor of Diana. The Palace said that it will be installed on July 1, 2021, on what would have been Diana's 60th birthday. The princess was just 36 years old when she died in Paris on August 31, 1997. And for more on Diana's lasting influence, check out 13 Amazing Ways Princess Diana Changed the Royal Family Forever.
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.