So how would Diana have coped with Kate William says he wishes his mother had met Kate. But would the original royal fashion icon have seen her as an ally – or rival
08:36 GMT, 31 May 2012
Just imagine, for a moment, that Diana had lived and that this weekend she was joining the Royal Family at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee jamboree, her place assured as the mother of a future king.
Just what thoughts would be flooding through her mind as she gazed at the slender figure of her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cambridge, knowing that cameras everywhere were locked on Kate
Prince William, in an interview this week with America’s ABC network, spoke of his regrets that his mother would never know his wife. ‘I’m just sad she’s never going to get a chance to meet Kate,’ he said.
Style icons: The Duchess of Cambridge has the kind of love Princess Diana always wanted, having felt unloved and discarded for another woman
But what if she had No doubt, Diana would have adored her. But on a dazzling occasion such as this weekend’s Jubilee, might Diana’s mind not have wondered how many cameras were focused on her, and how many on Kate
Once they would have been trained only on Diana. But now there is a new ‘People’s Princess’, one who probably has even greater claim to that emotive title because she is a true commoner, unlike Diana — an earl’s daughter.
Kate is 30 and Diana would by now be almost 51. A glamorous 51, however, no doubt about that. But doesn’t the modern monarchy survive on a regular injection of youth and new faces
Diana would, of course, also have been incredibly proud, and taken great pleasure in the popularity that surrounds her son, especially since his marriage 13 months ago to the middle-class girl from the Berkshire village of Bucklebury.
In particular, as her eyes this weekend would have fallen upon the Duchess of Cornwall, she would have been delighted — and highly amused — that William and Kate’s popularity far exceeds that of her ex-husband the Prince of Wales and the former Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles.
And yet, at the same time, Diana is bound to have been somewhat envious of her daughter-in-law.
For the magnitude of the Diamond Jubilee and the prominence of Kate alongside the Queen would be signalling the end of her own authority, not just as a fashion icon but as the focus of world attention for being the woman all the world wants to meet.
It would not have been easy for her. But the key reason for her envy would not have been over the younger woman’s glamour and style, but for something much closer to home: that Kate has the kind of love Diana always wanted.
Consider Diana’s sweet-and-sour contemplation on that point. She was a wife who felt unloved and discarded for another woman, and had to live with a husband who set the tone of his own tragic marriage by waving away talk of ‘love’ and muttering those infamous four words, ‘whatever “in love” means’.
Striking a pose: Princess Diana in September 1996 and The Duchess of Cambridge in July last year
Kate, meanwhile, is a wife ‘adored’ by Diana’s own son — he having told the world: ‘We are looking forward to spending the rest of our lives together’ — and who talks enthusiastically of having a family.
None of Diana’s friends are at all surprised that William is so romantic. It is, they say, how she taught him to be.
‘He may have been only 15 when Diana died, but he’s her son through and through,’ says one. ‘Yes, she would feel envious of Kate having such a caring and loving husband — but she would also be thrilled for her.’
On the surface, at least, there is no comparison between Diana and the former Catherine Middleton.
Kate is dark and calm, while Diana was blonde and hot-headed. Kate exudes a quiet assurance — even as a brand-new royal — that has drawn widespread praise, while Diana was a mass of uncertainties. Kate is a university graduate with a degree in history of art, while Diana famously left school without so much as an O-level.
The reason for her envy would not
have been over the younger woman’s glamour and style, but for something
much closer to home: that Kate has the kind of love Diana always
As for their home lives, it is the stark difference between Kate’s and William’s that is most intriguing.
Kate grew up in a loving family with parents who did everything together, even going into business together; William spent the first half of his life in a household that frequently echoed with tears and arguments.
It is said, of course, that children who suffer the trauma of growing up in a home with a warring atmosphere often repeat the circumstances in their own lives.
This is precisely what happened to Diana, whose own parents went through an acrimonious divorce and a tug-of-war over custody of the children, which her mother lost.
