Prince William says walking behind Queen’s coffin brought back Diana’s funeral memories

The Prince of Wales opened up to well-wishers in Sandringham, Rebecca Barry reports

Prince William told well-wishers that walking behind his grandmother’s coffin brought back memories of his mother Diana’s funeral 25 years ago.

In a moment of symbolic unity, Prince William and Prince Harry walked side by side behind the Queen's coffin as it left Buckingham Palace on Wednesday, evoking poignant memories of Princess Diana's funeral in 1997.

The following day the Prince of Wales was told by well-wishers - who were among many gathered in Norfolk to pay tribute to Her Majesty - of how proud his mother would have been of him.

'I am not that prepared,' the Prince of Wales told well-wishers

He told mourners that nothing could really prepare him for his grandmother's death last Thursday.

"Doing the walk yesterday was challenging, it brought back a few memories," the Prince of Wales said.

"It is kind of one of these moments where you think to yourself, I have prepared myself for this but I am not that prepared.

"It is this weird king of thing... because we knew she was 96."

The comments came as the Prince of Wales, accompanied by the Princess of Wales, walked outside the gates of Sandringham estate, admiring tributes and talking to a crowd gathered to greet the heir to the throne and his wife.

Thousands of well-wishers were perched behind metal barriers to see the couple, who stayed for almost an hour speaking to people.

"I said how proud his mother would have been of him, and he said how hard it was yesterday because it brought back memories of his mother's funeral," receptionist Jane Wells, 54, of Long Sutton in Lincolnshire, said.

Caroline Barwick-Walters, 66, added: "He told us how difficult it was yesterday, how it brought back memories of walking behind his mother's coffin."

Ms Barwick-Walters, of Neath in Wales, said "thank you for sharing your grief with the nation" to Prince William, to which he replied "she was everybody's grandmother".

Princes William and Harry walking behind her coffin as the funeral procession approaches Westminster Abbey in 1997. Credit: PA

Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed – son of Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed – died in a car crash as they fled paparazzi in Paris on August 31, 1997, prompting a huge outpouring of public grief.

She was just 36 years old.

The Princess of Wales and her two sons in Austria in 1994. Credit: PA

Prince William and Prince Harry, aged 15 and 12, walked through central London in her funeral cortege, alongside Charles Spencer, the Prince of Wales and Duke of Edinburgh, in what became one of the defining images of their lives.

On that sombre day on September 6 1997, they had to walk - and grieve - in front of tens of thousand of people, and many millions more on television.

William has previously said walking behind his mother's coffin was "one of the hardest things I've ever done," while Harry said "I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances.”

In scenes reminiscent of that day, on Wednesday September 14, the Queen’s grandsons followed the same route down the Mall and Whitehall.

They walked behind their father, King Charles III and his siblings, the Duke of York, the Princess Royal and the Earl of Wessex as the 38-minute ceremonial procession made its way to Westminster Hall, where the Queen is Lying in State until Monday.

The remarkable life of the Queen remembered in our latest episode of What You Need To Know