A Body Language Expert Studied Prince William's Eyes During The Funeral. Here's What They Found

Attending the funeral of a loved one is an anguishing time for anyone, but it has to be even more painful when you have millions of strangers watching your grief play out on TV and livestream. Case in point: the funeral of Prince Philip. The royal patriarch was laid to rest with only his closest family and friends in attendance, all doing their best to maintain their composure in the midst of their sorrow. Much as they tried to keep their emotions in check, however, the royals' body language did reveal some hints about what was going on behind their stoic expressions.

Prince William, the third of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip's eight grandchildren, underwent particular scrutiny during the ceremony. Not only did he have a close relationship with his grandfather, he also was facing the uncomfortable prospect of interacting with his brother, Prince Harry, for the first time since the polarizing Oprah interview (via Elle). To find out what might have been going through his mind, Nicki Swift spoke to Damali Peterman, Esq., a body language expert and founder of Breakthrough ADR, a commercial conflict-resolution consulting and training firm. She noted that the prince's stance and expressions were typical of what might be expected of a royal, since he "was born into a duty that was on full display during his grandfather's funeral."

Still, while the prince kept his feelings under wraps during the solemn procession to the chapel, Peterman said that his expressions during the service — particularly his eye movements — hinted at his state of mind.

Prince William began blinking rapidly during the service

Peterman noticed that during the Royal Naval Piping Party's whistled call to attention, just before Philip's casket was carried into the chapel, Prince William distinctly clenched his jaw. Although "[t]here is no way to tell with certainty" why he did so, the expert explained to Nicki Swift, that this tension could mean a number of things, including "trying not to show emotion." This would certainly make sense in the context of a grandchild listening to a final show of military respect for his grandfather. (Peterman says people also do this sometimes when they're trying to stay awake — an unlikely scenario in this case.) 

As the simple church service began, the family donned their black face masks in compliance with COVID-19 protocol. While this concealed the lower half of William's face, one of his most important features was still on full display. Peterman notes that there are many proverbs and phrases that mention the eyes' importance in signaling thoughts and emotions. She explained, "You can learn and see a lot in one's eyes. Just think about it for a moment. You can ask someone how they are doing; they can say OK, but something in their eyes reveals otherwise." 

She paid special attention to William's solemn eyes during the clergy's first reading: a passage from Ecclesiasticus describing the Lord's power to affect the weather and command the sea (via WalesOnline). During this time, William was seen showing "a rapid and frequent blinking," explained Peterman. Though she admitted that she doesn't know the prince's "baseline" for blinking, the behavior can mean anything from sleepiness to thinking to "trying not to cry."

Prince William seemed less tense after the funeral service

Paradoxically, depending on the person and the circumstances, rapid blinks can happen both during times of stress and times of relaxation. It's certainly possible that William may have been struggling to hold back tears, knowing he was expected to keep his dignity as a royal being watched by millions worldwide. On the other hand, perhaps the prince was feeling relieved that the difficult funeral procession was over. No doubt he was flooded with memories of the only other time he walked behind a royal casket: as a boy, saying goodbye to a mother he lost far too soon. With the attention turning to the clergy and choir, William could simply sit and focus on his own thoughts.

Interestingly, Peterman revealed to Nicki Swift that Prince William's demeanor and walking "was more relaxed" after the service, when he and brother Harry came together for the first time in more than a year. Despite the reported chilliness between them, she said, their body language showed an ease and cordiality with "no conflict between them." This would seem to fit with the conversation they reportedly had outside the church. Lip-reading experts told The List that the brothers seemed to be talking about the beautiful music, and agreeing that the ceremony was exactly as their grandfather wanted it to be. Could this spell the beginning of that long-awaited truce?