She had longed for a little girl of her own.
Now continuing our special series, those who knew Diana well tell why she would have thought Kate and Meghan truly were…
It’s 25 years since Diana reinvented herself, having been vindicated by Charles’s admission on TV that he’d committed adultery once the marriage had ‘irretrievably broken down’.
In our compelling series, which began on Saturday, those closest to her give their astonishing insights into every aspect of her personality.
Yesterday, we told how she nurtured her sons and what sort of granny she would have made.
Today, we reveal how she would have mentored their wives — and examine her fractured relationship with her own mother…
‘Diana would have been a great mother-in-law. I think Kate and Diana would have got on very well. Kate would have found a great soulmate in Diana.
‘William has been doing all the guiding — they were lucky because they had a relationship for eight years before they married, but Diana would have steered Kate and advised her about whatever she wanted to know.
‘Kate would have found Diana very helpful and a good mother-in-law. Yes, with every mother there’s a little bit of jealousy when their son finds another woman and no mother can put her hand on her heart and say they’re not concerned. They are. To every mother, no woman is good enough for her son.
‘Kate is very good though. She’s developed into the role. She speaks well, she’s not silly, she’s an educated woman. Diana wouldn’t have been overbearing, she wouldn’t have volunteered anything unless Kate asked.
‘Diana would have got on with Meghan too. She knew the way the showbiz crowd worked and Meghan has come from that world. It’s very difficult to shed 15 years of being in showbiz overnight. It will happen in time and Diana would have been a good guide for her.
‘Meghan has a past and a dysfunctional family. She’s been married before and worked in a business that’s pretty fickle, so Diana would have put her at ease and told her not to take any notice, that she’d had the media all her life.
‘I don’t think Diana would have interfered in the problems Meghan’s been having with her father. She would have seen that as being between father and daughter.
The Queen is head of the Commonwealth, which has a very large population of Africans and Asians, so I don’t think Meghan’s roots make any difference.
‘I think if Diana had been around she might have been able to help Meghan in, not so much combating negative media, but just being a sounding board. I think a woman finds it easier to talk to another woman. Meghan probably talks to her mother but Diana would have been that friendly face on this side of the Atlantic.
‘Meghan’s baby shower probably wasn’t the right thing to do as far as presentation is concerned, so Diana might have been able to talk to Meghan about that. When Meghan went over to New York for it, it would have been better if she’d got on a British Airways flight as a normal passenger rather than a private jet. It smacks of being over the top.
‘Diana would have advised Meghan on humanitarian issues in the United Kingdom and in which direction to go. She would have been very good at that, at advising Meghan on charities she might work with.
‘There are considerable issues and problems in the UK and before you start dashing off around the world, you need to think about the UK first.’
‘Diana would have liked that her son had married an American divorcee, a woman of mixed heritage. I can see Diana putting two fingers up to the monarchy on the strength of that one, saying, ‘This is fantastic, this is the future of this family, this is the way it has to be.’
Meghan is a consummate performer with her theatrical background, which gives her a huge advantage in dealing with the public.
I remember her first public engagement with Harry in Nottingham, I think it was, and later at a radio station in Brixton and she was so brilliant in dealing with the media and talking to people with a sincerity in her voice.
Diana would have liked that. I don’t see that there would have been any jealousy on Diana’s part. Diana had taken some time to achieve that high performance level, but that all came as a result of hard work.’
‘We can imagine that Diana would have made a very good mentor and would have put an importance on that because she would understand it would directly affect the future happiness of her sons and grandchildren. She would have had an investment in the future happiness of her own children.
How can I as a man speculate on girly talk they might have had? Diana’s concern would have been for William’s happiness and success in the role that fate has dealt him.
Nobody could reasonably criticise Kate’s commitment or sense of duty or indeed the grace and elegance with which she is approaching her very tough role.’
‘I’m sure she would have liked Kate and Meghan, although she wouldn’t have shown it if she didn’t. But Diana actually was quite snobbish.
She was very proud of her Spencer heritage, and although she was great with the ordinary man, she might not have wanted someone for her son who had been married before and was from such a different background.
‘She certainly wouldn’t have liked the control that Meghan has over Harry, so I think they might have had a tricky relationship.
She would have been fascinated by the dynamics between Thomas Markle and his daughter though. She would have wanted to know all the details of their relationship and why it went wrong.
‘Perhaps Harry wouldn’t have married Meghan if his mother had still been alive because his life would have been quite different. But she would have wanted both of her sons to be happy whoever they married.’
‘It is alongside Diana that Kate is measured as a princess. It’s natural that people like to draw comparisons because the monarchy is a dynasty and we are invited to take comfort from and admire its longevity and the fact that it is an ever-evolving family business.
Therefore comparisons between family members and different generations of family members is one of the ways we can understand its function and how well it’s performing.
‘The difference between Kate and Diana is that Diana was always going to be the next queen, she was one heartbeat away, you could say, from being the next queen, queen consort that is, not queen regnum. Charles and Diana were next in line.
William and Kate obviously are not. That makes a big difference not just to their constitutional significance, but also to the latitude William and Catherine have to interpret their roles and grow into the job in a way that Charles and particularly Diana did not.
‘This is very significant and people often overlook it, which is why I put it first. The laws of human biology suggest William might become king with less of an interval after his father than Charles is having.
Even with a long-lived family like the Windsors, it is likely that Charles’s reign will be something of a stopgap until William’s. It’s not how much time William and Kate have before acceding to the throne, it’s the fact that Charles and Diana were ‘next up’.
