Prince Harry: 'I turned to drink and drugs to cope with trauma of Diana's death'

21 May 2021, 08:35 | Updated: 21 May 2021, 13:28

Prince Harry admitted to using drink and drugs to mask the pain of losing his mother
Prince Harry admitted to using drink and drugs to mask the pain of losing his mother. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Prince Harry has said he turned to drink and drugs as an adult to cope with the death of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales.

Speaking with Oprah Winfrey for Apple TV's documentary series The Me You Can't See, the Duke of Sussex said the trauma of his mother's death made him "mask" his emotions with alcohol and drugs so he could "feel less like I was feeling".

Harry was aged just 12 when Diana died following a car crash in August 1997, during which she was being pursued by the press in Paris.

He discussed a number of troubling memories from his childhood during the first three episodes of the series, such as the time he was photographed walking behind his mum's coffin with his brother, father, uncle and grandfather at her funeral.

"For me the thing I remember the most was the sound of the horses' hooves going along the Mall," the 36-year-old told co-host Winfrey.

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"It was like I was outside of my body and just walking along doing what was expected of me. (I was) showing one tenth of the emotion that everybody else was showing: This was my mum - you never even met her."

The Apple series has focused on mental health, with the duke telling his co-host the trauma of Diana's death caused him to suffer anxiety and severe panic attacks from ages 28 to 32.

"I was just all over the place mentally," he said.

"Every time I put a suit on and tie on ... having to do the role, and go, 'right, game face', look in the mirror and say, 'let's go'. Before I even left the house I was pouring with sweat. I was in fight or flight mode."

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Harry admitted: "I was willing to drink, I was willing to take drugs, I was willing to try and do the things that made me feel less like I was feeling."

He told Winfrey he would consume a week's worth of alcohol on a Friday or Saturday night "not because I was enjoying it but because I was trying to mask something".

During the programme, the royal also accused his family of "total neglect" when his wife Meghan was feeling suicidal due to harassment the pair faced on social media.

The duke said he was ashamed the situation had got "that bad" and also suspected the royals would not have been able to help.

He added that the alleged abandonment was among the "biggest reasons" the Sussexes left the UK for the US.

"Certainly now I will never be bullied into silence," he added.

Hours before the documentary series aired, Harry joined his brother William in criticising the BBC following an inquiry which found the broadcaster covered up "deceitful behaviour" used by journalist Martin Bashir to secure his headline-making 1995 interview with Diana.