Prince Harry reveals he spent over a decade believing his mother Diana was still alive

Prince Harry when he was young with his mother Diana.
Prince Harry when he was young with his mother Diana. Photo credit: Getty Images

Prince Harry has revealed he spent over a decade believing his mother Princess Diana was still alive after the car crash which killed her in 1997 - and that he thought her disappearance was "part of a plan."

Speaking to Anderson Cooper during his 60 Minutes interview to promote the upcoming release of his memoir Spare, the Duke of Sussex said it was not until he was 23 and visited Paris - the city where his mother died - that he believed she was actually dead.

Harry was just 12 years old at the time of her death on August 31, 1997.

"Once my mother's coffin went into the ground that was the first time I actually cried. For a long time I refused to accept she was gone, part of, 'She would never do this to us' and part of, 'Maybe this is all part of a plan'. I remember thinking that she would call us and we would go and join her."

He told Cooper he'd believed this theory for "years, many, many years" and confessed that "William and I talked about it, he had similar thoughts. I had huge amounts of hope [she would reappear]."

The opening portion of Cooper's interview with Harry dealt with the Duke's grief over the death, as well as detailing how he felt "guilt" that he wasn't crying in public as he met crowds of mourners.

"I see William and me smiling. I remember the guilt that I felt - the fact that the people we were meeting were showing more emotion than we were showing. Maybe even more than we were feeling. I talk about how people's hands were wet, I couldn't understand it at first - their hands were wet from wiping their own tears away. I do remember one of the strangest parts was taking flowers from people, and then placing those for them - as if I was some kind of middle person for their grief and that really stood out for me."

The Duke of Sussex sat down with 60 Minutes' Anderson Cooper in what had been dubbed an "explosive" interview.

In clips released to promote the interview - which is now available to stream in full via ThreeNow - Cooper had asked Harry about the criticism aimed at him and his wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, regarding their decision to step back from their royal duties.

Cooper said the prince continued to publicly air their grievances about what led to the move and wondered why. The second son of King Charles reiterated that he tried to address the matter privately.

"And every single time I tried to do it privately there have been briefings and leakings and planting of stories against me and my wife," he said. "You know, the family motto is 'Never complain, never explain'. It's just a motto."

The interview followed days of revelations from the Duke's book Spare, which had leaked in Spain ahead of its official release on bookshelves on Tuesday, January 10.

Spare discloses the depth of the rift between the prince and his brother William, the heir to the throne, and other revelations such as his history of drug-taking and how he lost his virginity.

When he was 17, he said he was offered a line of cocaine at someone's house and consumed the drug on several other occasions, although he insisted media reports he was a drug addict were false and that he did not enjoy it.

"It wasn't much fun and it did not make me feel especially happy as it seemed to do to everyone else, but it did make me feel different, and that was my main objective. I was a 17-year-old boy ready to try anything that altered the pre-established order", he wrote.

The Duke of Sussex talked of how he was still a student at Eton College in Windsor when he had sex for the first time in a field in 2001.

He didn't name the woman in the book, saying only it was a "humiliating episode with an older woman who liked macho horses and who treated me like a young stallion".

"I mounted her quickly, after which she spanked my ass and sent me away," he wrote.

Harry also claimed he'd killed 25 people in Afghanistan when serving as a military helicopter pilot, describing them as "chess pieces removed from the board".

"It wasn't a statistic that filled me with pride but nor did it leave me ashamed," Harry wrote, according to the Spanish version of the book. "When I found myself plunged in the heat and confusion of combat I didn't think of those 25 as people.

"They were chess pieces removed from the board, Bad people eliminated before they could kill good people." His comments were widely condemned, with both the UK military and Taliban administration criticising his confession.

In other revelations from the book, he wrote he and Prince William had asked their father not to marry Camilla Parker-Bowles, who is now Britain's queen consort. 

He also said he was encouraged by Prince William and Princess Catherine to go dressed as a Nazi to a fancy dress party in 2005, in what he has described elsewhere as "one of the biggest mistakes of my life". Harry says he visited a costume shop and found several options for the party. He called William and Kate for advice and claimed they immediately encouraged him to wear the Nazi uniform.

There has been no official comment from Buckingham Palace about Harry's book, though it was reported Prince William was "burning with anger" about the contents of the memoir.

Expert Roya Nikkhah, the royal editor of the UK's Sunday Times newspaper, claimed Prince William was refusing to react to them.

"I can also reveal that Prince Harry has been written out of the script for the coronation, with no official role in the service if he attends," she wrote on Twitter.

In the book, Prince Harry said William knocked him to the floor during a 2019 argument at his London home over his US wife Meghan. Prince William called Meghan "difficult", "rude" and "abrasive".

Watch Prince Harry's interview with Anderson Cooper on ThreeNow.