LONDON -- They appeared without warning, two young boys in suits and ties solemnly accepting bouquets and thanking the throngs of teary-eyed well-wishers at Kensington Palace with a grace and composure well beyond their tender years.
The world next saw them walking slowly, dry-eyed, behind their mother's flag-draped coffin, holding back their sobs until the cameras were forced to pull away inside Westminster Abbey.
In the year since Princess Diana's death, her two beloved boys -- Prince William, now 16, and Prince Harry, 13 -- have done their growing-up and grieving in private, fiercely guarded by a royal family determined to protect them from a world that could never get enough of their mother.
The spokeswoman for their father, Prince Charles, firmly refuses to make even a general statement about the boys' welfare these 12 months later.
The chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Lord Wakeham, says he understands the intense media interest in William, destined for the throne, but insists it "must not be intrusive into his heart and soul."
William, so much the physical embodiment of his mother with his blond fringe, shy smile and lanky frame, is a student at Eton, which also zealously guards his privacy.
But several things are known: He loves techno music, his black Labrador Widgeon, action-adventure fiction and all kinds of sports (his swimming trunks read "W.O.W.," for William of Wales). And he loathes the heartthrob status accorded him by the shrieking girls who have swarmed his few public appearances in the past year.
Red-haired Harry, easy-going and said not to be too academically inclined, will join his older brother at Eton this fall. He met the Spice Girls with undisguised glee during an official visit to South Africa with his father, and also traveled to France for the World Cup soccer championships.
The boys' uncle, Earl Spencer, famously promised his sister in his eulogy that the Spencers would join in shepherding the pair "so that their souls are not simply immersed by duty and tradition but can sing openly as you planned."
But Diana's sons have clearly chosen to remain tightly within the royal family's folds, and declined an overture to spend the Aug. 31 anniversary of their mother's death with their uncle.
Diana was renowned for her attachment to her boys. But the strong bond between the Windsor men also is apparent -- in Charles' genuine delight when William tried out some funky dance moves during an official visit to Canada, in the natural way Harry slipped his hand into Charles' for comfort in the days after Diana's death, in the casual, heartfelt kiss William gave his father when they parted one day this month.
This summer, William even consented to a low-key meeting -- his first ever -- with his father's longtime love Camilla Parker Bowles, who made Diana so very unhappy.
The notoriously prying tabloids have mostly behaved with restraint toward the boys -- though all bets are off when William acquires his first girlfriend.
Their maternal grandmother, Frances Shand Kydd, has said the boys just seek "privacy in private times."
Mrs. Shand Kydd said her greatest hope is that William and Harry "grow up to be themselves, that they will literally become themselves, the natural process of growing up."
"I wouldn't want them to be, or expect them to be, pointed in the direction of being a shadow of their mother, because they are themselves," she said. "My hopes are they have peace, love, affection and protection to become themselves as adults."