Everyone knows the story of the marriage between Prince William and Kate Middleton. William proposed to his lady love in October 2010 and offered her the ring that had once belonged to his mother, Princess Diana. Kate then said yes, and a year later the pair were wed. But not everyone knows about the sacrifice that was required on the part of Prince Harry, William’s unmarried younger brother, before the wedding went ahead.
When Diana died in a car crash in August 1997, it shook the whole world. She had been a fashion icon and a figure of fascination for many years, so for her to die so young was shocking. And though she hadn’t technically been a princess since her divorce from Prince Charles, she was nonetheless frequently referred to as “the People’s Princess” in news coverage.
The aftermath of the tragedy was, unsurprisingly, drawn-out and difficult. Brits grieved for Diana like they had rarely mourned a public figure before. Meanwhile, the facts of her unhappy marriage and equally unhappy separation from Prince Charles were brought up frequently. But there was also a great deal of concern for Diana’s young sons, who were now left without a mother.
Prince William was 15 years old and Prince Harry 12 at the time their mom died, and many greatly sympathized. The nation’s hearts went out to the brothers when people saw them marching stoically behind Diana’s coffin at the funeral. And in the years to come, both princes would open up about how badly that moment, and the whole aftermath of their mother’s death, had affected them.
“My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television,” Harry told Newsweek in June 2017. “I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”
Harry also became more and more open about how badly his mental health had been affected. “My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum, because why would that help?” he told The Daily Telegraph in April of the same year. “It was 20 years of not thinking about it and then two years of total chaos.”
But the one thing that kept him going was the support from his older brother. In fact, Harry credits William with getting him into therapy and helping him come to terms with his childhood; and similarly, William saw Harry as a shoulder to lean on. “We are uniquely bonded because of what we’ve been through,” William said in a video released by Kensington Palace in 2017.
Meanwhile, in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy back in 1997, princes William and Harry were taken to Kensington Palace and told that they could each select a memento from Diana’s jewelry collection. Prince William subsequently chose his mother’s watch, while Harry opted for her sapphire engagement ring.
But apparently even then the two boys had plans for how they might need such precious items in the future. Perhaps they were advised by their father or other relatives. “They had an agreement that whoever got engaged first would have Diana’s ring,” a source told the Daily Star in 2017. And, of course, that turned out to be Prince William.
So Harry and William exchanged gifts: Diana’s watch passed into Harry’s possession, and William received the ring. And while the details of that conversation will probably never be common knowledge, we do know this: in October 2010, during a trip to Kenya right after William had passed his RAF helicopter rescue course, the ring was given to Kate. The royal engagement was subsequently announced to the public on November 16, 2010.
And the significance of the ring was great. For William, of course, it was a way of ensuring that his mother would be with him in spirit as he began a new chapter in his life. “It was my way to make sure my mother did not miss out on today and the excitement that we are going to spend the rest of our lives together,” he said at a press conference after the engagement was announced.
Yet the circumstances in which Diana had bought the ring were also important. She actually selected it from a catalog before her marriage to Prince Charles. So although the ring was expensive, it wasn’t unique, and anybody able to afford it could have purchased an identical one. This was, then, a very unusual move for a soon-to-be royal, and it came to be seen as symbolizing Diana’s supposed “down-to-earth” nature.
Kate – also considered a very modern royal – still wears the engagement ring now when she feels that it’s appropriate. She is reportedly very protective over it, too. For instance, in January 2016 cheap replicas of Diana’s ring were suddenly withdrawn from the Kensington Palace gift shop, and rumors spread that Kate herself had asked for them to be removed.
No one would begrudge Kate safeguarding her precious piece of jewelry, mind you. It is, after all, almost a gift from Diana herself, the mother-in-law she never knew. But her attitude towards the engagement ring does raise an interesting question: now that he’s given up his mother’s ring, what will Prince Harry do when he wants to get married?
The chances of another royal wedding happening soon are, it’s worth noting, probably higher than they’ve ever been. Harry is currently dating American actress Meghan Markle, and the pair seem like an ideal match. Come August 2017, in fact, U.K. betting agency William Hill stopped giving odds on whether Harry and Meghan will become engaged and instead started taking bets on when they will.
Ever since it became obvious that the couple’s relationship was serious, people have therefore speculated about what engagement ring Harry might give to Meghan. For example, in March 2017 an unnamed source told the Daily Star that Harry wanted Meghan to have something equally special when the time came. “He is working with the jewelers to design something incredible,” the source claimed.
“Diana’s jewelry collection was left in trust for the boys, and Meghan apparently loves emeralds,” the source continued. “For Harry, like Wills before him, using his mother’s gems means the two loves of his life will forever be linked.” The Daily Star also suggested that Harry would be using an emerald choker formerly owned by Diana to create an engagement ring.
And for the next few months, the papers were full of speculation. Other items of jewelry that Diana had once worn were put forward as possibilities. Would the ring sport an emerald? Or would it be a sapphire? But time ticked on, and no engagement news was forthcoming. Everyone would just have to wait.
It’s unlikely, though, that Harry feels any resentment about giving up Diana’s ring to his brother. He would have been a young child when he originally selected it, after all, and plenty of other keepsakes from his mother are available to him. He even has letters in his possession that she wrote on the day that she died. Plus, his love for his brother William has never been disputed.
Harry in fact remains extremely close to both his brother and his sister-in-law. He is reported to visit them regularly and even babysits their children. So the chances of them ever falling out over a ring, no matter how great its sentimental and financial value, seem to be next to zero. And Diana, who barely knew a happy married family life, would surely be delighted and relieved.