The Shocking Question Prince William Once Asked Princess Diana

He was caught in the middle between the monarchy and his mom.

As future King of England, Prince William is the model royal. In recent years, as Queen Elizabeth has gradually handed over much of the responsibility of the Crown to William and his father, Prince Charles, her grandson has emerged as the face of the modernized British monarchy.

But during Princess Diana's contentious divorce negotiations with Buckingham Palace in the mid-'90s after her marriage to Charles imploded, William, who is second in line to the throne, was caught in the middle. He had a strong desire to protect his beloved mother and had deep affection for his grandparents, who appeared to be completely detached from the nasty war being waged during his parents' split. The traumatic incident made William question his willingness to fulfill the role he was born to inherit.

In his book Diana's Boys William and Harry and the Mother They Loved, author Christopher Anderson reported that a young Prince William once asked his mother, "Mummy, do I really have to be a part of this family?"

At the time, William "seemed to share his mother's distaste for the Windsors' stiff formality," writes Anderson. As part of his education as heir to the throne, William had tea with "Granny" every Sunday to talk about the monarch's responsibilities. During those meetings, there was never any mention of his parents' divorce or the Palace's attempt to marginalize Diana's role as a royal.

"Diana shared details about her failing marriage and her struggles with the Royals with William from the time he was very young," one friend of Diana's told me. "He saw how his mother was being treated and it was hard for him to reconcile that with his duty as heir to the throne. At the time, he didn't understand the disconnect. He loved his mother, but he also loved his father and the Queen. It was a terribly difficult time for him."

The 37-year-old prince has clearly come to accept his fate as future King, but that doesn't mean he's forgotten his mother's anguish over the resolutely cold treatment she received from the Palace. "William has had to make peace with his painful memories of his mother's despair over her divorce," said the insider. "He understands his duty to the Crown as future King, but as a result of all that has happened in his life, he will be a very different monarch, who believes showing emotion is not a weakness, but a strength."

And for more on the future King of England, check out 27 Things You Never Knew About Prince William.

Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.

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