The letter from Queen Elizabeth to one of her closest aides, Lady Henriette Abel Smith, a lady in waiting, gives a rare glimpse into the depth of emotion that enveloped the royal family in the wake of Princess Diana's death.
"It was indeed dreadfully sad, and she is a huge loss to the country. But the public reaction to her death, and the service in the Abbey, seem to have united people round the world in a rather inspiring way. William and Harry have been so brave and I am very proud of them," Queen Elizabeth wrote in the letter.
"I think your letter was one of the first I opened — emotions are still so mixed up but we have all been through a very bad experience!" the queen wrote in her handwritten postscript.
“[Diana] was an exceptional and gifted human being,’ Queen Elizabeth said. “In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness.”
Harry recently opened up publicly for the first time about what it was like to walk behind his mother's coffin. "My mother had just died and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television," Harry told Newsweek magazine in an interview published last month. "I don't think any child should be asked to do that under any circumstances. I don't think it would happen today."
Harry admitted earlier this year the "total chaos" and near breakdown he had after Diana's death. He credited William with encouraging him to get counseling to deal with his grief.
The newly-found letter sheds light on the swirling emotions that Queen Elizabeth and the royal family were dealing with in the days following Diana's death. The queen’s poignant broadcast praising Diana will be forever etched in the public's memory.
“I admired and respected her — for her energy and commitment to others, and especially for her devotion to her two boys. This week at Balmoral, we have all been trying to help William and Harry come to terms with the devastating loss that they and the rest of us have suffered,” she said. Kensington Palace recently announced a number of events to mark the 20th anniversary of Diana's death. William and Harry participated in an intimate documentary about their mother, who was just 36 when she died.
"All I can hear is her laugh in my head and that sort of crazy laugh of where there was just pure happiness shown on her face," Harry said in the documentary, "Diana, Our Mother: Life and Legacy." "One of her mottos to me was, you know, 'You can be as naughty as you want, just don't get caught.'"