Why Princess Diana 25th Anniversary Has Been More Low-Key Than at 20 Years

Prince Harry and Prince William are privately marking the 25th anniversary of the death of their mother—five years after the two brothers joined forces in returning Princess Diana to newspapers' front pages.

In 2017, the Duke of Sussex and the Duke of Cambridge opened up about the traumatic experience of losing their mother after the Paris car crash on August 31, 1997. The tragedy sent Britain into an occasion of public mourning never seen before or since, with a sea of floral tributes swamping the gates of Kensington Palace.

However, the brothers' private emotional reactions would not be divulged in full for another 20 years, when Harry and William gave a series of dramatic interviews, including a Newsweek exclusive with the Duke of Sussex.

Harry, William and Princess Diana
Prince Harry and Prince William unveil a statue of Princess Diana in the Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace on what would have been her 60th birthday on July 1, 2021. Princess Diana (inset), shown in Rome in 1985, died 25 years ago on August 31, 1997. Dominic Lipinski - WPA Pool/Getty Images and Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

The 25th Anniversary of Diana's Death

This year, however, there will be no equivalent commemoration of the milestone, although Harry did pay a simple tribute to her at a recent charity polo match.

At the Sentebale ISPS Handa Polo Cup in Aspen, Colorado, on Thursday, August 25, he said: "Next week is the 25th anniversary of my mother's death, and she most certainly will never be forgotten.

"I want it to be a day filled with memories of her incredible work and love for the way she did it. I want it to be a day to share the spirit of my mum with my family, with my children, who I wish could have met her."

Aside from that, Newsweek has been told Harry will be honoring his mother privately at home with his wife, Meghan Markle, and their children, Archie and Lilibet Mountbatten-Windsor.

This year has not brought the tidal wave of newspaper front page stories that were seen in August 2017.

The 20th Anniversary of Diana's Death

Harry and William conducted a series of extensive interviews, including those for two TV documentaries, a podcast and magazine stories (including Newsweek's), in 2017 to mark the 20 years since Diana's death.

At the time, they were promoting a mental health campaign, called Heads Together, that was tied to the London Marathon, and Harry disclosed for the first time that he had received therapy to help him handle the trauma arising from losing his mother at age 12.

Among their interviews, Harry told Newsweek: "My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television.

"I don't think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don't think it would happen today," he said.

The brothers also opened up about their last phone call with their mother, when she was in France and they were at Scotland's Balmoral Castle for the royals' summer holiday.

In July 2017, William said on the ITV documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy: "I think Harry and I were just in a desperate rush to say goodbye. You know, 'See you later' and we're going to go off.

"If I'd known what was going to happen I wouldn't have been so blasé about it and everything else. But that phone call sticks in my mind quite, quite heavily," he said.

Harry, William Walk Behind Diana's Coffin
Princes William and Harry walk behind Princess Diana's coffin alongside Prince Philip, Diana's brother Charles Spencer and Prince Charles in September 1997. Harry told Newsweek in 2017 he should not have been made to do it. Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

Asked whether he remembered what she said, William replied, "I do, I do" but did not divulge the content of the call.

In the same documentary, Prince Harry said he remembered being called to the phone to speak to his mother.

He said: "Right, my turn, off I go. You know, pick up the phone and it was her speaking from Paris.

"I can't really necessarily remember what I said, but all I do remember is, probably, regretting for the rest of my life how short the phone call was. And if I'd known that that was the last time I was going to speak to my mother, the things that I would have said to her," he said.

"Looking back now, it's inc­redibly hard. I have to sort of deal with that the rest of my life."

For its August 2017 TV documentary Diana: In Her Own Words, Channel Four in Britain bought the rights to broadcast private speech-coaching tapes that Diana had made with actor Peter Settelen.

The candid footage, never intended for public consumption, contained arguably the most devastating account of her marriage on record.

Among the revelations was Diana recalling that Prince Charles had told her: "Well, I refuse to be the only prince of Wales who never had a mistress."

Diana: In Her Own Words also showed the princess saying that Prince Philip had told his son Charles he could go back to the woman he loved, Camilla Parker Bowles, after five years if the marriage was still not working out with Diana.

Quoted in the footage, she said: "So I went to the top lady [the Queen], sobbing, and I said, 'What do I do? I'm coming to you, what do I do?'

"And she said, 'I don't know what you should do, Charles is hopeless.'"

By the time of the 20th anniversary of Diana's death came around that August, the public tributes had reached a fever pitch. The gates to Kensington Palace were again filled with flowers, notes and photographs left by members of the public.

People traveled from as far as Australia, hoping for a moment of connection with other royal fans. William and Harry conducted an unscheduled walkabout outside the palace to view the tributes in scenes reminiscent of 1997.

Reasons for the Difference in 2022

The most obvious reason why Prince William and Prince Harry have not teamed up to honor Diana this year is the ongoing rift between them. But there are other explanations.

After all, the brothers could have marked the occasion individually, giving newspaper interviews or organizing high-profile visits connected to particular causes.

However, William told journalists at a 2017 press conference publicizing one of the documentaries that this was the only year when they would speak so candidly about their mother.

It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that the 25th anniversary has not brought the same flood of media coverage, despite a series of documentaries, including The Princess on HBO.

Without royal interviews, documentary makers have not managed to create the impact that they did for the 2017 anniversary.

Meanwhile, in the intervening years a new royal war has broken out in public, between Harry and Meghan and the wider royal family. This has not only made any collaboration between the brothers unlikely but also created another lightning rod for media interest.

Rather than a frenzy around Diana, there has been much attention surrounding Markle's podcast, Archetypes, which recently debuted on Spotify and has contained some veiled swipes at the royals.

This has led to allegations in the media that Meghan upstaged the 25th anniversary of Diana's death.

The reality, however, is that there were no official events to upstage. The occasion in 2022 is simply very different from the one in 2017.