And so history repeated itself when an eight-year-old William, arrived home from his prep school, begged his mother: ‘Please don’t cry,’ and shoved Kleenex under the bathroom door.
And yet William grew up to be the kind of man who enjoys sharing the washing-up and the cooking with his wife.
Diana, a romantic, would have viewed this domestic contentment as the natural outcome for a girl prepared to wait eight years for a man she fell in love with at university.
How ruefully she would have compared this with her own marriage to a man she barely knew and was addressing as ‘Sir’ in the first weeks of their courtship.
In the public eye: Diana may also have had mixed feelings about the praise Kate has received for her informal style on public engagements
Some people — an age ago, it seems now — mocked ‘Waity Katy’. Diana would not have done so. Friends say she would have admired Kate for the way she went about getting her man, because she, Diana, knew about being in love, even if her husband didn’t.
So much so that she was prepared to abandon her glittering life to marry Dr Hasnat Khan, the Pakistani heart surgeon with whom she had an affair after the end of her marriage.
Khan put a stop to such thoughts by explaining to her that he had to return to Pakistan to help his own people, and she would never be separated from William and Harry.
It is suggested that Kate’s cover-girl beauty might have led Diana to feeling upstaged. Really
One of Diana’s friends said yesterday that the Princess would have been ‘really happy’ that William had married a girl whose looks attracted admiring glances. With a grimace, the friend added: ‘But every day Diana would have been looking closely in the mirror for crows’ feet.’
have been jealous of the way Prince Charles has taken Kate under
his wing, accompanying her to the opera and sharing private
She might also have had mixed feelings at the praise Kate has received for her informal style on official engagements — a style that was totally foreign to the Royal Family until Diana herself introduced it.
Certainly, one area where Diana might have been jealous of Kate is the way Prince Charles has taken her under his wing, accompanying her to concerts and the opera and sharing private suppers.
As a woman, Diana would have seen this as Charles usurping her maternal role in having common ground with her daughter-in-law.
But the fact is, she frequently found her relationships with female friends difficult to sustain. The slightest slip or word out of place which she felt was hurtful would mean that the friend — men, too, incidentally — was expelled from her circle.
For example, she fell out with her mother for talking about her in a magazine interview (and never had time to make up before her death in the Paris underpass), and she fell out with her best friend the Duchess of York who wrote about her in her memoirs, having promised not to.
She also fell out with Tiggy Legge-Bourke, her sons’ nanny employed by Charles, believing (wrongly) that they were having an affair, but also reacting with a mother’s fury to what she saw as Tiggy’s over-zealous cuddling of the children.
Everyone knows it is not uncommon for mothers-in-law to feel somewhat irrelevant when a son gets married. For Diana, the role would have likely been hugely more painful simply because of William’s unusual closeness to his in-laws, the Middletons, with whom he and Kate spend many weekends and holidays.
Here, dismay and frustration might have lain in wait for Diana. William’s words about wanting to have children — which most people now accept has been put on hold so as not to upstage the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee — are likely to be timely. Courtiers expect Kate to be pregnant soon.
And as every husband’s mother knows, their son’s wife traditionally turns to their own mother for help with the baby. Diana would have been upset by this. After all, look how wisely she brought up her own sons, telling them they had to ‘become men before they could be princes’, and showing them life in the real world outside their walls of privilege. She would feel she had much to offer.
So there could have been an awkward rivalry between Princess Diana and Carole Middleton, another elegant woman in her 50s. And not just over babies.
Since her elder daughter married into the Royal Family, 56-year-old Mrs Middleton’s wardrobe has expanded startlingly and expensively.
Diana always loved clothes. Designers clamoured to dress her. Bad enough they were now pirouetting around Kate, who is straying away from the High Street and wearing some costly couture numbers these days. But would they now cluster around her well-preserved mother as well
Of course, all this is conjecture. But as William said in his TV interview this week, it would have been ‘fantastic’ if Diana had been here now.
And such fun.