On August 31, 1997, Prince William and Prince Harry woke up to the news that their mother, Princess Diana, had died in a car crash in Paris. Someone decided that all the royals, who were currently staying at Balmoral, would go to church at Crathie Kirk, the small church nearby. Under Queen Elizabeth's decision, it was a normal church service, with no mention of Princess Diana. As the Herald Scotland reported that day, "No mention was made of Diana, but there was clear reference to the tragedy in the prayers."
Prince Harry recounts that morning in his memoir, Spare, “It was Sunday. So, as always, we went to church. Crathie Kirk. Walls of granite, large roof of Scottish pine, stained-glass windows donated decades earlier by Victoria, perhaps to atone for the upset she caused in worshipping there. Something about the head of the Church of England worshipping in the Church of Scotland—it caused a stir, which I never understood. I’ve seen photographs of us going into the church that day, but they bring back no memories. Did the minister say anything? Did he make it worse? Did I listen to him or stare at the back of the pew and think about Mummy? On the way back to Balmoral, a two-minute drive, it was suggested that we stop. People had been gathering all morning outside the front gates, some had begun leaving things. Stuffed animals, flowers, cards. Acknowledgment should be made.”
A few years ago, Prince William also spoke about that moment, during a speech at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. "I was in Balmoral when I was told that my mother had died. Still in shock, I found sanctuary in the service at Crathie Kirk that very morning," he said. "And in the dark days of grief that followed, I found comfort and solace in the Scottish outdoors. As a result, the connection I feel to Scotland will forever run deep."
This moment is recreated in The Crown season six, episode four. Here, see all the photos from that moment:
The royals traveled to Crathie Kirk in a row of cars; in the first was the Queen Mother (pictured), along with Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, and Peter Phillips.
The second car was a distraught Prince Charles, sitting in between his sons. "Today, as we always do, we prayed for the royal family, but today especially for the Prince of Wales and the children," Rev Robert Sloan, the minister of Crathie, said. "His family are very much a part of this community and the community loves them, and Diana is part of the royal family and they know her so there was a feeling of great shock and sadness."
As the Hearld Scotland reported at the time, "It is less than three weeks since Prince Charles and the two boys posed on the banks of the River Dee in the hope that the photocall would allow them a summer break free from the attentions of photographers.They braved the cameras again yesterday, this time as they made the short car journey from Balmoral to the kirk with which the family has such a close bond, and at which Diana worshipped so many times."
Queen Elizabeth was in the final car.
She was accompanied by her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.
Prince Harry remembers the family viewing tributes that day outside the gates of Balmoral. (In reality, this didn't happen on August 31, but a few days later.) Here, Charles holds Harry's hand.
"We pulled over, stepped out," Harry writes in Spare. "I could see nothing but a matrix of colored dots. Flowers. And more flowers. I could hear nothing but a rhythmic clicking from across the road. The press. I reached for my father’s hand, for comfort, then cursed myself, because that gesture set off an explosion of clicks. I’d given them exactly what they wanted. Emotion. Drama. Pain. They fired and fired and fired."
Queen Elizabeth viewed the tributes, next to Prince Philip. Behind them is Charles and Peter Phillips. Prince William is standing behind his grandfather.
The family looked composed in front of the cameras.
The royal men, just a day before Princess Diana's funeral.
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