The Sweet Ways Prince William Has Taught His Children About Princess Diana
"He's told the children how much they would have loved their grandmother and how she would have adored them."
Prince William celebrated his 38th birthday and Father's Day this past weekend, and based on the photos Kate Middleton shared on Instagram of the duke with their children—Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis—it was a joyous time for the Cambridges. For years, Kate has taken her own stunning photographs of her family and released them on the couple's Instagram and these are easily the most heartwarming images yet of William and the Cambridge kids. While the photos clearly show the Duke of Cambridge reveling in the close bond he has with his family, royal insiders tell me that William has spent the last few months reflecting on the loss of his mother, Princess Diana, perhaps more than ever.
"William misses his mother. There are many times when it has been difficult for him that she's not here to share in the joy of being a grandmother to his children or to help with a family crisis," said a royal insider. "As he gets older, it has become more important to him that Diana be part of his children's lives. So inevitably, on his birthday, his thoughts were with her."
The events of the past few months—including Prince Charles being diagnosed with the coronavirus and Prince Harry moving to the States with Meghan Markle after stepping down from royal life—have made William all the more determined to keep Diana's memory alive for the grandchildren she never got to know.
In the 2017 ITV documentary Diana Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, William spoke poignantly about how he and Kate "constantly talk about 'Granny Diana'" saying, "It's hard because Catherine didn't know her, so she cannot provide that level of detail. So I do, regularly putting George and Charlotte to bed, talk about her and just try to remind them there were two grandmothers in their lives. It's important that they know who she was and that she existed."
And those feelings have only intensified as his children have gotten older. Recently, the duke spoke about the impact that the loss of his mother continues to have on him. In the BBC documentary Football, Prince William and Our Mental Health, he revealed: "Having children is the biggest life-changing moment, it really is… I think when you've been through something traumatic in life… my mother dying when I was younger… your emotions come back, in leaps and bounds. Because it's a different phase of life and there is no one there to kind of help you. I definitely found it very, at times, overwhelming."
At the Cambridge's Kensington Palace apartment as well as their country home, Anmer Hall, in Norfolk, sources say there are several photos of Diana hung up and William often speaks about her to the children. "The duke and duchess have made a special effort to share stories about how the Princess of Wales helped people all over the world and how she inspired William to follow in her path," said the insider. "It's both sad and sweet that he's told the children how much they would have loved their grandmother and how she would have adored them."
While George, Charlotte, and Louis will never feel the love of their paternal grandmother, Kate's recent photographs of her children show just how much of Diana's spirit lives on in them. Ingrid Seward detailed the striking similarities in The Daily Mail, noting Charlotte's sidelong glances directed at photographers (like at Prince Louis' christening in July 2018) are "reminiscent of 'Shy Di' in her bachelor girl days at Coleherne Court in 1980." And while George shares the Spencer coloring and charismatic smile, he also inherited Diana and William's look of "slight apprehensiveness" sometimes seen during official outings.
"William cannot help but see his mother as he looks at his children and watches them grow," said one royal source. "It's both lovely and, at times, a bit sad. It's very bittersweet."
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In 2017, William spoke to British GQ, marking the 20th anniversary of his mother's death. In the interview, he discussed how being a father brought up feelings of tremendous loss. "I would like to have had her advice," he said. "I would love her to have met Catherine and to have seen the children grow up. It makes me sad that she won't, that they will never know her."
William has found great comfort in Kate's support as they keep Diana's memory alive, however painful that may be at times. "Catherine is aware of the enormous influence the Princess of Wales had on William and knows just how much she is still missed by him. The duchess has always shared William's desire to give their children as 'normal' a life as possible and she knows William learned that from his mother," said my source. "William is starting to tell the children more about how Diana showed him and Harry that there is a very big world out there, beyond the Palace walls. With the duchess by his side, it's easier for him to focus on the happy memories, rather than become mired in the pain over the loss." And for more happy memories the Cambridges have shared, check out William and Kate's Most Adorable Couples Moments Through the Years.
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.