The late Princess Diana was infamously hounded by the paparazzi up until her death in 1997.
At the time, her nieces Lady Amelia and Lady Eliza Spencer were just 5 years old. Now 28, the twins are reflecting on how Diana shielded them from the cameras and taught them some tactics on how to evade photographers.
For Tatler's March issue, out Feb. 1, Amelia and Eliza remembered accompanying Diana to the chilly Noordhoek Beach in Cape Town, South Africa, where the girls were approached by a photographer.
Eliza explained, "Obviously it could have been quite terrifying for us, being so young and not understanding what was happening. But she turned it into a game of who could get back to the car first."
She continued, "It was amazing how she protected us in a way that made us feel safe and not frightened. We had no idea what she was doing at the time."
Eliza said, to them, the woman known to the world as the people's princess was always simply their aunt.
"Growing up in South Africa, I really had very little idea of how significant she was in the world until I was much older," she said. "As a child, I realised the enormity of the loss for my father and family. It was only later that I came to understand the significance of the loss of her as a figure in the world." (Their father, Earl Charles Spencer, is the younger brother of Diana.)
As for what Eliza does remember of Diana, she recalled her being "incredibly warm, maternal and loving," adding, "She always made an effort to connect with us as children and had a talent for reading children's hearts."
She also explained her family was "very open" about discussing mental health, a topic that Diana helped to de-stigmatize during her reign. It seems the twins are continuing her legacy of shining a light on the importance of candid conversations.
Eliza shared, "It was never something that we felt afraid to talk about when we had our own struggles."
Amelia nodded, adding, "We have come a long way in terms of the conversations, and I hope there will come a time when the stigma is completely removed and that people will be able to ask for help and not feel judged for having mental health issues or struggling emotionally."
In a 2017 interview, Diana's son Prince Harry opened up about his own mental state and the grief he felt after losing his mother. He said, "My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand and refusing to ever think about my mom because why would that help. It's only going to make you sad. It's never going to bring her back."
Harry, now 36, went on, "I can safely say that losing my mom at the age of 12 and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but also my work as well." He said, "It was only three years ago that, from the support around [me] and my brother and other people around who started to say, 'You need to deal with this. It's not normal to think that nothing's affecting you.'"