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Diana, Princess of Wales, was a mum who made it her mission to ensure her boys were having fun, almost 24/7. Easter was no exception and Princes William and Harry were treated to chocolate egg hunts, days out at Thorpe Park and ski trips on the Austrian slopes.
Someone who well remembers those special times is Diana’s former protection officer Ken Wharfe, who guarded the family from 1986 to 1993, and was actually there to witness the excitement for real.
“Diana was very much a hands-on mother and would organise the Easter egg hunt, but she’d get all the staff involved hiding them,” he explains, recalling the carefree days the family spent at their country retreat, Highgrove House in Gloucestershire. “They had some chickens there and I remember someone suggesting hiding some of the eggs in the coop.
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“The boys were both very competitive, so they’d be running around with no Inhibitions trying to be the first to find them, badgering the staff to tell them where they were hidden! There was no barrier between us staff and the princes – they were encouraged to use our first names.”
The princes had two ponies at Highgrove. William’s was a Shetland called Smokey and he learnt to ride it when he was just four. Reminiscing, Ken adds, “It really was a child’s dream to live there. Even when Diana and Charles’s marriage was breaking down, both parents were keen that their children weren’t affected by their unhappiness. Every single weekend and holiday home from prep school was a celebration.”
Diana also enjoyed taking the boys skiing at Easter. Ken recalls their first winter sports holiday, to Lech in Austria. “Harry and William picked up skiing incredibly quickly – they were fearless and Diana was incredibly good at it,” says Ken. “I could see Harry was getting frustrated with having to follow the ski instructor – he just wanted to go fast, so he skied solo down a mountain and ended up in some mud and flowers. We had to go and dig him out! After that, we reminded him to stay with the group.
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“We’d usually stay in Hotel Arlberg, and have a whole section to ourselves. There was a massive brown bear head, which William and Harry couldn’t resist putting on their heads to walk around the hotel, much to the amusement of Diana. I don’t think the hotel managers were too keen, but boys will be boys! It was nice for them to get away and the boys would particularly enjoy eating their favourite food for lunch – pizza and chips.”
Diana took great delight in planning adventurous excursions for her sons, with Prince Charles quite happy for the trio to enjoy their days out without him tagging along. “Charles knew that Diana was far better at being tactile and entertaining the boys, so he’d let her take the lead – she’d think up outings that he wouldn’t imagine, like going to Thorpe Park,” says Ken.
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A reflection of both William and Harry’s down-to-earth attitudes to parenting today, Ken points out that Diana didn’t want her sons to be “deprived of the ordinary experiences” just because they were princes. He adds, “They would have a tremendous time at Thorpe Park, getting soaked on the water rides. Her wish was always to keep the days as normal as possible, and so she asked to be treated exactly the same as the other customers.
Members of the public would be quite bemused by seeing royalty out and about and it would actually be Diana, William and Harry who would strike up conversations, which always knocked people sideways with surprise! They’d offer to let the boys jump the queues at the amusement park, too, but Diana would refuse and say, ‘No – we’ll wait our turn.’
“While Diana acknowledged her royal standing and was loyal to the Queen at official engagements, when she wasn’t at work she really did resent getting any preferential treatment.”
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Fun as a trio was an integral part of the Easter celebrations, but Ken says, “There was always a commitment to see the wider family so they’d visit the Queen at Windsor at some point during the holiday.”
The royal household usually heads to Windsor for Easter Court, where the family will join the Queen for an annual Easter service at St George’s Chapel followed by a big lunch at Windsor Castle.
Ken adds, “Even at a young age, when William and Harry were in the presence of senior members of the family they knew that they couldn’t muck around. And if they did, they were dealt with very quickly by their parents, most likely Diana!”
Despite rumours that the brothers have grown apart in recent years, they’ll always have their shared memories of times spent with their mother. And Ken believes they’re already recreating many of those happy experiences for their own offspring. “I think Diana’s sense of fun has rubbed off on the boys, and they’re passing that on to their own children now,” he says.
William, 38, has also famously continued his love of chocolate into adulthood, requesting a chocolate biscuit cake at his wedding to Kate, 39. And during a video call from Anmer Hall ahead of Easter last year, he admitted, “There will be a lot of chocolate being eaten here, don’t worry!” Kate interjected, adding, “You keep eating it!”
Ken has fond memories of Diana taking her boys shopping, and returning with quite a haul of sweet treats! “It was part of Diana’s way of educating her children. She’d say, ‘This is a supermarket. This is what people do normally to get food,’” he reveals.
Ken adds, “Of course they would find it a total novelty. I remember going to Marks & Spencer in Kensington High Street and both William and Harry were let loose in the store. They came back with nothing but chocolate! There may have been some tears when she only allowed them one bar each. Diana was very strict on sweet things, but Easter was special and they were less restricted.”
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