William and Prince Harry used to engage in more “normal” childhood activities with their late mother Diana, as she was keen to give them “time off” from their royal duties. While Prince Charles taught them about their obligations to the monarchy, Diana wanted her children to see what life was like for the general public, to keep them grounded. She took them to McDonald’s, let them go on the bus and took her sons on beach holidays to make sure they had some time away from the limelight. However, she sometimes publicised these outings.
Most famously, she took her boys to Thorpe Park during the Easter holidays back in 1993 — and the photographs captured a wonderful moment between a mother and children.
Yet these touching moments may have had another level to them which was not seen by most of the public, according to royal author Howard Hodgson, due to the tensions behind the scenes.
In his 2007 biography, ‘Charles: The Man who will be King’, he explained William often “caught the brunt” of the escalating feuds between his parents.
Mr Hodgson explained: “He had become used to his mother phoning him up at prep school and crying hysterically down the phone.”
Mr Hodgson claimed: “It wasn’t that he didn’t love her — he did, very much — but he wished she could behave differently.”
Allegedly, William “disliked her one-sided and unfair attitude to his father” and hated them “being put on show by the Princess in theme parks”.
In the Radio 5 Live podcast series, ‘Images of Diana’, journalist Natasha Kaplinsky looked at the famous photographs of the royals on the water ride.
Colin Dawson, former manager of the theme park, confirmed Diana queued for rides with her sons and paid for each one.
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He told the 2017 podcast series that Thorpe Park was still open to the public, which implied Diana “wanted people to see her there”, according to Ms Kaplinsky.
Photographer Jayne Fincher also told Radio 5 Live: “She was obviously aware that Thorpe Park was a very public place, and there were going to be photographers there.”
However, Mr Hodgson theorised that — despite looking delighted in the photographs — William was not always happy going on such outings.
He explained: “He didn’t want to be some kind of urban kid — he longed to hunt and fish and play polo with his father; and he found his mother’s mood swings very unsettling.
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“All in all he found that being with his mother could, at times, be a considerable emotional burden.”
The biographer then recalled one particular occasion when Charles took Harry and William to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, with Bel Mooney and her daughter.
Charles allegedly began to talk about the Goons and Bel Mooney started singing their well known tune, The Ying Tong Song.
Her daughter turned to William and said: “God, aren’t parents embarrassing?”
William allegedly replied: “Papa doesn’t embarrass me — Mama does.”
However, Mr Hodgson said that despite Diana’s keenness to publicise her relationship with her children, she was actually determined to keep them down-to-earth.
The royal expert continued: “She was acutely aware that her children had been born into a very privileged environment.
“She really did see it as her duty to expose them to the rough and tumble of ordinary life where possible.”