A Body Language Expert Studied Prince William’s Eyes During The Funeral. Here’s What They Found

Attending the funeral of a loved one is an anguishing time for anyone, but it has to be even more painful when you have millions of strangers watching your grief play out on TV and livestream. Case in point: the funeral of Prince Philip. The royal patriarch was laid to rest with only his closest family and friends in attendance, all doing their best to maintain their composure in the midst of their sorrow. Much as they tried to keep their emotions in check, however, the royals’ body language did reveal some hints about what was going on behind their stoic expressions. 

Prince William, the third of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s eight grandchildren, underwent particular scrutiny during the ceremony. Not only did he have a close relationship with his grandfather, he also was facing the uncomfortable prospect of interacting with his brother, Prince Harry, for the first time since the polarizing Oprah interview. To find out what might have been going through his mind, Nicki Swift spoke to Damali Peterman, Esq., a body language expert and founder of Breakthrough ADR, a commercial conflict-resolution consulting and training firm. She noted that the prince’s stance and expressions were typical of what might be expected of a royal, since he “was born into a duty that was on full display during his grandfather’s funeral.”

Still, while the prince kept his feelings under wraps during the solemn procession to the chapel, Peterman said that his expressions during the service — particularly his eye movements — hinted at his state of mind.

Prince William may have been trying to hold back his emotions

Peterman noticed that during the Royal Naval Piping Party’s whistled call to attention just before the duke’s casket was carried into the chapel, Prince William distinctly clenched his jaw. Although “[t]here is no way to tell with certainty” why he did so, Peterman said that this tension could mean a number of things, including “trying not to show emotion.” (She says people sometimes do this when they’re trying to stay awake — an unlikely scenario in this case.) 

The first reading at the simple service was a passage from Ecclesiasticus describing the Lord’s power to affect the weather and command the sea (via WalesOnline). During this time, William was seen showing “a rapid and frequent blinking,” explained Peterman. Again, this behavior can be prompted by a variety of reasons, including “trying to stay awake, trying not to cry, trying to focus, trying to maintain stoicism, [or] processing data.” She noted that blinking can either signal stress or relaxation, depending on the person and the circumstances. William may have been trying to hold his sorrow in check, or perhaps he was feeling relieved that he could simply sit and focus on listening to the clergy and choir.

Interestingly, Peterman discovered that Prince William’s demeanor and walking “was more relaxed” after the service, when he and brother Harry came together for the first time in more than a year. Despite the reported chilliness between them, she said, their body language showed an ease and cordiality with “no conflict between them.” Could this spell the beginning of that long-awaited truce?

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