What Life Was Really Like For Prince William And Prince Harry As Kids

Prince William and Prince Harry are perhaps two of the most famous people on the planet, and also quite possibly the only two people who understand what their lives have been like from birth to present. The boys have lived their lives under the spotlight for as long as they can remember, and their highest highs and lowest lows (such as the 1997 death of their mother, Princess Diana) have all been documented and shared with the public the entire time.

Despite that, it can be difficult to really know what Prince William and Prince Harry's childhoods were like. While those who knew and took care of the brothers have given interviews here and there, such as when Princess Diana's former chef Darren McGrady opened up on YouTube about what meals were like in the royal household, there are still plenty of stories that have never been told. The brothers might have been born into massively public roles, but they have managed to carve out privacy for themselves and their families.

People will always be curious about the royal brothers and how they grew up. Here is what we know about what it was like for Prince Harry and Prince William as kids.

Prince William and Prince Harry ate buffet dinners growing up

When imagining what and how the royal family eats dinner every night, it might be tempting to assume that the family sits down at lavish state dinners each night, or at the very least, that they have staff who bring their meals to their respective places at the table. It turns out that when it comes to run-of-the-mill, everyday meals, the royal family often enjoyed a buffet-style presentation. 

While speaking on his YouTube channel, former royal chef Darren McGrady told viewers that the royal family, and especially Prince William and Prince Harry, had the option to go back for seconds or even thirds at mealtime. McGrady explained, "At Kensington Palace, the food was always served on the sideboard buffet-style, so the boys could go back for more and more and more." And, of course, the young boys definitely went back at least once to get seconds of a specific part of the meal: sweets. McGrady added, "But it was always the desserts that they went back for!"

As kids, Harry and William shared the same favorite dessert: flan. "Whenever the boys were home, Princess Diana would write banana flan in the menu book. And then she'd write H or W at the top to let me know who was coming," McGrady revealed on YouTube (via Hello! magazine). "The boys would come back from school on a Friday to Kensington Palace and come in the kitchen, 'What's for dinner, Darren?' They'd see the banana flan on the side and say, 'Yes!'"

Prince William and Prince Harry's nanny was strict about their diets

A lot of parents are pretty strict about what their kids do and do not eat, but it seems Princess Diana was pretty flexible when it came to what her sons ate for their meals. As shared by Insider, former royal chef Darren McGrady has explained that being royal didn't mean that Prince William and Prince Harry expected fancy food each night ⁠— or that they even wanted it. He said, "Princess Diana would say, 'If you want fried chicken or loaded potato skins or hamburgers, that's fine."

But there was an adult in the lives of Prince William and Prince Harry who was pretty strict about what they ate: their nanny! McGrady went on to share, "The nanny always insisted they had their protein, roast chicken, and cabbage because cabbage was good for you." Nevertheless, lean protein and cruciferous vegetables wouldn't have been the princes' first choice." If it was left to the boys," McGrady told Express, "it would be cheeseburgers, pizza, chicken nuggets, and loaded jacket potatoes."

McGrady also shared with Insider he once received a note ostensibly written by the nanny that requested, "Please give the boys pizza tonight instead of chicken" ⁠— but in the handwriting of a young child. On to their trail, McGrady decided to serve the young princes chicken instead.

Prince William and Prince Harry began participating in royal events at a young age

A lot is required of members of the royal family of all ages, and Prince William and Prince Harry were certainly no exception. In fact, each boy joined his parents for royal events at a young age. Prince William sat in on his first Trooping the Colour in 1987 when he was only four years old, and as People has shared, he did a pretty great job participating in the day as much as he could.  

The outlet also added that while he was quite young when he joined his family for Trooping the Colour, William did not continue the tradition with his own children. People added that as of 2018, Prince George had not made his first outing to the event, and neither had a then 3-year-old Princess Charlotte.

It's not as clear when Prince Harry first joined the family for a royal engagement, though the CBC has noted that he was well-versed in traveling alongside his parents and older brother by 1991 when the family of four went to Canada. 

Princess Diana was very involved in raising Prince William and Prince Harry

There are a number of accounts from history that detail the many ways in which Princess Diana was a hands-on mother to her two sons. As noted by Us Weekly, it was important to the late Princess of Wales to give her sons a semblance of a normal childhood whenever possible. Us Weekly has also shared that in May 1985, Diana explained just how close she is to her sons. She said, "I hug my children to death and get into bed with them at night. I always feed them love."

In a 1985 interview with Tim Graham featuring Princess Diana and the then-Prince Charles, Diana again reiterated her devotion to her two children and to her husband and marriage (via YouTube). She said that despite her royal duties and obligations, she always kept her family at the forefront of her heart. Diana explained, "Most importantly, [my role is] being a mother and a wife. That's what I try to achieve; whether I do is another thing, but I do try," before she later added, "I live for my sons. I would be lost without them."

