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Princes saw the pressure Diana was under

People read and hear so much about Prince William and Prince Harry, they think they know them. Their lives are so private and yet at the same time so public, it's almost inevitable that the perception does not match the reality."The most amusing point is meeting somebody and them going, 'You're so not what I thought you were.'" Prince Harry told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer during a preview broadcast
/ Source: TODAY contributor

People read and hear so much about Prince William and Prince Harry, they think they know them. Their lives are so private and yet at the same time so public, it's almost inevitable that the perception does not match the reality.

"The most amusing point is meeting somebody and them going, 'You're so not what I thought you were.'" Prince Harry told TODAY co-host Matt Lauer during a preview broadcast of their first-ever interview on American television.

That's the cue for the heirs to the throne of Great Britain to ask, "Well, what did you think?"

"Oh, I best not say it to your face," is the frequent response.

"I hope you mean that they're pleasantly surprised and not disappointed by you," Lauer said.

"It's because they believe what they read, which is, you know, God knows what," Harry replied. "What is said in the papers . . . it's just poisonous."

The two sons of Charles, Prince of Wales and Princess Diana are adults now, and on Aug. 31 it will be 10 years since their mother and her companion, Dodi Al-Fayed, were killed in a crash in a tunnel in Paris why fleeing paparazzi. William was 15 at the time and Harry was just shy of 13. But they remember what it had been like for her.

Lauer asked if Diana ever sat her sons down to talk about the weight and price of fame. They said it wasn't necessary.

"It was just so obvious," Harry, the chattier of the two, said. "When she comes back from doing whatever she'd been doing, whether it was tennis and she'd been chased down the road or doing [a] public engagement. It was clear to see the pressure that she was under sometimes — depending on where she'd been and what she'd been doing."

The woman the public saw on camera wasn't the same woman they called “Mum.”

“She wasn't always herself in the camera. She was much more natural behind the scenes when there was no one else there,” Harry said. “I don't know whether it's the right thing to say. But she was quite good acting, if you know what I mean. She wasn't acting as though trying to be somebody that she wasn't. But in a very much case of trying to be as normal as she could in front of the camera is what she hated so much.”

The woman they knew was the one who, when Williams was 2 years old and the family visited Australia, was so taken with the local fauna she gave her son a nickname — “Wombat.”

“So I just basically got called that,” William said. “Not because I look like a wombat — or maybe I do you know certain little.

He agreed when Lauer said it was kind of cute — when he was 7.

“I guess you don't want your mates in the pub going, 'Hey wombat. How are you?' Lauer said.

“It kinda stuck with me,” William said. “I can't get rid of it now.”

'A constant reminder'

Harry talked of his mother, the charismatic young woman whose life was both controversial and inspirational, in the present tense. Indeed, as Lauer observed, it's hard for most people to believe that it's been 10 years already since she died.

But to her sons, the time, Harry said, has gone "really, really slowly actually. It's weird because I think when she — she passed away — there was never that time, there was never that sort of lull. There was never that sort of peace and quiet for any of us — the fact that her face was always splattered on the paper the whole time.

"Over the last 10 years I personally feel as though she has been ... always there. She's always being a constant reminder to both of us and everybody else."

"There's not a day goes by I don't think . . . about it," William told Lauer. "And so for us . . . it has been a long time."

Prince Harry, who will be 23 in September, is the younger of the two. He is third in line to the throne, behind his father and his brother, Prince William, who will celebrate his 25th birthday on June 21.

During their time with Lauer, the princes talked about why they decided to honor the 10th anniversary of their mother's death with a London concert to be held on July 1, her birthday. They also talk about their feelings about the public's fascination with their lives, their opinions of America and hat they would do if they had not been born into the Royal Family.

The interview was conducted at Clarence House, the princes' London residence. Both William and Harry dressed casually in slacks and dress shirts with open collars — like two young professionals one might see anywhere.

Yet they are very aware of the privilege to which they were born and the obligations that come with it. Both are extensively involved with charitable and humanitarian causes.

"We're very lucky," William said, after struggling a bit to answer Lauer's question about the 'coolest' thing about being a prince. "You know, we have lots of things that we are very fortunate to have. We have a house, you know? We have, you know, all these sort of nice things around us. And so, you know, we're grateful for that because so many people don't have that.

"Yeah," Harry said, lightening the conversation for a moment. "We've had a good education. Doesn't show but we have."

Their mother had always said that she wanted her sons to lead lives that would be as normal as possible.

"So 10 years later, do you think she would be happy or saddened by the state of normalcy?" Lauer asked them.

"I think she'd be happy in the way that we're going about it, but slightly unhappy about the way the other people were going about it as in saying, 'Look, you're not normal so stop tryin' to be normal,'' said Harry. "It's hard," he added. "'Cause to a certain respect, we never will be normal."

But in other aspects, they're just like everyone else. For example, they keep in touch by e-mail, text messaging and telephone.

When Harry calls, William joked, “It usually means he's left something at home, and I have to bring it to him.”

They see each other “a fair bit,” Harry said, adding, “We are slightly normal. We have a normal side to us.”

Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer were married on July 29, 1981. It was a storybook wedding between the 32-year-old heir to the throne and his beautiful and charismatic 20-year-old bride. Some 600,000 people thronged the streets of London to catch a glimpse of the wedding procession. Less than a year later, Prince William was born.

Two years later, Prince Harry followed, but the fairy tale was already unraveling. By the end of 1992, the couple had separated, with their sons, who attended boarding schools, shuttling between their aristocratically aloof father and their vibrant mother. The couple finally divorced in August 1996.

When she died a year later, it was one of the defining moments of a generation, and Diana remains in death one of the most influential people of her time.

"When people think about her death, they think about how wrong it was," said Harry, a lieutenant in the British Army. "They think about whatever happened. For me personally, whatever happened that night, whatever happened in that tunnel - no one will ever know. And I'm sure people will always think about that."

They don't feel they'll ever see a day when the public has had its fill of their mother.

“I can't really see it ever ending really,” Harry told Lauer. “I think people will always have a fascination about her and journalists believe that the people -- there's a need to read about her, a need to sort of be reminded about her.”

Despite all they have gone through and the way their lives are scrutinized, the two feel that they have been fortunate.

"We're very privileged, in many ways," said Harry. "We're very lucky. And we're very grateful for that.