In an unusually candid display of his emotions, Prince Charles told the British people that he will always feel the loss of Princess Diana and thanked them for their support in the weeks since her death.
Friday’s comments were the first time Charles has spoken publicly about his former wife’s death, and he was greeted by sympathetic applause, warm handshakes and tender inquiries about the welfare of his two sons.
“I think he’s good - I think he is underestimated,” said Patricia Beacock, standing outside a center in Manchester where Charles was addressing community leaders about public housing projects.
Before giving his prepared speech, Charles looked out rather uncertainly from the podium and told the audience “how particularly moved and enormously comforted my children and I were - and indeed still are - by the public response to Diana’s death.
“It has been really quite remarkable and indeed in many ways overwhelming,” Charles said.
The 48-year-old prince said that while grief is always hard to bear, it is even more difficult “when the whole world is watching.”
“I can’t tell you how enormously grateful and touched both the boys and myself are,” he said.
“Also, I am unbelievably proud of the children,” Prince William, 15, and Prince Harry, 13, who have managed “with quite enormous courage and the greatest possible dignity,” the prince said.
“They are coping extraordinarily well, but obviously Diana’s … death has been an enormous loss as far as they are concerned, and I will always feel that loss.”
Diana’s death in an Aug. 31 car crash in Paris convulsed the nation with an outpouring of feeling seldom seen before. In the days after her death, the royal family was criticized for appearing to remain aloof while expressions of grief flooded in from around the country and the world.
Many commentators and ordinary Britons have supported Charles’ withdrawal from the public to help his sons through the funeral and the first weeks of adjustment to the loss of their mother.
The day of engagements in Manchester was the kind of thing Charles has always done with little publicity. But on this occasion, his supporters were out in force.
At a fund-raising appeal for Macmillan Cancer Relief nurses, Charles was thanked for his years of patronage and for raising millions of dollars for the charity.
He, in turn, thanked his audience for their sympathy.
“My children and I have been so touched and grateful for all the expressions of support and sympathy,” Charles said. “It has been really extraordinarily heartening to have that kind of reaction.”