How does Kate Middleton compare with Princess Diana?
Kate Middleton will be following in Diana’s footsteps when she marries into the Royal Family as The Firm’s next potential People’s Princess.
But how exactly does she compare to the bashful royal bride who became the world’s most photographed woman?
Catherine Elizabeth Middleton entered the public arena in a more assured way than Lady Diana Spencer.
Confident and poised, observers say she has all the appearance of someone who has been groomed for royal duty, possessing a knowing look, secure in her knowledge of William’s affections and intentions.
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Diana, in contrast, emerged as ”Shy Di”. She was demure and blushed as she posed for her engagement pictures, her eyes peering out from under her long fringe.
Both came to the nation’s attention in see-through outfits – but in markedly different ways.
Eager to please, Diana posed up for the cameras at the kindergarten where she worked in September 1980, five months before her engagement to the Prince of Wales.
But she was oblivious to the fact she was backlit by the sun and that her legs could be seen through her long pale-coloured skirt.
In 2002, Kate strode down a catwalk at a charity fashion show in a transparent dress with black knickers and bra underneath, in front of an audience and future beau William.
When one friend once remarked she was lucky to be with William, Kate reportedly quipped: ”He’s lucky to be going out with me.”
In contrast, in the early days of Diana’s relationship with Charles, she ventured to say to one of his confidants: ”If I am lucky enough to be the Princess of Wales….”
She was 19 when she became betrothed to Charles. Kate, at 28, is nine years older than Diana was.
Better educated with A Levels and a degree in history of art under her belt, Kate is more worldly wise and on an equal footing with her fiance.
Diana was 13 years younger than the Prince of Wales, but Kate is five months older than William and they have already lived together at St Andrews.
She hails from a far steadier family background than William’s mother.
Her parents are still together, sparing her any of the anguish suffered by Diana, whose own split acrimoniously when she was only young.
Her non-aristocratic background differs from the posh Spencer circles of Diana – whose sister married the Queen’s private secretary and whose grandmother was a confidant of the Queen Mother.
Charles was under pressure to find a wife and Diana fitted the bill.
The Prince told a friend he was sure he could fall in love with her, but we now know his heart was already taken by Camilla Parker Bowles.
He had been heir to the throne since he was three years old and was well aware it was his duty to secure the monarchy’s future.
Lord Mountbatten advised Charles to find a virgin bride and Diana seemed ideal.
Kate and William, in contrast, are not under the same time pressures. William is still only second-in-line to the throne.
However, Kate has not escaped speculation as to her traditional suitability as an untouched royal bride.
The Spectator magazine once commented that she ”may still have her V-plates intact”.
While Kate is a brunette and Diana was blonde, both are tall and willowy and deemed English Roses.
Both were educated at public school where they were popular and sporty, captaining the hockey team and excelling at tennis.
Diana had a warmth and openness which attracted Charles, something Kate is said to possess too.
Their backgrounds were clear of potential tabloid fodder. Diana appeared squeaky clean, as does Kate, although she was known to moon out of the window at boys at boarding school.
Both admired their men from afar.
Diana had a childhood crush on Charles while Kate had a poster of William in her dorm at Marlborough College.
Diana, at her first official royal event with Charles after their engagement in March 1981, was pictured arriving in her car at Goldsmiths Hall wearing a plunging strapless evening gown.
In December 2006, Kate unwittingly flashed a fishnet clad thigh as she got into a car after a night-out with William and Harry.
Kate, like Diana, is keenly aware of her actions in front of the media.
Press who doorstepped Diana in the early days found her friendly, Kate too has politely told photographers she cannot pose for pictures, helpfully giving them just enough time to take a snap.
She has endured intense press attention outside her own home, like Diana did, as speculation gathered pace that she could be the country’s next Queen.
Before her own engagement, Diana once broke down in tears at the intrusion, prompting photographers to place a note of apology under her windscreen wiper.
Her mother, Frances Shand Kydd, wrote to The Times to complain about ”harassment”.
Kate is already of tougher sorts. Former newspaper editor Piers Morgan wrote: ”I’ve rarely seen anyone enjoy the attentions of a camera lens quite like Prince William’s squeeze.”
Indeed, Kate does possess a confidence when on show. She was seemingly unfazed as she entered the Sandhurst parade ground for William’s graduation flanked by his private secretary as everyone but the Queen and the Prince of Wales was already seated.
But her intention to keep the media at bay is clear. Before her engagement Diana invited a newspaper journalist into her flat for a chat and a cup of tea.
Kate is well aware it would be a risky move. She has kept quiet so far and, knowing William’s distrust of the press, will continue to do so unless at official events or photocalls.
She already has her own lawyer – who also represents the Prince of Wales – and he swiftly set about writing to newspaper editors to protest at her harassment and pursued media outlets if he believed her privacy had been breached.
Diana became skilled at using the media for her own agenda, from her interview on Panorama, to the moment she turned up in a striking black cocktail dress on the night Charles admitted infidelity on television.
The cameras were still clicking years later as she lay dying inside a mangled Mercedes in an underpass in Paris.
As Kate prepares to enter the Royal Family, the public will be asking whether she is able to take up Diana’s mantle as their favourite Princess.
Keeping her mouth shut and with a lawyer in tow, Kate is already acting on the hindsight that Diana’s legacy left behind.
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