The One Royal Rule Diana Broke That Made Motherhood Easier for Kate and Meghan
Now, mother and child never have to go a minute apart.
There is no doubt that Princess Diana paved the way for Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle when it comes to bending the royal rules—especially when it comes to raising children. As she famously said to Martin Bashir, in her 1995 Panorama interview, "I don't go by a rule book, because I lead from the heart, not the head."
When Diana put motherhood before the monarchy in a showdown with the Palace in 1983, she forever changed the way her future daughters-in-law could do one important thing: keep their children close at hand when traveling.
Prince William was just nine months old when Diana and Prince Charles were set to embark on a six-week royal tour of Australia and New Zealand in March, 1983. It was Diana's first foreign tour as a member of the royal family. While it was assumed the couple would follow protocol and leave their son back at Kensington Palace in the care of a nanny, Diana was intent on bringing William along with them for the trip. Even more shocking to Palace insiders was her insistence that the family all travel together.
Up until then, the unwritten royal rule that dictated two heirs to the royal throne should never fly on the same plane together—so the royal lineage can be protected—had always been followed. But Diana was adamant: She was not going anywhere without her son by her side. Charles was forced to go to his mother, Queen Elizabeth, for permission—which was, after some discussion, granted.
The trip marked the first time the first and second in line to the throne traveled on the same plane. Subsequently, William and, later, Prince Harry, traveled with their parents on the same plane for official engagements.
"It was an early sign that Diana was going to raise her children her way and was willing to stand up to the Palace in order to do so," one friend of the princess told me. "The fact that she got her way on this issue was something considered quite shocking at the time."
Diana's hands-on approach to parenting was something not seen in the Palace until the princess joined the family. When the Queen was a young mother and set off on official tours, her children never accompanied her. There were times when Charles was just a toddler and was left in the care of his grandmother, the Queen Mother, for months.
Now, 31 years later, Prince William and Kate Middleton made the same trip to Australia and New Zealand with eight-months-old Prince George. In a touching nod to Diana, Kate dressed George in nearly identical clothing William had worn as a baby for his first appearance down under. The significance of the occasion was not lost on William, who told a crowd of well-wishers during the tour: "My mother's deep affection for Australia—which you were so kind to reciprocate—needs no reminder. We really look forward to our time here together as a family. Australia is an inspiring place, as this amazing Opera House shows so vividly, and I know that a truly unforgettable few days lie ahead."
"Diana is never far from William's mind," said the insider. "As a father, he knows he has much to be grateful for, thanks to his mother, who broke down a lot of barriers for Kate in raising their children in as loving an environment as possible."
From that time on, William has been granted special permission from his grandmother to travel with his growing family. Most assuredly, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will do the same thing when Baby Sussex arrives later this year.
"Catherine and Meghan have much to thank Diana for," said my source. "She left a legacy of love to both her sons and taught them that children should always come first in a parent's life. Seeing her sons spending time with their wives and children whenever possible would have made her very happy." And for more on the late princess's heartwarming parenting tactics, This Was Princess Diana's Adorable Nickname for Prince William.
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.
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