Prince William and Prince Harry liked to visit theme parks

Princess Diana also tried to make her children's childhood more normal by ensuring they were introduced to childhood favorites like Happy Meals and theme parks. Former royal chef Darren McGrady revealed in an interview with Marie Claire that he received a phone call from Diana one afternoon letting him know that the meal plans for her two sons had changed. He explained, "I remember the Princess came into the kitchen one day and said, 'Cancel lunch for the boys I'm taking them out, we're going to McDonald's. And I said, 'Oh my god your royal highness, I can do that, I can do burgers.' And she said, 'No, it's the toy they want.'"

Diana also took her sons to British amusement park Thorpe Park over the Easter holidays in 1991, 1992, and 1993. As shared on Memories of Thorpe Park, Diana liked to ride every ride at the park except for one called The Flying Fish. The trio took a film crew on their visit in 1993, and the resulting film was made available for purchase for a short time. Prince William and Prince Harry enjoyed riding the Loggers Leap, the Teacup Ride, Thunder River, Depth Charge, and the Hudson River Rafters with their mother.

Prince William and Prince Harry were called the heir and the spare

Prince William and Prince Harry are brothers and by all accounts, they had a mostly great relationship while they were growing up. Unfortunately, like many first and second-born royal siblings before and likely after them, they had to contend with a specific dynamic. As the oldest child born to King Charles and Princess Diana, Prince William is the heir to the throne. As the second-born child, Prince Harry became the "spare." 

Author Christopher Andersen explains more about how this dynamic might have shaped the relationship that William and Harry have to this day in his book "Brothers and Wives: Inside The Private Lives of William, Kate, Harry, and Meghan," as well as in an interview with Kinsey Schofield of the To Di For podcast. Andersen admitted to Schofield that he didn't realize how potent the dynamic could be. He explained, "That the heir and the spare ... now I see it. I did not see it 20 years ago when I wrote Diana's Boys, I thought, this is this brotherly bond that will never be broken because they've gone through things that nobody else in the world has ever experienced, but clearly the heir and the spare dynamic is doomed to failure."

Prince William and Prince Harry attended exclusive schools

As the children of King Charles III and Princess Diana, it isn't surprising that Prince William and Prince Harry attended some of the most elite schools in the United Kingdom while they were growing up. While their grandmother Queen Elizabeth was homeschooled by Marion Crawford, Prince William and Prince Harry attended school outside of their home (per Hello! Magazine).

Prince William began his education at the Jane Mynors' nursery school in London, which is now known as The Minors Nursery School, before moving on to Ludgrove School. The British boarding school Ludgrove School is for boys ages 8-13 and was founded in 1892. As noted by Hello! Magazine, William did well and later attended both Eton College and the University of St. Andrew's in Scotland before graduating in 2005.

Prince Harry attended Wetherby School for his earliest years and Ludgrove School, and he also went on to Eton just like Prince William. Although the brothers attended the school together for a time, Harry revealed in his memoir, "Spare," that William didn't want to associate with his little brother (via BBC News). "During his first two years there, Eton had been a sanctuary. That was without the burden of a little brother who would bother him with questions or stick his nose in his social circle," Harry wrote. According to Harry, William asked his younger brother to pretend not to know him, to which he agreed. "I will forget I know you," Harry reportedly told William. After Harry graduated from Eton, he did not attend university like his brother and instead trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst before spending 10 years enlisted in the military.

Prince William and Prince Harry spent a lot of time outdoors

Lest one think that the lives of the young royals were spent indoors, think again. In an April 2022 interview with actress Cate Blanchett for the Audible podcast "Climate of Change" (via YouTube), Prince William shared that he and his brother Prince Harry were encouraged by their father and grandfather to spend plenty of time outside when they were children and that it's been important to them both to share that appreciation of the outdoors with their own children. 

As William told Blanchett, he spent plenty of time climbing trees and getting dirty as a kid. He said, "I think my grandfather, my father, both kind of having a deep passion and interest in this area for many years, has sort of piqued my interest and my curiosity."

While Harry hasn't given interviews explicitly about spending his childhood outdoors, it's safe to assume that he was right there with his older brother, "climbing trees, digging ditches and all sorts of things – hiding in dens and all sorts round the garden." In October 2021, Harry sat down with environmentalist Jane Goodall and discussed his love for the planet and the importance of conservation, something that his father has been very publicly supportive of (via Vogue).

The death of Princess Diana was a turning point for Prince Wililam and Prince Harry

The world lost Princess Diana on August 31, 1997, and more importantly, Prince William and Prince Harry lost their mother. The two boys had to contend with the devastation they faced in two ways: in the public, outward-facing role of royals, and behind the scenes at home, as two young children who were in mourning.

William and Harry have been open about the ways their mother's loss has impacted them over the years. In January 2018, William told volunteers at the Best Man Project that he and Harry became closer after their mother died. He explained, "Losing our mother at a young age has kind of helped us sort of travel through that difficult patch together. When you're like-minded, you go through similar things. It's a bond and it's something that, you know, you've tackled it together and come out the other side better for it" (via Us Weekly).

The brothers have also kept their mother's memory alive in several ways since 1997. In July 2021, they unveiled a statue of their mother they had commissioned in honor of what would have been her 60th birthday. The brothers released a statement that explained, "Every day, we wish she were still with us, and our hope is that this statue will be seen forever as a symbol of her life and her legacy."