Prince William is brutally honest with close friends and courtiers about the impact his father’s work had on his childhood following the death of his mother in 1997.
Even today, with his relationship with Prince Charles very much on the mend, the Duke of Cambridge makes explicit his desire to avoid repeating what he believes are the mistakes of his upbringing.
At meetings discussing the family’s future plans in recent months his own experiences as a grieving schoolboy have, once again, come to the fore.
That’s why the Cambridges formal move to Windsor unveiled this morning, which will see the family move into the comparatively small Adelaide Cottage on the Windsor Estate and all three children attend the nearby Lambrook School from next month, is highly significant.
More than just a physical move from Kensington Palace, William is sending a clear message to the Royal Family that, while his children remain in their formative years, he views his most important job as being a dad.
My senior royal insider explained: ‘Prince William has forgiven his father and relations between them are stronger than they have been in some time, but he has been abundantly clear to all that he won’t repeat the way he was prioritised as a child.
‘He feels Prince Charles’ unquestionable work ethic had a direct impact on his upbringing, especially after the death of his mother. Far too often, his father chose his duties over being a dad.
The Duke of Cambridge with his children, Prince Louis (top), Prince George (right) and Princess Charlotte (left)
Prince William is brutally honest with close friends and courtiers about the impact his father’s work had on his childhood
The Queen, Prince Charles, Camilla, Prince William and Kate pictured in attendance at the Commonwealth Day Service in March 2020
While his children remain in their formative years, Prince William views his most important job as being a dad
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge pictured with their dog Orla attending the Royal Charity Polo Cup last month
‘It is his overarching, unquestionable mission and motive in life to be the best father possible, especially when his children are this age. He is unapologetic about that.
‘The public won’t notice much of a difference and, of course, he acknowledges his significant duties as a working royal and second in line to the throne, but he believes those duties can be worked around his role as a hands-on father.
‘So, for example, when timing engagements, wherever possible, school pick up times will be factored in, so either him or the Duchess can be there to pick up the children.’
It’s fascinating that, nearly 25 years on from her tragic death, the spectre of Princess Diana looms large in the familial decisions made by both William and Harry.
While the brothers have taken very different paths, both are convinced they are living their lives in a way that fulfills their beloved mother’s wishes.
In the case of William that means preparing Prince George to be king while infusing him with an understanding of real life and empathy for ordinary people.
But the Duke is also of the belief that Diana would not have approved of Prince Harry’s separation from the monarchy.
Indeed, in the years before her death Diana’s overwhelming desire was for the throne to skip a generation, with William succeeding the Queen, rather than her by then estranged ex-husband.
Diana remained a big believer of the importance of the monarchy for Britain and believed change should be made from within.
Prince William and Prince Harry pictured with father Prince Charles in front of the Westminster Abbey in London after the funeral ceremony for their mother
It’s fascinating that, nearly 25 years on from her tragic death, the spectre of Princess Diana looms large in the familial decisions made by both William and Harry
As former Daily Telegraph editor Max Hastings revealed in 2020 of an unpublished interview he conducted with Diana: ‘She said that all she cared about was William’s succession to the throne and she said to me, quite explicitly, ‘I don’t think Charles can do it.’ The outcome she wanted to see was for Charles to stand aside as heir… and for William to occupy the throne.’
Harry, by contrast, has embraced his mother’s rebellious, anti-establishment streak and disdain of the ‘men in grey suits’ behind-the-scenes of the British Royal Family who Diana was convinced were out to destroy her reputation. Harry and Meghan have the same victim complex in regards to them.
Friends say the Duke of Sussex has convinced himself, no doubt aided by his wife, that Diana would have ended up moving to the US to avoid the scrutiny of the British Press, who he has come to despise.
While it’s true Diana had spoken about a move to America, possibly even to enter the world of showbusiness, he wilfully misrepresents his mother’s relationship with the media.
Sure, she understandably hated the lawless paparazzi, who would stalk her every move wherever she was in the world, but she had close relationships with journalists who she often entrusted with her secrets.
It’s no surprise that the 25th anniversary of the Paris accident which stole Lady Di from an adoring world will be a particularly emotional time for both William and Harry but, sadly, it is not expected to bring the brothers back together.
Those who were close to Diana remain bitterly disappointed the previously tight brothers have been torn apart, knowing their mother believed the support they had from one another was going to be critical to cope with the demands of royal life as adults.
Prince Charles, Diana and a baby Prince William play with a rattle on the sofa at Kensington Palace London
Prince William, then just six months old, pictured with his mother Diana at Kensington Palace in December 1982
However, in line with their seismic differences of opinion, they are also dealing with the renewed interest in their mother and the car crash that killed her in their own ways.
Harry is believed to have leaned into his mother’s passing and the circumstances around her death – currently being explored by Channel 4 in a controversial primetime series – in the writing of his forthcoming autobiography that is set to further strain relations with the Royal Family.
William, meanwhile, is determined to continue to honour his mother quietly, but is opposed to the circus that surrounds the anniversary.
He intends to stick to his pledge made in two emotional TV shows to mark the 20th anniversary of her death five years ago not to speak publicly about the circumstances of her passing in public again.
That’s unlikely to make any difference to the ongoing fascination about Diana, an enduring iconic figure, especially as some of the shady circumstances around the investigation into the crash are introduced to the younger generation for the first time via conspiracy videos going viral on the social media platform TikTok.
But where she continues to make an even bigger impact from beyond the grave is on the lives of her sons, who both remain determined to continue her legacy in their own contrasting ways.