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  • Rachel Burchfield

The Duchesses pay homage to Diana


Last night, I was laying in bed and couldn’t sleep. So, as one does, I pulled up William and Kate’s and then, subsequently, Harry and Meghan’s engagement interviews. (I also watched Charles and Diana’s engagement interview and, let me say, we’ve come a long way, baby.)

I so rarely hear Kate speak that I had forgotten what her voice sounded like. She is nervous, obviously (who wouldn’t be?), but polished and proper. There are little moments where her dry sense of humor comes out and you just know that she’s got that kind of humor that lays dormant and then sneaks up on you. That type of humor makes me laugh the most – it’s unexpected. She’s wearing a blue Issa dress – remember that dress from the November 2010 announcement and how it sold out thisfast? – and it’s reminiscent of the blue dress Diana wore in her own engagement interview to Charles back in February 1981. That’s what this blog is about – how the Duchesses honor Diana, who was and is such a central, important figure in William and Harry’s lives.

Anyway, back to Kate’s interview. The question about Diana is inevitable, as William has given Kate Diana’s sapphire and diamond engagement ring as her own engagement ring. Her sapphire blue dress sets off the gorgeous ring.

“Marrying into this family, you know, one of the world’s most famous families – William’s mother was probably one of the most famous women of the age,” asks the interviewer. “That’s not going to be easy. Do you think about it or find it intimidating or are you relaxed about it?”

“I am…” Kate stumbles over her words. This is the moment of the interview where she loses her bearings a little bit. “She’s very inspirational – yeah, I do.”

“There’s no pressure,” William sweeps in. “It’s about carving her own future. No one’s trying to fill my mother’s shoes and what she did is fantastic. It’s about making her own future, her own destiny and Kate will do a very good job of that.”

And, eight and a half years since this interview was recorded, she has. Yet Kate – and, now, Meghan – are very good, superb, actually, at paying homage to Diana, to incorporating her into their fashion, their jewelry, and their work, paying tribute and honoring her in sometimes very blatant, obvious ways but sometimes in more subtle ways.

To understand why they do this, you must understand that William and Harry were very, very close to their mother. Their mother, trapped in a relatively loveless marriage – just look at she and Charles’ engagement interview above and cringe when Charles says “Whatever in love means” – loved her sons with an intensity that was fierce and palpable. Very unlike the stiff upper lip British monarchy, she hugged her sons. She took her sons to McDonald’s. She took them on visits to the charity work she did. Her sons were her life, and she was, by even her staunchest detractors’ accounts, an incredible mother. She was killed in a Paris car crash in 1997, when William was 15 and Harry 12. Both of her sons have discussed the spiral into mental illness and anguish that ensued after her death, and that is why mental health is such a platform for both of them now in their work as senior royals. So, it makes sense that Kate and Meghan want to honor this woman – a woman the world loved, yes, but whose sons adored her.

Towards the end of Meghan’s interview, the subject of her ring comes up. The larger center diamond is sourced from Botswana – the country where Harry and Meghan fell in love in the summer of 2016 – and the two accompanying diamonds on either side are from Diana’s collection.

“What does it mean to you to have those stones and know they once belonged to Princess Diana?” the interviewer asks her.

“I think everything about Harry’s thoughtfulness is – and the inclusion of that…Obviously not being able to meet his mom is…it’s so important to me to know that she’s a part of this with us…in some way I’m able to know a part of her…of course through him and it’s incredibly special to be able to have this, which sort of links where you [Harry] come from and Botswana, which is important to us. It’s perfect,” she said, confident and assured.

“What do you think your mother would have thought of Meghan or said about Meghan?” the interviewer asks Harry.

“I think they would be thick as thieves, without question, and she would be over the moon, jumping up and down, so excited for me, but they would have been best friends,” he said. “It is days like today when I really miss having her around, to share the happy news, but with the ring and everything else that’s going on I’m sure – ”

“She’s with us,” Meghan interjects.

“I’m sure she’s with us, yeah, jumping up and down somewhere,” Harry said.

Here’s how Kate and Meghan make sure that Diana is there, keeping her sacred memory alive as best they can:

· Through jewelry: Not only do both of their engagement rings have Diana incorporated, but the Duchesses wear jewelry from Diana’s collection frequently. They don’t overdo it, leaving the moments when they do borrow from her collection to have maximum impact. Examples – when Meghan wore Diana’s aquamarine ring to her wedding reception, or when Kate recently wore a pair of Diana’s pearl and diamond drop earrings to the BAFTAs (the U.K. Oscars) this year.

· Through fashion: Kate especially loves to replicate Diana’s looks and give them a modern, classic twist, most notably at the births of her children. For the birth of Prince George in July 2013, Kate stepped out at the Lindo Wing wearing a blue Jenny Packham dress with white polka dots that looked similar to the dress Diana wore when she introduced Prince William on those same steps in June 1982, right down to the white polka dots. Then, when she introduced Prince Louis in April 2018, she wore a red dress that matched the red dress Diana wore to introduce Prince Harry in September 1984. Kate dresses to pay tribute to Diana, using style as a vehicle to honor her.

· Through flowers: It is widely known that Diana’s favorite flower was the forget me not – when she was a little girl, Diana’s younger brother gave some to her and her love for them never wavered after the sweet gesture. Meghan recently honored that factoid in her Mother’s Day Instagram post, where she is seen holding Archie’s feet in front of forget me nots. The post also reads, poignantly, “Paying tribute to all mothers today – past, present, mothers-to-be, and those lost but forever remembered.” Meghan’s wedding bouquet, if you’ll remember from a previous post, also featured forget me nots, and at Kate’s Chelsea flower show garden this past weekend, Diana’s favorite flower is planted and displayed behind Kate as she swings on a rope swing in the garden (I seriously love this photo of her, pictured above).

· Through photo ops: When William and Kate visited Australia in 2014, they posed in front of Ayers Rock in a nearly identical photo to when Charles and Diana visited the site in 1983 – with baby William in tow.

· Through names: One of the most obvious ways the Duchesses have honored Diana is when Kate gave her daughter the middle name Diana upon her birth in May 2015. If and when Harry and Meghan have a daughter, one can surmise Diana’s name might appear somehow.

· Through song: When William and Kate married in 2011, Kate walked down the aisle to the song “I Was Glad” by Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, which was also the anthem of Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981. At Harry and Meghan’s 2018 ceremony, the hymn “Guide Me, O Thy Great Redeemer” was sung; eagle eyed Royal Watchers will remember the same hymn was sung at Diana’s 1997 funeral. Also from the funeral, no one will forget Elton John – a dear friend of the late princess – performing “Candle in the Wind.” Sir Elton performed again for the Royal Family, this time for a happier occasion, at Harry and Meghan’s lunchtime reception on their wedding day, in addition to being a guest at the wedding itself.

William has said in the press that Diana would be the greatest grandmother – I agree. I wonder how she would have gotten along with Kate and Meghan and what that dynamic would have been like. Though neither Duchess ever met their mother-in-law in life, as long as they continue to honor her, she will never, ever really die.

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