The Duke of Cambridge recalls feeling ‘like the whole world was dying’ when he worked as an air ambulance pilot

The Duke of Cambridge gets frank

rince William, Duke of Cambridge arrives to meet with military personnel and veterans
(Image credit: Photo by Jeff J Mitchell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Prince William has spoken frankly about the emotional toll of being an air ambulance pilot.

Prince William has given a rare insight into what life as an air ambulance pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) was really like.

The Duke may be second in line to the British throne and arguably one of the most senior and influential members of the royal family, but from March 2015 to July 2017, Prince William was “fully involved in every job” with the EAAA—from saving people’s lives with CPR and seeing the very worst happen.

He described “seeing patients and families ripped apart on almost a daily basis,” so it’s no surprise the work took an emotional toll on the Duke. But one particular incident haunted Prince William for weeks afterwards.

The team were called to an incident involving a young boy who had been seriously injured after being hit by a car.

With three children of his own, this felt close to home for the Duke. 

“Of course there's some things in life you don't really want to see. And all we cared about at the time was fixing this boy. And the parents are very hysterical, as you can imagine, screaming, wailing, not knowing what to do, you know, and in, in real agony themselves. And that lives with you.”

While most people leave work behind at night, Prince William took that trauma home with him.

“I went home that night pretty upset but not noticeably. I wasn't in tears, but inside, I felt something had changed. I felt a sort of, a real tension inside of me,” he said.

William went on to describe a darkness and depression that haunted him in the weeks that followed.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge and Prince Louis of Cambridge clap for NHS carers

(Image credit: Photo by Comic Relief/BBC Children in Need/Comic Relief via Getty Images)

“It really hit me weeks later. It was like someone had put a key in a lock and opened it without me giving permission to do that,” he recalled.

“I felt like the whole world was dying. It's an extraordinary feeling. You just feel everyone's in pain, everyone's suffering. And that's not me. I've never felt that before... I kept looking at myself, going, ‘Why am I feeling like this? Why do I feel so sad?’ And I started to realize that, actually, you're taking home people's trauma, people's sadness, and it's affecting you.”

At Prince William’s request Apple have made five-figure donations to three mental health charities-Shout, Crisis Text Line and Lifeline.

Georgia Farquharson

Georgia writes across Woman & Home and Good to Know and specialises in all things royal. Previously labelled the "Queen of the royals," Georgia knows the whose who and what's what when it comes to the monarchy. When she's not eagerly following the royal family, Georgia enjoys shopping and self-care. She lives with this motto in mind; "if your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough."