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Why Prince Philip walked with William and Harry at Princess Diana's funeral

He reportedly told his grandsons, "I'll walk if you walk."
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/ Source: TODAY

It was one of Prince Philip’s most somber moments in the public eye: walking with young Prince William and Prince Harry at the funeral procession for their mother, Princess Diana.

The Duke of Edinburgh, who died on April 9 at age 99, was reportedly very concerned about the emotional well-being of his young grandsons during preparations for the funeral in 1997.

Prince Philip, Prince William, Earl Spencer, Prince Harry and Prince Charles followed the coffin of Princess Diana in 1997 in a procession from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey.Anwar Hussein / Getty Images

“We were all talking about how William and Harry should be involved and suddenly came Prince Philip’s voice,” a former government relations director told the UK's Evening Standard, recalling a conference call with the duke in the lead-up to the funeral. “We hadn’t heard from him before, but he was really anguished. ‘It’s about the boys,’ he cried, ‘They’ve lost their mother.’”

At a dinner before the funeral, Prince Philip apparently said to his grandsons, “I’ll walk if you walk.”

Prince Philip remained with his grandsons as they arrived at Westminster Abbey. PA Images via Getty Images

Princess Anne also recalled her father's approach to helping her nephews at that time in an interview after Prince Philip's death with the U.K.'s ITV.

"I seem to remember them saying that, in fact, it was a question of, 'If you'll do it, I'll do it,'" she said. "That was him as a grandfather. ... 'If that's what you want to do and if you want me to be there, I will be there.'"

True to his word, he walked alongside Prince William, 15, and Prince Harry, 12, during the procession from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey in London. The boys were also joined by their father, Prince Charles, and their mother’s younger brother, Earl Spencer.

Prince Harry looked back on that difficult day in an interview with the BBC in 2017, recalling how his father supported him and his brother during that time.

“One of the hardest things for a parent to have to do is to tell your children that your other parent has died," he said. "How you deal with that I don't know but, you know, he was there for us."

Prince William also recalled that day, explaining that it had been a joint family decision to include him and Prince Harry in the funeral procession.

"It wasn't an easy decision and it was a sort of collective family decision to do that... there is that balance between duty and family and that's what we had to do,” the Duke of Cambridge said in the 2017 documentary “Diana: 7 Days That Shook the Windsors,” according to the BBC.

Prince William was 15 and Prince Harry was 12 when their mother passed away.Jeff J. Mitchell / AP

The prince added that he also had to strike the difficult balance "between me being Prince William and having to do my bit, versus the private William who just wanted to go into a room and cry, who'd lost his mother".

The duke also said that he used his long bangs as a kind of “safety blanket” during the ceremony.

"I felt if I looked at the floor and my hair came down over my face, no one could see me," he said.

Prince William and Prince Harry have not yet made individual public statements about the death of their late grandfather, though announcements from them are most likely on the way.

Buckingham Palace announced the duke's death Friday morning with a brief statement.

“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle,” the statement read. “Further announcements will be made in due course. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”