While I can see that it was a very sweet thing to do on William's part, I can't help but wonder if Kate Middleton regrets agreeing to wear Diana's engagement ring. Perhaps it would have happened anyway, but that flash of brilliant blue being placed on her slim finger did seem to open the floodgates for a torrent of comparisons between her and her dearly departed mother-in-law.
Even as the happy couple's interview ('Kate Middleton's Diana moment' as Grazia TV referred to it) was being televised, newspapers were leaping upon any similarity they could find to the interview given by Charles and Diana 30 years earlier: Kate wore royal blue, Kate awkwardly clung to her prince, Kate spoke demurely and threw shy glances at the camera.
And so it has continued. The pressure upon this young woman as future queen would have been immense even without the insistence of the world to constantly comment on her dress sense/eating habits/demeanour (etc, etc, etc) in the context of what Diana wore, ate (or rather didn't), said and did.
Newspapers, magazines and websites have been littered with it, headlines popping up like crocuses in springtime. 'Don't do a Diana, Kate' squeals a banner above a 'letter' on the Daily Mail's website, imploring Kate to ditch her wedding dress diet. Over at the Telegraph, Roya Nikkhah excitedly reported: "To stay in shape for her wedding to Prince William in April, Miss Middleton is believed to have joined the Harbour Club, the gym in west London where Diana, Princess of Wales exercised."
Oh do give her a break! The bride-to-be is doing nothing more than any other bride (let alone one who will be watched by millions) does as she approaches her big day. She wants to feel and look her best. And okay, I realise there is going to be a massive amount of interest in everything Ms Middleton does from here on in (although it remains hard to understand how a woman exercising at the gym was ever, or is now, classed as 'news') but could someone please explain to me the relevance of pointing out the fact that Kate is doing her crunches and lunges in the same building as Diana did 15 years ago or more?
The thing is, the press would just love it if Kate went down the anorexic route like Diana before her wouldn't they? The tabloids want her to be a tragic heroine – they want a woman in turmoil, whose soap opera life will sell as many papers as Diana's once did. They are willing, if not fabricating, similarities; the sad truth is that even now, 14 years after her death, the papers are still seizing every opportunity to use Diana's name in their headlines. How very desperate.
Perhaps worse than the endless comparisons themselves is that they always seem to draw the same conclusion: Kate is second best. 'Who's more stylish?' ask numerous papers and magazines, 'Kate or Diana?' And, after flicking through the images of similar (and that's pushing it for some) outfits, guess who comes out on top every time? Yep, the dead one.
Given that she was virtually canonised, what hope does Kate have of ever matching Diana? Can you imagine any newspaper ever running a headline: 'It's official, Kate is more stylish than Diana ever was!'? It would be sacrilegious. No young upstart is about to knock our Di of her heavenly throne, even if she DOES look great in a pair of riding boots, even if Prince William DOES love her, and even if she HAS requested people donate to charity rather than give her wedding gifts.
Kate must feel keenly the weight of the world's expectations, even if she and her future husband say otherwise ("no one is trying to fill my mother's shoes" Wills reassured us). I do hope she just rolls her eyes and lets the media's macabre comparisons wash over her. I hope she is the confident, well adjusted person she appears to be, and can shrug off Diana's ghost. And I hope that the tabloids run out of ideas on how to drag Diana's name into stories about her comings and goings.
Will Kate be the new 'people's princess'? No, probably not – because she's just not damaged enough for the public to adore her in the same way. But however much people want her to be the same, she is not the same – and it's about time she was allowed to grow into the royal she, as an individual, is destined to be.
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