A decision to feature the youngest Royals in the Queen’s funeral has left many wondering if they are too young to be subjected to the grief of the procession.
The Order of Service for Monday’s State Funeral in London shows two of the Prince and Princess of Wales’ children will walk behind their great-grandmother’s coffin.
Prince George, 9, and Princess Charlotte, 7, will follow their parents into Westminster Abbey as part of the procession led by the King and Queen Consort.
Immediately behind the new monarch will be the Princess Royal and Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, the Duke of York, and the Earl and Countess of Wessex, before the Prince and Princess of Wales.
But the move to feature the children in the service, which is expected to be the most watched TV event in history with a predicted 4.1 billion viewers, has upset many online.
“That’s cruel,” one person Tweeted. “They’re far too young to be there, let alone involved.”
“This is sick,” someone else said. “Why can you not just let children grieve in peace? Why must they be forced to perform for the public?”
Another added: “They’re so very young to be dealing with Royal protocol in front of the whole world.”
Risk of re-traumatising grief
For many, the prospect of the children being included in the Queen’s funeral procession incites images of a young Prince William and Prince Harry walking behind their mother’s coffin as it moved through the streets of London following Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997.
Twenty-five years later, some believe the Royal family “obviously haven’t learnt.”
“Why do George and Charlotte have to do this?” one person wrote online. “We’ve seen what it did to Harry and William!”
“So [after] the trauma William felt at 15 years old and still discusses, he’s allowing his nine and seven-year-old children to experience the same thing?” another added.
“Look what it did to Harry and his resentment,” someone else said.
But according to the professionals, it could help the young Royals with the grieving process.
“The literature is clear that if children are well prepared for a funeral, they know what to anticipate and what to expect, and they have a lot of support around them, they are okay with attending a funeral,” Professor of psychiatry at the University of NSW, Susan Rees, told Yahoo News Australia.
However she warns that by allowing Prince George and Princess Charlotte to take part in the service there is a very real potential for Prince William to be re-traumatised by remembering the loss of his mother.
“William will probably be sensitive and concerned about how the children are feeling at the funeral and following the casket,” Professor Rees said.
“That process is likely to cause him to reflect and remember the traumatic experience of his mother’s funeral so it could be upsetting, but he could also be instrumental in using his past experiences positively to assist and support his own children through the funeral.”
A different occasion to Princess Diana's funeral
Dr Cindy McCreery, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Sydney, also added that the service to honour the 96-year-old monarch would be a stark contrast to Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997.
“This is quite different from when Harry and William walked behind their mother’s coffin,” she told Yahoo News Australia.
“The first point to note is that their mother had died tragically at the age of 36 in a car accident and it was a profoundly shocking event.
“This is the funeral of George and Charlotte's great-grandmother and while of course it is very sad, it's going to have a different level of significance for them than the death of their mother was for William and Harry.”
Dr McCreery said the children’s participation would also be a significant moment for the royal family going forward.
“It’s important I think for Charles and William, and indeed George, as the current monarch, the heir to the throne and then the next heir, that that kind of visible line of succession is seen by the world.
“It's really important for Charles coming to the throne that he has the world’s support and that there is a sense of continuity after what has been this record-breaking reign of his mother.
“I think having George there will further help him to consolidate his authority but it will also add a human touch. I think there'll be great interest and empathy for George and his sister Charlotte as they walk up behind their parents at Westminster Abbey.”
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