Prince William honours his mother’s legacy with support for young anti-bullying ambassadors
The Duke of Cambridge has honoured his mother’s legacy by throwing his weight behind an anti-bullying campaign, telling young sufferers it was “heartbreaking” to hear how it had impacted their lives.
The Duke surprised teenage ambassadors from The Diana Award, the only charity bearing the Princess’s name, by making a surprise appearance on a video call to show his admiration for their work during Anti-Bullying Week.
Despite lockdown measures, the charity has reported that 46 per cent of young people surveyed have been bullied during the past 12 months as abuse increasingly transfers online.
The Duke’s participation in the call was arranged before he broke his silence over the BBC Panorama scandal surrounding claims that journalist Martin Bashir exploited the Princess’s vulnerability.
He listened to four young people describe how they endured a torrid time at the hands of bullies before vowing to help others experiencing similar problems.
He told them: “It’s just horrible and it’s very moving to hear you guys talk about how you want to help others and make sure that doesn’t happen to anyone else.
Prince William pictured with his mother
Credit: Tim Graham
“That is the most important thing, that you realise this isn’t going to beat you and you want to make sure that others are not going to go through the same torment that you guys have gone through.
“But I’m just so sorry that you’ve experienced these circumstances and these bullies. It’s heartbreaking to hear how much of an impact it’s had on your schooling, your life, and things like that.”
The Diana Award was created in 1999 as part of Britain’s official response to the Princess’s death two years earlier. It has trained more than 35,000 young people as anti-bullying ambassadors, working to help victims in schools and communities.
The Duke, like his brother Prince Harry, has been an enthusiastic supporter of the initiative, attending regular events on its behalf.
The four teenagers invited to join a video conversation about bullying on Thursday had no idea it would be with the future King.
When he appeared on screen, Rose Agnew, 14, from Warwick, screamed: “No way, no way,” in delight.
“Well at least one of you recognised me,” the Duke joked. “The other three are not quite sure.”
The Duke asked if bullying had been exacerbated by lockdown and was told that as life had moved online, so had the abuse.
“Not only was it harder to intervene, it was harder to kind of get to the root of those problems,” Rose said.
“People would kind of forget the respect that they owe each other and how they should be treating other people.”
Isabel Broderick, 15, from Cannock, Staffs, told him she had been targeted by an anonymous online account that threatened to publish fabricated information about her.
She never found out who was responsible and it took two years to pluck up the courage to tell her mother.
“That’s a lot for you to live with, that stress, that anxiety, that pressure,” the Duke said. “That’s horrible for you to have to live with that for so long.”
Princes William and Harry at the Diana Award's Inaugural Legacy Awards in 2017
Credit: Paul Grover
Rose told the Duke she had wanted to become an ambassador to help others.
“When people hate you for a factor that you can’t control and that you can’t change, it just makes you feel so powerless,” she said.
“Obviously there is nothing I can do to change my skin colour. And knowing that there are people that from the minute I was born essentially hated me just for that reason, definitely when I was younger I found that really hard to deal with.”
She said there should be anti-bullying ambassadors in every school and that such peer-to-peer mentoring would have been hugely beneficial to her when she was suffering.
The Duke Rose, Isabel, Jude Bedford, 16, from Cambridge and Paige Keen, 14, from Norwich: “Clearly, you guys have all taken this on and beaten it, which is fantastic. Because it can – and, sadly it does – get on top of too many people and some of them can’t come through it.”