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When the Duke of Edinburgh died at the grand old age of 99 last April, the nation mourned the loss of a dutiful prince whose extraordinary life ranged from heroic wartime exploits to loyal consort to the Queen.
But for the youngest members of the royal family, Philip was simply the great-grandpa they adored.
“There’s no doubt that Philip was the heart of the royal family, the fun figure everyone loved,” says royal expert Duncan Larcombe. “The burden of monarchy was always on his wife’s shoulders so that gave Philip the opportunity to be the fun-filled father, grandfather and great grandfather.
“For George, Charlotte and Louis, their great-grandfather represented fun times and his death will leave a huge hole.”
After Philip’s death, William highlighted his grandfather's relationship with George, Charlotte and Louis in an emotional statement, saying: ‘I will never take for granted the special memories my children will always have of their great-grandpa coming to collect them in his carriage and seeing for themselves this infectious sense of adventure as well as his mischievous sense of humour.’
With William suffering the grief of his mother Princess Diana’s death when he was just 15, it seems likely that he and Kate were determined to ensure their children were well supported and able to grieve properly for their great-grandfather.
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“I’m certain that William and Kate will have sat down with the children and been very honest and straightforward, talking about what a wonderful life he had, his great age and the circle of life,” says Duncan, the author of Prince Harry: The Inside Story.
“In many ways it’s very difficult for the royals because they don’t have the luxury most families have of being able to wait until their children are old enough to understand events. The royal children go to school so they’re going to know what’s happening and there was a lot of coverage after Prince Philip’s death.
“So William and Kate have had to come up with a way of explaining to the young royals what’s happened so that they hear it from mum and dad rather than school friends or via social media.”
Sadly, like many people throughout the pandemic, the royals were unable to spend time with each other for many months due to Covid restrictions. “As far as we know Philip wasn’t able to see members of his family, apart from Charles, in the months before his death” says Duncan.
“There was a long gap before the vaccines were introduced when the Queen and Philip were isolating and they were following the protocols to the letter. The Queen couldn’t risk falling ill, so she and Philip had to sacrifice seeing their family.
“The children probably hadn’t seen their great-grandfather for a while. It’s an added heartbreak for them all.”
Since Kate became royal patron of the children’s charity Place2Be, she’s been closely involved with understanding the issues surrounding children’s mental health and this may have helped her to guide her children through the grieving process.
“When Kate gets involved in a charity she makes sure she’s an absolute expert in the field, so she’ll have learned about bereavement and spoken to experts,” says Duncan.
“She has a good understanding about how to deal with children going through a family bereavement and she’s likely to have helped her children come to terms with the death of their beloved great-grandfather.”
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