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Following an Icon: Kate & Princess Diana

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Today I want to wish a very Happy Canada Day/La F├¬te du Canada Day to my Northern readers. I am currently reviewing William and Kate's tour of Canada over at Kate's Clothes, and today, as everyone recalls, the royals were on Parliament Hill to enjoy the musical performances, and later, the fireworks.  If you are interested in reliving the tour, I am doing an Instagram look-back which you can follow on @KatesClothesDotCom



As you are also probably aware, today would have been the 54th birthday of the late Princess of Wales. In her short and glamorous, yet tragic life, Diana became a worldwide icon of fashion, beauty, and royalty. The fascination with Diana and the sometimes obsessive fixation on everything tied to royalty, has meant that for some royal watchers, we have grown leery of endless conspiracy theories and ludicrous correlations to Diana that are purely meant to sensationalize or capitalize on the popular Princess's reputation.  When Kate Middleton came on the scene, it was inevitable that comparisons between the two women could be drawn. While this seems like a natural connection, it can be taken too far, and the extreme end of the spectrum, such as that bizarre and almost macabre  Newsweek cover, have been justly criticized. As a royal watching community, I think we have collectively swung the pendulum too far, though, in the "No Diana" direction. There is a happy medium between never comparing Kate to Diana and running overboard, as has certainly happened. After all, Diana must be a woman Kate looks up to and in some areas attempt to emulate. How could she not? Diana is her husband's beloved mother, and although she is gone, she is Kate's mother-in-law and the grandmother of her children. They have a strong connection which can and should be pointed out when appropriate.  

Diana in My Favorite Philip Somerville Hat


Even before Kate and William fell in love, Princess Diana had to have had an impact on Kate. As a teenager growing up anywhere in the world, let alone right in Britain, Diana dominated the headlines. She was the most photographed woman in the world and already a massive fashion icon. Kate must have been quite a fan and I imagine she had more than a few glossies covering Diana's style and engagements. When Diana was killed in 1997, Kate would have been 16 years old, easily able to appreciate the tragedy of her death and the trauma that the young princes were experiencing.



Once Kate met William, Diana would have been of even greater interest, and she must have studied the late Princess even more closely. I believe she did look to Diana for fashion inspiration, as would be natural. Kate rented a Philip Somerville hat to attend William's investiture into the Order of the Garter in 2008. While I am sure she was attracted to the style, I can't help but think the label helped in giving the hat a stamp of approval.



Kate also debuted her first (public) Catherine Walker in Canada on July 2nd when she planted an Eastern Hemlock with William near a tree that Princess Diana and Prince Charles planted almost thirty years before. Diana collaborated with Catherine Walker for many of her iconic dresses and I think that both Kate and Carole are nodding to Diana when they choose this label.



Certainly, Kate's dress to present Prince George at St. Mary's appears to have been modeled after Diana's, to say nothing of a number of other pieces including the black McQueen that so strongly echoed Diana's (in)famous black evening gown.


Kate has a penchant for beautiful shoes, and she is in no short supply of Jimmy Choos. Diana has strong connection with Choo, with whom she collaborated on a number of bespoke sky high heels for the Princess in the years leading up to her death. I don't think it is a coincidence that Kate favors the shoe label so heavily.



From the sapphire ring that sparkles on her finger to her various nods to Diana in clothes and millinery, to the name she gave her daughter, Kate is clearly happy and eager to incorporate Diana into her life. This is just what we see on the outside, too. Kate's personal life must be filled with stories and memories of Diana from William and, I am sure, pictures of the Princess's smiling face are not in short supply Chez Cambridge. Diana is obviously a strong presence in Kate's life, and someone she must think about with some regularity.



We have to remember that while Diana's memory has been sensationalized in many areas, Diana is Kate's family, she is William's family. It isn't odd or inappropriate for them to think of her often and pay tribute to her in a million different ways throughout their marriage. In the engagement interview, William rightfully pointed out that no one is asking Kate to fill Diana's shoes, and honestly, I don't know anyone who is. But, filling her shoes is not the same thing as appreciating her style, even echoing some of her iconic moments, or finding ways to emulate her personal strengths. Kate is a strong woman with a strong sense of self. She isn't pressured to be Diana, rather, like anyone following in the footsteps of a admired predecessor, she is finding the good and avoiding the mistakes. We should allow Kate to celebrate Diana and the connection she has to her.

Instagram Post via @KatesClothesDotCom 

17 comments:

  1. Two beautiful ladies - inside and out. I am the same age as Diana and I miss her to this day. There is a photograph of her in my house - never forgotten­čśÇ. I love how William and Kate pay tribute to her. She is much loved, as are they and, if course Harry. Lovely post xx

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  2. Wonder if they paid a visit to her grave

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    1. They probably did. I remember hearing that leading up to the wedding they visited the grave, and I'm sure they have since without a headline.