‘All the emphasis that has been on Charles ever since the Queen became queen would have applied to him and Diana, and none of that is on Catherine. Think how much more acute that would be if William had been next in line. Think of the comparison between Charles and Andrew.
‘Another difference between Diana and Catherine is that Diana was almost born into the royal business in a way that Catherine was obviously not. Catherine is from an ordinary middle-class background, Diana was from an impeccable aristocratic background with a long line of statesmen and courtiers in her direct ancestry.
She grew up on the Sandringham estate and her father was equerry to the Queen. For all her approachable, wonderful qualities, Diana was every inch an aristocrat.
She could be quite an icy aristocrat, and quite regal in her approach to her duties, while at the same time being able to develop an emotional empathy which marked out her work as really quite unique.
Diana had a regal bearing and aristocratic attitude in her DNA, and this could show itself at times in a certain aloofness just as it also showed itself in an innate understanding of what her duty was and the significance of her role as future queen.
‘The point I’m making is the contrast between what is popularly seen as Diana the friendly girl-next-door type — she could be that — but she could also be very aristocratic, very royal.
She had an innate regal quality in the way she carried herself, in the way she dealt with people, the way she saw her own position. That’s one of the things that makes Diana such an intriguing figure.
She was a fascinating mix of the regal and the approachable, and particularly after her separation from Charles, when she had more latitude to develop her own royal style. You saw both those aspects of her character quite vividly portrayed.
‘I take quite a lot from the words Catherine said when she married, that she was going to ‘learn the ropes’, and I think that speaks a lot of her sense of duty, her commitment, her self-knowledge, that she had a lot to learn and these are valuable qualities in a new member of the Royal Family.
She continues to take the same hard-working attitude to her duties, plus the recognition that she has committed herself to a lifetime of sacrifice.
‘If we are measuring Catherine against Diana as a princess, I think she is doing very well. Given the difference in their positions in the hierarchy, I don’t think any reasonable person would criticise the way Catherine carries out her duties.
Plus, quite obviously, as someone who understands modern royalty and the expectation that it will involve itself with humanitarian causes and set a good example to the country, it seems to me she is taking an admirable approach to all those expectations.
‘Others may forget, but I never forget how young Diana was! We should remember that Kate, William, Meghan and Harry are all now much of the age, or past it, that Diana died.
Everything we say about Diana and measure her performance as a future queen against, we have to put alongside what they have done with their lives so far.
The reality is that Kate had from the outset a great deal more in the way of guidance than Diana ever had, not least a loving and faithful husband, and you can’t overestimate the value of that in a family business like royalty.
‘Diana was 19 when she came on to the royal scene. She never had a supportive network of fellow workers, she never had proper mentoring. The organisation she joined was very traditional, very masculine.
Her mistakes, when she made them, tended to be broadcast and her successes, the more she made of them, tended to be downplayed or are these days relegated to the margins of the royal story. That is not happening to Kate.
‘I don’t think this is because the Royal Family is different now. The one thing about the Royal Family that we expect is that it should remain the same or evolve very slowly.
The characters on the balcony have changed, but it is too early to say if the family itself has changed. Its role hasn’t changed, the expectations of the public haven’t changed.’
‘It’s certainly true that Diana’s experience is something that any new royal wife would benefit from studying. Of course, if Diana had been there to pass on that experience, so much the better. But you don’t have to have somebody actually alive and mentoring you to benefit from that history.’
‘Meghan seems to have built up her own court of mainly American acolytes and celebrities in a way Diana was only beginning to do before she died.
In the months after her divorce she was building up an American court with Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell and the billionaire philanthropist Teddy Forstmann.
She even had Donald Trump sending her flowers, his people even asked me if they could secure the services of her butler Paul Burrell.
‘I think Diana and Meghan would have got on like a house on fire because she’d have seen in Meghan somebody she aspired to be herself, someone who was an articulate activist on the world stage.
And she’d have been thinking, ‘I wish there’d been social media when I was around.’
And Kate would have been far more accessible in terms of her own background, somebody who went to a private school in Britain. Diana was wanting to do a degree in psychology before she died.’
‘There’s no doubt Kate and Diana would have gone out to lunch. That was Diana’s modern style. Kate would have appreciated that, in the same way that Meghan would have.
Diana was a luncher, she enjoyed her lunches with her girlfriends at San Lorenzo and liked shopping at Harrods so she would have liked doing that with Kate and Meghan.
Kate’s parents got a lot of flak in the early ‘doors to manual’ period of the relationship and Diana would have certainly got on the side of her family to try to ease the problems.
She would have been a very good mediator on that as she would have had nothing to lose.
‘She was ostracised by the vast majority of the Royal Family because they were jealous of her popularity. This is exactly what is happening now with Meghan. It’s not that she’s done anything wrong, but they’re jealous of this newcomer’s popularity as she’s the one we read about.’
‘Meghan is an established adult with a successful career in showbusiness and the transition to royalty is not easy and requires great self-awareness, diligence and restraint. You know that line from Downton Abbey — ‘The truth is neither here nor there. It’s the look of the thing that matters.’
This is the point. In the royal business, particularly if you adopt a high profile, what counts is not the detail of the explanation but how it looks and how it fits into an existing pattern.
To have the New York baby shower was a strange decision. Over and over again I was struck by Diana’s instinctive understanding of what looked bad. She knew the look of the thing, she had an instinctive understanding of it in every aspect of her life. She knew when she got it wrong, which was rare, and she knew how to keep it looking right.
She realised how important that was because monarchy is seen so much not through what they say, or the detail of their accounts, or who did what when.
It’s how they make people feel. It’s the image, the pattern, the repeated behaviour over an extended time. That’s how people perceive them.’