When Princess Diana died, it wasn’t just her family and friends who mourned, and the whole country was united in grief.
Within hours of her death, a sea of floral tributes started to build up outside the gates of Buckingham Palace as Britain tried to come to terms with what had happened.
Meanwhile, Diana’s sons and former in-laws, including the Queen, were on holiday in Balmoral on that terrible day – August 31, 1997.
Prince Charles broke the devastating news to his sons, and the entire family agreed that they were the priority.
But as thousands of people flocked to The Mall, anger began to grow towards the royal family.
First, there was the refusal to fly the Union flag at half-mast on Buckingham Palace.
And then the Queen’s absence from London, where millions had gathered to lay flowers and pay tribute to the late princess, further incensed the public, angry she wasn’t publicly mourning Diana.
Many believed Her Majesty should have returned immediately from Balmoral.
Eventually, the Queen did bow to public pressure and came back to Buckingham Palace a day earlier than planned.
Dressed in black, she viewed the floral tributes left for her former daughter-in-law and addressed the nation, revealing she shared in their grief.
But the monarch had an utterly heartbreaking reason for refusing to return to London as soon as the death was announced – her grandsons.
The Queen wanted to shelter the young princes, who had just lost their beloved mother, from the limelight and do all she could to support them.
Tina Brown, author of The Diana Chronicles, said: “The Queen was adamant that her place was at Balmoral with her grieving grandsons.
“Everyone rallied around the young princes.
“This was the first time in a long reign that the Queen was thinking about her family before her people.
“We should admire her for that. Her thoughts were with her grandchildren and she wasn’t thinking about how this would be played out in the media.”
Royal commentator, Alastair Bruce, said: “The royal family realised there were two young boys who had lost their mother.
“I don’t think there’s a human being alive who doesn’t respond to that as an important thing.”
During the days in the immediate aftermath of Diana’s death in a tragic car accident in Paris the Queen and Prince Philip did all they could to help the young princes.
Tina said: “Prince Philip took them walking, horse riding and fishing every day – anything to take their minds off the tragedy.”
And the decision was quickly made to fly the union flag at half-mast above Buckingham Palace in the days after Diana’s death.
This was a total break from protocol as the only flag ever flown above the palace was the royal standard, which is unfurled to indicate the Queen is in residence.
Then Prime Minister Tony Blair, coined the phrase ‘People’s Princess’.
He told a BBC documentary: “She was most worried about the impact on the boys, obviously sad about Diana, and concerned about the monarchy itself because the Queen has a very strong instinct about public opinion and how it plays out, and, in that first conversation, we agreed to keep closely in touch with it.
“I got people from my office to work very closely with the royal court and how we managed the affair over the next week.”
The Queen’s grandsons were devastated by their mother’s death.
Prince Harry, who was just 12 at the time, has been open about his battle with depression following the tragedy.
Desperate to do all he could for his beloved mother, even in death, Harry asked his father, Prince Charles, if he could travel with him to Paris to collect Diana’s body.
But determined to shield his children from some of the heartbreak they were going through, Charles refused Harry’s request.
Journalist and friend of Diana, Richard Kay: “The Queen and Prince Charles’ view was that the boys were their main priority.”
Instead, the Prince of Wales travelled alone to Paris to bring his ex-wive’s body back to Britain.
But even this was frought with difficulty.
Journalist and friend of Diana, Richard Kay said: “Charles took the decision that he was going to Paris to bring back Diana’s body.
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“This was a surprising and brave move. He was an ex-husband, he had no right to be there other than as the father of her sons.
“Charles wanted to take the royal flight to Paris but the Queen wouldn’t allow it.
“Charles fought harder for Diana than he had ever fought for her in her lifetime.”
The Prince of Wales refused to back down and eventually the Queen agreed to allow him to fly on the royal plane to bring his ex-wife’s body back to Britain.