Having watched his mother suffer in pain and feel isolated within the palace walls, Prince William had grown up learning to take care of his mother.
When Lady Diana married the crown prince of the British monarchy, little did she know that her life would turn into an emotional roller coaster with no end in sight. In 1981, according to History, nearly a billion people were glued to their television screens as they watched the spectacular royal wedding, and they saw the fairytale-like union as a match made in heaven. But behind the closed doors of the royal palace, the relationship between Prince Charles and Diana was crumbling into pieces, right in front of their two sons.
Some might even say the marriage was doomed from the start. And while many believe that the birth of a child could save a broken marriage, little had changed by the time William was born in 1982. The deep cracks in the relationship between Diana and Charles were visible to even those outside the palace.
Diana had hoped that the arrival of their second son, Harry, born in 1984, might bring them closer. However, after having given the throne two male heirs, Prince Charles had reportedly taken the birth of Harry as a sign that his job as a husband was "done", according to Diana's former butler, Paul Burrell. He went back to continuing his affair with his then-mistresss, Camilla Parker Bowles. Diana decided to divert all her attention to raising her two boys.
By 1992 things got bad enough for the couple to announce their separation and in 1996, the divorce was finalized. According to E! News, the young princes, who were caught in the midst of a scandal that was previously unheard of, suffered during the separation of their parents. In the 2017 documentary, Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, they opened up about the whole experience. Prince Harry recalled, “The two of us were bouncing between the two of them. We never saw our mother enough. We never saw our father enough.”
By this time, Prince William had become Diana's confidant. The young Prince William became the person his mother would reach out to. According to the royal biographer, Andrew Morton, Prince William became the shoulder Diana would lean on to and express her insecurities and problems of her tumultuous marriage.
Morton, in the book Diana: Her True Story - In Her Own Words said that the boys wanted to "look after" their mother from a very young age, reported The Sun. He recalled one incident where Prince William and Prince Harry were discussing their future with their mother. He penned, "William and Harry were aware of their destiny. On one occasion the boys were discussing their futures with Diana. 'When I grow up I want to be a policeman and look after you Mummy,' said William."
Morton continued, "Quick as a flash Harry replied, with a note of triumph in his voice, 'Oh no you can't, you've got to be king'." Carolyn Bartholomew praised her grandson, Prince William, and said, "William is kind-hearted, very much like Diana. He would give you his last Rolo sweet. In fact, he did on one occasion." She continued, "He was longing for this sweet, he only had one left and he gave it to me."
In the 2006 book, William's Princess, veteran royal correspondent Robert Jobson spoke about the young prince's childhood and how he dealt with his emotionally disturbed mother. He wrote, "The princess proudly told friends that William was her ‘soulmate’. It was a turn of phrase that left many distinctly uneasy. Some even cautioned her against confiding so unreservedly in her eldest son. But she insisted that her boys hear the truth from her lips.”
He continued, “It was not solely a quirk of Diana’s personality that she chose her son as confidant. Some psychologists claim that when a marriage is rocky, the mother often turns to her oldest child for the emotional support and advice she would normally hope to receive from her husband."
The author spoke about the extent to which Diana was dependent on her son for emotional support and said, “This is what Diana did and sometimes she simply went too far, burdening William with problems that he should never have been asked to shoulder.”
Explaining how Prince William understood his mother and the times she needed his shoulder to cry on, he continued, “William also had a knack of spotting what Princess Diana needed. Throughout the turmoil of his parents’ marriage crisis in 1992, he assumed the role of supportive son. He was just ten but already, in Diana’s eyes at least, he had reached that rewarding age when the child becomes a companion and friend to his parent, able to grasp, at least in part, a parent’s adult troubles. Whenever Diana felt uncertain, William was there for her."
Recalling the time Prince William vocalized his wish of becoming a policeman so that he could "protect her", he said, “Her heart must have ached with love at his earnest words.” Jobson also revealed about the time Diana called William to confess about her summer romance with Dodi al-Fayed, reported the Express UK. He wrote, “Again Diana confided in William, talking over the differences between Dodi and [ex-boyfriend] Hasnat Khan, after whom she still hankered. It was an extraordinary topic of conversation for a mother to be having with her 15-year-old son, but he was well used to it."
“If it was William’s blessing for her relationship with Dodi that she wanted, then she got it. Dodi made his mother laugh; he seemed to make her genuinely happy. At last, Diana had found happiness in her private life and everybody – including her ex-husband – was pleased for her,” he concluded.
Diana had just started enjoying her life when it abruptly came to an end in the tragic fatal accident in Paris, in 1997. In the interview for the documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, Prince William said, “There’s not many days that go by that I don’t think of her. I have a smile every now and again when someone says something, and I think that’s exactly what she would have said, or she would have enjoyed that comment. So they always live with you people, you know, you lose like that,” reported The Cheat Sheet.