Aug. 31 (BP) — Twenty-five years after the death of Princess Diana, her sons, Princes William and Harry, are working to uphold their mother’s legacy around the world through charities in her name.
Age 15 and 12 when their mom died, the brothers have often spoken about how the death of their mother brought them closer and inspired them to continue her work on mental health, conservation and humanitarian issues.
The Royal Foundation, a 2016 campaign launched by the brothers and William’s wife, Kate Middleton, brings eight charities together to combat the stigma surrounding mental health.
Through the foundation, the brothers have partnered with advocates throughout the United Kingdom, including programs to assist children, anti-suicide initiatives and tools to support crisis institutions.
William and Harry consider mental health initiatives to be a cause close to their mother as she spoke about her struggles with an eating disorder and depression.
Harry, a former British Army officer, has said his time in the military helped inform him of the struggles with PTSD that many soldiers face — including himself.
“I was going to a barracks in London, and as part of their personnel recovery unit, I was doing interviews, or just meetings with individuals who were suffering, mostly from psychological injuries that had either come from a physical injury or otherwise,” he said on a podcast in April. “Listening to their stories, I started to realize parts of my own story were being mirrored or reflected in that.”
These experiences with combat veterans inspired Harry to found the Invictus Games in 2014, an international sporting competition for physically and mentally wounded service members.
A mother’s lessons
Beyond mental health, the Royal Foundation also backs conservation efforts to protect wildlife around the world, such as anti-poaching task forces in Africa and global work to address climate change.
The princes help to keep Diana’s influence alive through The Diana Award, a charity set up in her memory that honors young people who have achieved significant humanitarian goals.
Through the award, William and Harry have helped promote anti-bullying and mentorship across the U.K. and around the world.
William told Harper’s Bazaar in 2019 that he wanted to instill his mother’s lessons into his everyday charity.
“[Diana] realized it was very important when you grow up, especially in the life that we grew up in, that you realized life happens beyond palace walls, and that you see real people struggling with real issues,” William said. “I’ve grown up in a household which has been much the case of, well, we’re very lucky, you must give back.”
William has additionally made his voice heard through a series of films called Sound of Support.
Produced in conjunction with English soccer manager Gareth Southgate, the films highlight mental health awareness throughout a number of industries, most prominently sports.
William and Southgate spend the films talking to a number of European soccer stars about the mental and physical challenges that they have faced.
“The idea of being able to talk about…weakness, the idea of being able to be open about your emotions and fix a problem, is a positive, is a strength, not a weakness, and I think that culture is something we hopefully are seeing a slight shift in,” William says in a preview for the films.
‘Ideal role model’
Harry, meanwhile, has upheld one of his mother’s most prominent causes by helping with charities across Africa, including Sentebale, which he co-founded in Lesotho.
“We will do everything we can to make sure that she’s never forgotten and carry on all the special gifts, as such, that she had and that she portrayed while she was alive,” he said of his mother in 2016. “I hope she’s looking down, you know, with tears in her eyes, being incredibly proud of what we’ve established, I suppose.”
Harry has said Diana will always be his “ideal role model.”
“I think she had a lot in common with everybody but also she certainly listened in a very, very short space of time,” Harry said of his mom in 2017. “In society, we suffer from this illusion of this reality where some problems get so big that nobody wants to get involved. She was the one that changed that.”
Diana’s youngest son has been open in the past about his struggles with alcoholism and mental health after her death.
Harry relinquished his senior role within the British royal family in 2020, and is working on a memoir he says will “offer an honest and captivating personal portrait.”
Diana died in a car accident on Aug. 31, 1997, shocking the world, and particularly the United Kingdom, where she was considered a cultural icon and global ambassador.
The accident was the culmination of longstanding tensions between Diana and the rest of the royal family.
Her high-profile marriage to Prince Charles, heir to the throne, was covered extensively in the British tabloids, as was her romantic relationship with Dodi Fayed following her divorce from Charles in 1996.
Using status for causes
Despite the constant media attention, Diana was able to use her status among the British nobility to champion causes close to her heart.
Among her most notable efforts were attempts to advocate for the removal of landmines in war-torn countries. Diana would often visit the victims of these landmines on goodwill trips.
The princess was also known for her work with HIV/AIDS patients in the 1990s. She was one of the first notable figures to be filmed touching the patients, at a time when many still incorrectly believed the virus could be passed by physical contact.
She also helped to open the Landmark AIDS Center in London and was a top supporter of the U.K.’s National AIDS Trust.
Even as Diana’s vast legacy continues, though, the charities in her name have not always been without bumps in the road.
While an official memorial fund had been set up by the royals following Diana’s death, that fund was split up in 2020 by William and Harry to allow them to go their separate ways. Harry would eventually move to the United States with his family.
Still, Diana’s status as a champion of charity remains, and can be seen not only by her sons, but by their spouses, as well.
Middleton is active in many aspects of the Royal Foundation as one of its founding members.
Harry’s wife, Meghan Markle, has also been a champion of women’s rights, and famously even cold-called U.S. senators to push for paid family leave in the United States.
Along with her husband, Markle also signed a multi-year deal with Spotify in 2020 that will see the couple produce a range of podcasts. They work to create shows that “spotlight diverse perspectives and voices.”