Harry Sticks Out Tongue

Harry and Diana: Their Everlasting Bond

How Princess Diana raised her youngest son with a sense of fun and respect for duty.

When Princess Diana died on August 31, 1997, her youngest child, Prince Harry, was just 12 years old. On that day the wider world mourned the "People’s Princess," beloved for her style, grace, and depth of compassion — but, as Harry would remember years later, he and his older brother William had lost "our guardian, friend, and protector."

Now Harry is 33, a popular royal in his own right, and on the verge of starting a family of his own. On May 19, he’ll marry Meghan Markle, a woman who, like William’s wife Catherine, is said to possess many qualities of his late mother. "They’d be thick as thieves, without question," Harry said of his fiancée and Diana in an interview with the BBC following his engagement. "I think she would be over the moon, jumping up and down, so excited for me." It’s that loving, excitable spirit that shines through these photographs of Diana with her little redheaded boy. "I live for my sons," she once said. "I would be lost without them."

EARLY LESSONS, 1985 Tim Graham/Tim Graham/Getty Images EARLY LESSONS, 1985 Diana with her sons, ages 3 and 11 months. “Don’t call me an icon," she once said. "I’m just a mother trying to help.” HANDLING THE POOF, 1986 Tim Graham/Tim Graham/Getty Images HANDLING THE POOF, 1986 "Behind the media glare, to us, two children, she was quite simply the best mother in the world,” Harry said in a tribute marking the 10th anniversary of Diana's death. GIDDYUP, 1986 Tim Graham/Tim Graham/Getty Images GIDDYUP, 1986 PLAYING ARMY, 1986 Tim Graham/Tim Graham/Getty Images PLAYING ARMY, 1986 FAMILY PORTRAIT, 1986 Tim Graham/Tim Graham/Getty Images FAMILY PORTRAIT, 1986 A MOTHER'S LOVE, 1987 Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images A MOTHER'S LOVE, 1987 "She kissed us last thing at night, her beaming smile greeted us from school," Harry remembered in his 2007 tribute. "She laughed hysterically and uncontrollably when sharing something silly she might have said or done that day." ALONE TIME WITH HIS PARENTS, 1988 Tim Graham/Tim Graham/Getty Images ALONE TIME WITH HIS PARENTS, 1988 "She, like our father, was determined to provide us with a stable and secure childhood." GREETING THE PEOPLE, 1989 Georges De Keerle/Getty Images GREETING THE PEOPLE, 1989 SKI HOLIDAY, 1991 Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images SKI HOLIDAY, 1991 "Every day, depending on what I'm doing, I wonder what it would be like if she was here, and what she would say, and how she would be making everybody else laugh," Harry has said. "Who knows what the situation would be, what the world would be like, if she were still around.” A SPLASHING GOOD TIME, 1992 Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images A SPLASHING GOOD TIME, 1992 "She was one of the naughtiest parents," Harry recalled in the 2017 documentary "Diana, Our Mother." "She would come and watch us play football and, you know, smuggle sweets into our socks." MUMMY'S ESCORT, 1992 Anwar Hussein/WireImage MUMMY'S ESCORT, 1992 TOUR OF GERMANY, 1993 Franziska Krug/Getty Images TOUR OF GERMANY, 1993 Years later Harry would go on to serve his country as a lieutenant in the British Army, and even argue that he be deployed to Iraq (though he was considered too valuable a target and thus a danger to his comrades). “I will fight for my children on any level so they can reach their potential as human beings, and in their public duties,” Diana once said. LOG RIDE, 1993 Julian Parker/UK Press via Getty Images LOG RIDE, 1993 THE ART OF CONVERSATION, 1995 Tim Graham/Tim Graham/Getty Images THE ART OF CONVERSATION, 1995 ONE LAST VACATION, 1997 Pool RAT/REY/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images ONE LAST VACATION, 1997 In this photo taken the summer of her death, Diana enjoys Saint-Tropez with a jet-skiing Harry. "I hope she's looking down [at our family] with tears in her eyes being incredibly proud of what we've established," Harry said in a 2016 interview. "I'm sure she's longing for me to have kids so she can be a grandmother again...but I hope that everything we do privately and officially, that it makes her proud.” SHINING ON, 2007 Andrew Parsons - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images SHINING ON, 2007 In recent years, through his dedication to charitable work, Prince Harry has continued his mother's legacy. "I don’t have that many memories of my childhood with my Mum," he admitted to PEOPLE in 2016. "I don’t say ‘Right, I’m going to get involved in that because that’s what my Mum would want me to do,’ though inevitably once I’m doing it I think, 'Do you know what? She'd probably love this.'"