Then, at 15 years old, Prince William grieved quietly with his brother on the long, brave walk behind their mother's casket.
While at St. Andrews University, he spoke of Diana and her gift to him: her giving nature.
"I'm so glad she gave that to us," he said. "I will never let it go."
And he did not -- cleaning toilets, building homes and working with children in Chile during a yearlong break before attending St. Andrews. It was a world away from what he'd known.
"You don't have any secrets, really," he said. "You share everything with everyone."
At St. Andrews, the shy 19-year-old arrived to young women hoping to meet the prince. But it was one student a floor below him named Kate Middleton who became his friend and, later, his love.
In the fall, while in Kenya, he carried in his backpack a ring that first was introduced to the world 30 years ago by his mother.
"It was very romantic," Middleton said. "There's a true romantic in there."
Whether out of public sight or in full view, the prince seems most at ease in the company of his brother, Harry, who always has been quick to keep him grounded.
Their closeness was forged by a similar interest in charities involving children and their sense of duty. Harry is an Apache helicopter pilot and William is a Royal Air Force pilot flying search-and-rescue missions.
His flying buddies affectionately gave William a nickname, "Billy the Fish," a play on his name and a popular British comic strip.
But no amount of military training can steel the nerves of a man about to take his marital vows.
"We did rehearsals the other day," he said, "and my knees started going, tapping quite nervously. So it's quite a daunting prospect -- but quite exciting."
"We are hugely excited and we are looking forward to spending the rest of our times, the rest of our lives together and seeing what the future holds," William said.