Anne T. Donahue on Prince Harry and Prince William’s New Diana Doc

Coverage of the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death is inevitable, so to maintain control, they needed to get ahead of it—and share whatever precious memories they have left

by

On Monday, HBO will air Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, a documentary about the late Princess of Wales, hosted by her sons, Princes William and Harry.

Details of Diana’s death have been splashed across newspapers and the internet, while her relationships have been analysed and dissected, lending themselves to everything from conspiracy theories—on Monday, TLC will air a three-hour special based entirely around the circumstances surrounding the accident—to movies starring Naomi Watts.

  • Which is a big deal. The British monarchy isn’t exactly renowned for opening up about their feelings or personal lives, but over the past year both Princes have used their platforms to break protocol and talk about emotions and mental health.
  • Add to this Harry’s own admission that he kept his grief at bay in the years following Diana’s passing, and the documentary is another big step in reminding everyone watching that grief doesn’t discriminate.

The thing is, William and Harry were only 15 and 12 when their mother died, which means her legacy has been largely dictated by the public, the media, and members of the Spencer family. In the days after her death, Diana’s brother laid blame on the press (who’d been in pursuit that night), while the remaining years have lent themselves to theories she was targeted by British secret service to prevent a marriage to Dodi Al-Fayed, or that a mystery vehicle had struck theirs and fled. So it’s easy for us to forget that in addition to being a celebrity, the Princess of Wales was a human mother and person. But through the lens of this documentary, William and Harry can finally reclaim her legacy and dictate the terms of how she gets to be remembered.

And reclamation is important, especially since the last two decades have been reserved for speculation from armchair detectives and family members alike. At no point have William and Harry been given the opportunity to  treat her like someone who had a huge impact on their lives. And while the documentary still keeps us at arm’s length William and Harry had warned filmmakers they didn’t remember much, and even when the memories begin to flow, the end result has been likened to a Hallmark channel movie) the boys’ choice to share family photo albums and final conversations and the details of Diana’s approach to parenting effectively dismantles her mythos. Ultimately, for a precious hour, she gets to be their mom.

But that’s why William and Harry’s foray into documentary filmmaking is so important. Coverage of the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death is inevitable, so to maintain control, they need to get ahead of it.

Which obviously comes with baggage of its own. It’s mind-boggling to imagine having to walk behind your mother’s coffin in front of millions of people on live television. It’s overwhelming to imagine your own grieving process being marked by anniversary issues and internet slide shows and gratuitous attempts to cash in on any connection to Diana, however tenuous. Most of us aren’t constantly reminded of the family members we’ve lost, nor of the type of grandparents strangers think they might be if they were still living. And it’s ironic the way media continues to resurrect Diana, despite the role they played in her death.

But that’s why William and Harry’s foray into documentary filmmaking is so important. Coverage of the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death is inevitable, so to maintain control, they need to get ahead of it.

So for Harry and William to reclaim their mother—to memorialize her in their way and on their own terms—they’ve made her human at the cost of their own vulnerability. Instead of offering a stiff upper lip, they’ve embraced the work they’ve done earlier in the year and chosen to spoke candidly about death and loss and the pain that never ends. They’ve delivered her from the world of celebrity and painted her warmly and realistically as a woman who lived and breathed and made them happy. They’ve used their grief as an equalizer to remind us that the woman we mourn as a famous person, they mourn as a mother. (But at the same time, they remind us that we’re all in this together, as no one is immune to grief.)

h1

h2

h3

h4

h5
h6

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

FLARE - Daily Fix App

Get FLARE’s Need to Know newsletter for your daily dose of up-to-the-minute fashion, beauty, celebrity and news stories hand-picked by our editors—straight to your inbox. Sign up here.

Filed under: