Prince William Opens Up About “Family Moment” With His Mother, Diana, and His Struggles With Mental Health in Apple Podcast
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, seen here on his final shift as an air ambulance pilot, spoke about the trauma he witnessed on the job, and the impact it had on his mental health during a recent podcast appearance. Photo: Heathcliff O'Malley/WPA Pool/Getty Images
Prince William shared how one of his favourite songs brings back a cherished memory of his mother in an appearance on the Apple Fitness+ podcast Time to Walk.
The podcast, which is available on Apple Music 1 for free and to Apple Fitness+ subscribers, aims to encourage listeners to reap the physical and mental health benefits of walking alongside some of the most influential people in the world.
“In the hope of inspiring a few other people to get active and take some extra time for their own mental health — I wanted to share a few of my stories and favourite songs with you in an episode of Time to Walk,” Prince William tweeted on Sunday.
The most recent episode, which was released Monday, starts off with Prince William sharing his three favourite songs and the memories they evoke as he takes a three-mile walk on the Queen’s Sandringham estate between St. Mary Magdalene Church and his home at Anmer Hall — the route he walks with his family on Christmas Day every year.
“My mother used to play all sorts of songs to kind of while away the anxiety of going back to school,” William says. “And one of the songs I massively remember and has stuck with me all this time, and I still, to this day, still quite enjoy secretly, is Tina Turner’s ‘The Best’ because sitting in the backseat, singing away, it felt like a real family moment.”
William said he could remember his mother “singing at the top of her voice,” which, on occasion, prompted the policeman in the car to join in as well.
“You’d be singing and listening to the music right the way out into the gates of school, when they dropped you off,” Willam continued. “And that’s when reality kind of sunk in that you really were going back to school because before that, you’re lost in songs. You’ll want to play it again just to keep that family moment going.
“And when I listen to it now, it takes me back to those car rides and brings back lots of memories of my mother.”
The father of three also named Shakira’s “Waka Waka” as one of his favourites for its connection to his own brood.
“One of the songs that the children are loving at the moment is Shakira, ‘Waka Waka.’ There’s a lot of hip movements going along. There’s a lot of dressing up,” he explained.
“Charlotte, particularly, is running around the kitchen in her dresses and ballet stuff and everything. She goes completely crazy with Louis following her around trying to do the same thing.”
His third pick, perhaps a necessary pick me up after a weekend of “Waka Waka” dance parties, is AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” which he says supplies “the best tonic for Monday morning.”
The promotion of mental health is at the centre of the royal’s involvement with the podcast with Apple making donations to three charities chosen by Prince William: Crisis Text Line in the U.S., Shout 85258 in the U.K, and Lifeline in Australia.
But Prince William didn’t stop at a tweet or donations. During his walk, he also opened up about the trauma he experienced as an air ambulance pilot and the toll it took on his own mental health.
“Seeing patients and families ripped apart on almost a daily basis, that routine, you just get into a habit of head down and get on with it,” said the royal, who served as a pilot in the East Anglian Air Ambulance from 2015 to 2017.
But the duke says one particular call involving a young boy who was hit by a car snapped him out of that habit.
“There’s some things in life you don’t really want to see. And all we cared about at the time was fixing this boy. And the parents are very hysterical, as you can imagine, screaming, wailing, not knowing what to do, you know, and in real agony themselves. And that lives with you,” William recalled.
While the team was successful in stabilizing and transporting the boy to hospital for additional care, William explained that he felt something had changed in him when he returned home from his shift that night.
“I went home that night pretty upset but not noticeably. I wasn’t in tears, but inside, I felt something had changed. I felt a real tension inside of me,” he said. “And then, the next day, going back in again to work, you know, different crew. On to the next job. And that’s the thing, you’re not always all together. So then you can’t spend a day processing it.”
“It even makes me quite emotional now,” he said of the incident as he appeared to fight back tears. “When they come in and say thank you, and, ‘Here he is. He’s OK.’ It still even affects me now. But I think, as a human being, when you see someone in such dire circumstances, basically at death’s door, you can’t help but be affected by that.”
William said he was reluctant to talk about the incident with any of his colleagues until the full weight of the experience hit him weeks later.
“It was like someone had put a key in a lock and opened it without me giving permission to do that. I felt like the whole world was dying. It’s an extraordinary feeling. You just feel everyone’s in pain, everyone’s suffering,” he said.
“And that’s not me. I’ve never felt that before.”
Those feelings were even harder to reconcile with how well his life was going at the time.
“I was happy at home and happy at work, but I kept looking at myself, going, ‘Why am I feeling like this? Why do I feel so sad?’ And I started to realize that, actually, ‘You’re taking home people’s trauma, people’s sadness, and it’s affecting you,’” he said.
That realization, he explained, was the crucial push he needed to address how he was feeling with a colleague at work.
“I can’t explain why I had that realization what was going on because a lot of people don’t have that realization,” he said. “And that is where you can slip unnoticed into the next problem. I think, until you’ve been through it, it’s hard to understand.”
Nearing the end of the episode, William encouraged anyone struggling with their mental health to seek help, explaining that it was a sign of strength, not weakness.
“It’s about what you do next,” he said. “It’s about having that boldness and that openness and that strength to go, ‘It’s going to be a long journey. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m going to get there.'”