Diana was 6 the first time her world fell apart. In 1967 her mother, Frances, left her father, Earl Spencer, for another man. After unhappily shuttling between her mother's London townhouse and her father's country estates, trying to please two stepparents, Diana vowed to give her sons real nurturing. She appears to have done just that—despite unique pressures. "Diana supplies the comfort and security of a solid, loving family existence," says a Windsor family friend. Although both William and Harry had nannies from birth, Diana breast-fed her sons and has remained a hands-on mom. She and her boys have ridden roller coasters, shot rapids and visited burger joints. Diana insisted they attend a regular school—rather than being tutored by a governess, as Charles had been—so that they would learn something about the real world. As they grow up, her task gets more complex, especially when it comes to William, now 13 and a future king. When not at Eton, he takes on more royal duties, such as walkabouts and reviewing parades. At the same time, the heir cannot afford to let any youthful impulses run amok, lest he be tweezered in the tabloids like his parents. He is close to Diana, though, and "calls her at any excuse," says Majesty magazine's Ingrid Seward. Both boys are "immensely protective" of Diana, a friend says. Despite the demise of the two-parent family she dreamed of for her sons, Diana is hopeful about their future and intent on showing them life outside the palace. She had them visit AIDS patients and the homeless, she says, to better understand "people's emotions, insecurities, distress and hopes and dreams." They're off to a good start.
William is thoughtful; Harry more relaxed and exuberant
William, then 5, was a model of decorum at Buckingham Palace, but Harry, 3, unfurled his own standard on Trooping the Colour day in 1988.
Diana led William around Highgrove on his pony Smokey for a 1986 TV documentary designed to show the royal couple enjoying the quiet country life with their sons.
Wills, 4, and Harry, 2, dressed up as paratroopers at Highgrove in 1986. Diana hated the estate because she knew that Charles and Camilla entertained there.
Diana has given William and Harry a level of affection that their father never knew as a child
THE NEW KID
William, 7, and Di stood by Harry, 5, on his first day at London's Wetherby pre-prep school in 1989.
After 18-month-old William posed with his parents, stores carrying his snowsuit sold out.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
In 1985, Diana helped William, then 3, with a puzzle at Kensington Palace.
At a fair in Bristol, England, Diana and William, 8, made like red-blooded blue bloods in bumper cars
On Necker Island, in the Caribbean, William, 7, and Harry, 5, buried Mum with their cousins' help.
Diana and Harry, 7, set out for the slopes in Lech, Austria, in 1992. Charles joined the family a few days later.
Wills and Harry got a royal welcome during the family's visit to Toronto in October 1991.
BOYZ TO MEN
With a proud Diana guiding him, William, 8, made his first public walkabout in Cardiff, Wales, in 1991.
Diana thought she had won the mothers' race at Wills's school in 1989, but judges declared her second.
On a 1993 Austrian trip, the boys were upset by paparazzi. Diana's funny faces cheered them.
Di shared her joy with William as Steffi Graf beat Gabriela Sabatini in the 1991 Wimbledon women's final. They were pulling for Graf, who had played doubles with Diana and had offered Wills private instruction.
While she understands press and public fascination with the young princes, Diana (peeking from a Knightsbridge eatery with Harry in 1994) tries to guard their privacy.
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