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Prince William reveals anguish at 'long walk' behind Princess Diana's coffin

By Tony Jones

The Duke of Cambridge has confessed to using his fringe as a "safety blanket" when walking behind his mother's funeral cortege.

In a new BBC documentary, William spoke about hiding behind his hair as he processed past thousands of wailing mourners following the coffin of Diana, Princess of Wales (below).

The duke and his brother also said the decision for them to walk behind the cortege was a joint one, with Prince Harry saying he was "glad" he did it.

William described the procession as the "hardest thing" and a "very long, lonely walk".

The now-balding Duke said laughing: "But I just remember hiding behind my fringe basically, at a time when I had a lot of hair, and my head's down a lot - so I'm hiding behind my fringe.

"It was kind of like a tiny bit of safety blanket if you like. I know it sounds ridiculous, but at the time I felt if I looked at the floor and my hair came down over my face, no-one could see me. Sounds ridiculous now, but at the time it was important to me to get through the day."

In an interview with Newsweek magazine Harry had voiced his disapproval at a child having to walk behind their parent's funeral cortege today. He performed the ritual in September 1997, when aged 12, with his older brother, then 15 years old, his father the Prince of Wales, grandfather the Duke of Edinburgh and his uncle, Earl Spencer.

Harry told the publication: "I don't think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don't think it would happen today.''

Diana's brother Earl Spencer, who is also featured in the documentary, has claimed in a separate BBC interview he was "lied to'' about the desire of William and Harry to walk behind their mother's coffin.

But in the documentary Diana, 7 Days, William said about the walk: "It wasn't an easy decision and it was a sort of collective family decision to do that. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

"There is that balance between duty and family and that's what we had to do."

Before the funeral, the Duke of Edinburgh reportedly told Tony Blair's communications team to "f*** off" during a row over William and Harry's role. An "anguished" Prince Philip is said to have grown furious after it was suggested the sons should walk behind their mother's coffin "to show the royals cared".

The angry exchange reportedly happened during a conference call between Balmoral and Buckingham Palace, where Alastair Campbell and other members of the former prime minister's team were meeting royal aides.

The call was witnessed by Anji Hunter, Mr Blair's influential Director of Government Relations.

"I can remember - it sends a tingle up my back," she told a Channel 5 documentary earlier this year.

"We were all talking about how William and Harry should be involved and suddenly came Prince Philip's voice. We hadn't heard from him before, but he was really anguished.

Ms Hunter's husband, Sky TV political commentator Adam Boulton, provided a vivid account of the phone call in his book about Blair's government, Tony's Ten Years.

He wrote: "The Queen relished the moment when Philip bellowed over the speakerphone from Balmoral, 'F*** off. We are talking about two boys who have just lost their mother'."

Asked about the duke's outburst this week, Mr Boulton told the Mail on Sunday: "He was trying to remind everyone that human feelings were involved. No.10 were trying to help the royals present things in the best way, but may have seemed insensitive."

The duke's anger subsided and he ultimately helped to persuade William, who had wanted to grieve in private, to walk with him behind Diana's coffin alongside Harry and the Earl of Spencer. He is said to have asked William: "If I walk, will you walk with me?"

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