Did Prince William really go missing as a child? Everything we know

Royal fans are wondering if Prince William went missing as a child when he learnt his mother Princess Diana had died

Prince William in 1997 at Grand Prix and split scree of Prince William from Royal Family Christmas Day church service Sandringham
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Royal fans want to know if Prince William went missing as a child, as popular TV drama suggests the young royal took off without anyone knowing when he learned that his mother Princess Diana had died.

It can be tricky knowing what to say when someone dies, but in recent years children's mental health has become more of a focus and fans of The Crown Season 6 on Netflix are questioning some details about Prince William as he deals with his 'mother's death'.

Princess Diana died on 31st August 1997 and at the time Prince William was 15 and Prince Harry was 12. And despite millions of viewers watching Prince William's secret moment of comfort during Princess Diana's funeral the events surrounding her death have resurfaced again as the popular royal drama reenacts the historic moment in the final season.

But attention has turned to the moment after Prince William was told about his mother's death, with fans wondering if The Crown's depiction of events is accurate in episode four of season six, when Prince William goes missing from Balmoral and sparks an entire search operation.

As we look at what really happened...

Did Prince William really go missing as a child?

Prince William didn't really go missing as a child when he found out that his mother Princess Diana had died, as it's unlikely that the royals would be able to keep a 14-hour disappearance secret from the public.

The Crown Season Six Episode Four claims Prince William went missing for 14 hours at Balmoral Castle after learning of his mother's death, with an entire search operation underway including members of the Royal Family and staffers searching for the young prince. But while we can never know for certain, Tina Brown, royal author of The Diana Chronicles, claimed Prince Philip said during a call "Our worry at the moment is William. He's run away up the hill, and we can’t find him. That’s the only thing we're concerned with at the moment."

Meanwhile, addressing his mother's death in a speech in 2021, Prince William admitted, "Still in shock, I found sanctuary in the service at Crathie Kirk that very morning, and in the dark days of grief that followed, I found comfort and solace in the Scottish outdoors." This could support that he was outdoors during that time, but Prince Harry failed to mention anything of it in his memoir Spare and instead claimed "we all remained ensconced inside the castle".

The excerpt reads, "The next few days passed in a vacuum, no one saying anything. We all remained ensconced inside the castle. It was like being inside a crypt, except a crypt where everyone’s wearing trews and keeping to normal routines and schedules. If anyone talked about anything, I didn’t hear them."

Ed McVey as Prince William in The Crown Season 6 Netflix

(Image credit: Netflix)

In 2017, Diana's sons used the HBO documentary, Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, as a platform to open up about what it was like to lose her at such a young age. “There’s nothing like it in the world," William said. "There really isn’t. It’s like an earthquake has just run through the house and through your life and everything. Your mind is completely split. And it took me a while for it to actually sink in.”

The Crown's creator Peter Morgan has previously acknowledged that The Crown intertwines "acts of imagination" with real-life events, so it's never been 100 per cent accurate. He told The Hollywood Reporter, "When you’re doing a drama based on real people, real events, you have to constantly ask yourself where you stand in truth and accuracy, and what the responsibility of that is.

"The good news about the royal family and about prime ministers is everybody knows where they were and when on each particular day. There’s no mystery about it at all. But I have to join the dots. That’s where the act of imagination comes in," he added.

Prince William And Prince Harry With Prince Charles Holding A Funeral Programme At Westminster Abbey For The Funeral Of Diana, Princess Of Wales

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're wondering how Prince William and Harry were told of their mother's death, Prince Harry wrote the details in his memoir, telling fans he was woken up by his father Charles and informed of the crash.

"I remember waiting patiently for Pa to confirm that indeed Mummy was all right," Harry recalled. "And I remember him not doing that." Charles told his younger son that Diana 'didn't make it.' "These phrases remain in my mind like darts in a board," Prince Harry said. "He did say it that way, I know that much for sure. She didn't make it. And then everything seemed to come to a stop."

In other royal news, fans of The Crown might be wondering, why Prince William calls Harry 'Harold' or if Carole Middleton set up Kate and William and where did Kate Middleton grow up?

Season 6 of The Crown is available to stream on Netflix now, along with all the previous 5 seasons.

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)