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    2. It was reported that in the days before their wedding, William and Kate were seen leaving Althorp. Since his uncle and family had not yet arrived in country, the assumption was that William had taken Kate to his mother's grave.

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    3. I remember hearing about her passing, seeing a display of her dresses at Kensington Palace in 2008, and the memories of her always on magazine covers. So I agree that she is even more of a force in Kate's life today, and would have influenced Kate before she even met William.

      Occasionally I wonder if the rumors were true that Kate was being groomed by watching old Diana videos to watch how she moved, exited cars, etc...

      Thanks for the Canada Day shout-out! We aren't as patriotic as you Americans tend to be, but we still have a good day and appreciate our country. I loved William & Kate's Canadian tour, and miss her fun fashion statements like the red shoes & hat on Canada Day.

      Amanda, Canada

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  3. Diana really was one of the most photogenic women of all time. I'm struck by that each time I see her image. The PS hat is a favorite of mine too. I love the turban element and the angle at which it was worn.... and everything else about it. As a matter of fact, the whole outfit looks current and chic even after all this time. I would love to see Kate in something similar.

    I understand how William and, therefore, Kate want to include Diana's memory as much as possible in the milestones of their lives. I lost my father suddenly when I was eighteen, and I know how traumatic and life altering that experience is. It leaves this raw, huge gaping hole that slowly gets smaller as life goes on but never fully heals and it becomes part of who you are. By incorporating symbolic tributes to his mother in his daily family life, William is striving to keep her memory alive in him as well as his family, and I find it both touching and appropriate.

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    1. I completely agree Faith, I'm eighteen now and one year ago this month I lost one of my best friends in a plane crash, for me too it was traumatic and life altering and not a day since has gone by when I haven't thought about him, it is only right that William would want to be keeping his mother's memory alive, and I too think its appropriate.

      By the way thank you Jane for your blog, I read all your posts though I rarely comment and I really enjoyed this post, I find Diana so interesting (either though I was born 2 months before she died so I don't remember anything of her), and think its fine to compare Kate to her sometimes.

      Rebecca

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    2. I am so sorry Rebecca. Life is unfair and incomprehensible at times. I think if we can live life to its fullest and be the best person we can be, we honor those we
      have lost, and through their memory, they remain with us in our hearts. That can never be taken away.

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  4. Thank you for this. I was born 1 year after Diana and I was a huge fan of hers. I've sometimes wondered whether I dare mention her because, as you state, sometimes it seems the pendulum is at the "no Diana" point. Nice to hear you acknowledge her as a presence in the lives of William and Kate.

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  5. So beautifully put, Jane! I love how naturally both Kate and William honor Diana, how genuine everything they do feels, and how they are always appropriate. Everything you said about Diana's influence in Kate's life is true, and I truly believe the two women would have been very close. William is so lucky to have found a partner who is as unpretentious, sincere, loving, and kind as his mother. A blessing for him and their children. :)

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    1. You summed it up perfectly, Diane. My sentiments exactly.

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  6. two notable ladies prince William hearts and two notable fashion icon I look up plus the fact they are just not a fashion icon they have very beautiful inside and outside hearts but they have their own style I told my friends not compare them

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  7. I have just seen a picture of the silver coin, issued to commemorate the Christening of Princess Charlotte which is very similar to the one issued for Prince George---the main difference is that she has all three of her names on the coin.

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    1. Hurray! :) This does emphasize Charlotte's link to her grandmother.

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  8. Off-topic, but Jane will you consider adding buttons to "jump" to the comments section from the top of the post, and also to "jump" to the first comment from the last one? It can take a lot of scrolling to maneuver, unless I'm doing it wrong? Thanks!

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  9. The perfect Diana to Kate ratio. Well done! I love that they publicly honor Diana especially as she was such a controversial figure within the royal family. I think that Kate and William have not only honored her, and that Kate sometimes follows her fashion sense, I think they have both learned from the mistakes made all around during Diana's lifetime.

    Just food for thought but I also wonder if Kate gets more time with her children because William and Harry would have liked more time with Diana. She was, after all, as the Princess of Wales and the "next" Queen, required to have her engagement calendar always full! Kate has the blessing of one generation between her and the throne. Diana also had an unhappy home life and needed her charity work to sustain her sense of self worth. I think Diana is smiling down on William and Kate.

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    1. Robin, I believe there is a lot to be said for your "food for thought". I truly believe it is part of the equation. Plus, they have the benefit of Charles being next in line...the same position he was in when William was born.

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