Princess Charlotte is growing up, and royal family fans have observed her first years of life via officially released photographs. They’ve seen the young royal’s journey from a baby to a girl on her first day of school. Charlotte is beginning to look a lot like both of her parents, but she also takes after somebody else: her late grandmother Diana.
Charlotte is the only female descendant of Diana so far. The others in her generation are all boys – the royal’s brothers Prince George and Prince Louis, and her cousin Archie. Therefore, she’s the child who most obviously bears a resemblance to her grandmother, and people have remarked on this plenty of times.
Fans of the royal family sometimes comment on Instagram about new photographs of Charlotte, and there’s usually a plethora of remarks about just how much the little princess has inherited her looks from Diana. Furthermore, Charlotte also happens to carry her grandmother’s first name as her middle one.
Before Charlotte was born, there was actually speculation that her first name would be Diana. Indeed, betting agency Paddy Power offered 12-1 odds on the second child of the Cambridges being given that moniker. However, in the end William and Kate opted to give their daughter Diana only as a middle name.
Charlotte’s full name and title is Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge. Her first name is a nod to Prince Charles: William’s father. And Elizabeth is, of course, a tribute to her dad’s grandmother the Queen. The duke and duchess reportedly consulted with these family members about Charlotte’s name and received their blessing.
Some thought that William might even had to ask for permission before naming Charlotte after his mother. Just after the little girl was born, Diana’s old friend Richard Kay told Vanity Fair magazine, “Certainly not the Queen, but there are people at the palace for whom the name ‘Diana’ evokes storm clouds.”
Yet William may have given his daughter her name regardless of what anyone thought. Richard said, “If you think about it, there is no statue in memory of Diana in this country, and before the concert for Diana in 2007, precious little else had been done to commemorate her life. I know that irritated William.”
There has also been speculation about why Charlotte wasn’t given Diana for a first name. But Richard told Vanity Fair magazine, “Had it been the first name, I think it would have been terrible for the child. There would have been constant comparisons with Diana, and William wouldn’t have wanted that.”
But innocent comparisons between grandmother and granddaughter have been coming out as soon as Charlotte was old enough to walk. Indeed, this is inevitable considering the worldwide fame of her entire family. In 2017, for example, royal watchers were delighted to learn that Charlotte loves horse riding.
Equestrian Natasha Baker spoke to Kate Middleton during an event in 2018 and later recalled their apparent conversation with The Mirror newspaper. She said, “I asked her how the children were, and she said Charlotte is really enjoying her riding which is great to hear. She emphasized that Charlotte has this passion for horses and although she doesn’t echo it, she’ll do her best to champion and encourage it.”
And Diana loved horses, too. She had a pony as a child, and after marrying into the royal family the princess decided to try riding – despite having been slightly afraid of doing so. Diana also employed the services of James Hewett – a horse-riding instructor who she famously also took as her lover.
Another tidbit was revealed by the royal parents in 2017. Kate was speaking to the English National Ballet’s director Tamara Rojo at a Diana memorial event that year, and she explained that Charlotte “absolutely loves” dance. That caused Prince William to recollect that his own mother “loved dancing, she was a fantastic dancer.”
Diana’s love of dance is something even royal family fans might not know. Back when she was a youngster – before she even met Charles – Diana dreamed of being a ballet dancer. But not only was she too tall, it’s thought that the princess’ wealthy and aristocratic family wouldn’t have allowed her to do it.
But there’s every chance that Charlotte may be allowed to still pursue her love of dance as she grows older. William and Kate have been clear about the way they want to raise their children. The duke said in an a 2017 interview with CALMzine, “Catherine and I are clear that we want both George and Charlotte to grow up feeling able to talk about their emotions and feelings.”
So, though there are of course many similarities between grandmother and granddaughter, there’s also a very significant difference; Diana was by her own account not raised in a supportive household. The details of her early life are well known, as the royal had spoken about it before her untimely death.
Just like Charlotte, Diana had received a title upon birth. Her father was Viscount Althorp, and she was born as The Honourable Diana Frances Spencer. In 1975 the future princess gained the title of Lady after her grandfather died and her father inherited his earldom. The family lived on the Sandringham estate, which was leased to them by the Queen.
Diana had riches and privilege aplenty, but she was also very unhappy throughout her childhood. Her parents had a difficult relationship and in 1969 they divorced – with the princess’ father getting custody of the children. At the time, such separations were rarer than today, and Diana was caught in the middle along with her siblings.
In 1991 Diana made some tape recordings in which she discussed her childhood, and eventually the transcripts were published. On the tapes the princess said, “The biggest disruption was when mommy decided to [leave]… That’s the vivid memory the four of us children have.” Furthermore, she described the experience as “painful.”
But that wasn’t all Diana had to say. She described her father hiring a lot of “very young and rather pretty” nannies, which was “terribly disruptive” in her view. She went on, “It was a very unhappy childhood. Always seeing our mum crying. Daddy never spoke to us about it – we could never ask questions. [It was] very unstable, the whole thing.”
Diana also added that she had no self-esteem during that time. She said on the tapes, “At the age of 14, I remember thinking that I wasn’t very good at anything, that I was hopeless because my brother was always the one getting exams at school and I was the dropout. I couldn’t understand why I was perhaps a nuisance to have around…”
All of these aforementioned experiences help shaped the woman Diana would become. But she also alleged domestic abuse on the part of her father. The royal said, “I remember seeing my [dad] slap my mother across the face. I was hiding behind the door, and mommy was crying. I remember mommy crying an awful lot.”
Despite the difficulties of her own childhood, however, Diana aspired to be the best mother she could be. The princess had difficulties with her own mental health, though she always put her sons first. She arranged her royal schedule so that she could take William and Harry to do “normal” non-royal activities.
William and Harry have long said that Diana was an excellent mom. In the 2017 documentary Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, the younger prince said, “As a son I would say this, she was the best mum in the world. She smothered us with love, that’s for sure. There’s not a day that William and I don’t wish that she was… still around…”
Diana also ensured that her children would never think they were better than everyone else just because they were royal. She often insisted that the princes didn’t receive special treatment when the family were out and about. For example, when Diana took her sons to Britain’s Thorpe Park in 1993, she made them queue for all the rides along with everyone else.
And Diana broke boundaries in other ways. She would send her kids amusingly rude cards – even knowing they would be receiving them at school. Harry remembered in the documentary, “One of her mottos to me was, you know, ‘You can be as naughty as you want, just don’t get caught.’”
Despite losing Diana so soon, the princes have always said they were glad to have had her at all. William said in the documentary, “I give thanks that I was lucky enough to be her son and know her for the 15 years that I did. She set us up really well. [Diana] gave us the right tools and has prepared us well for life not obviously knowing what was going to happen.”
Many consider that Diana’s parenting laid the foundation for how her sons would raise their own children. In an August 2020 Channel 5 documentary called Diana: A Mother’s Love, royal commentators discussed the legacy that the royal left as a mother and how William and Harry had clearly learned from her.
Reporter Roya Nikkhah said on the documentary, “Diana completely changed royal motherhood. She put being a mom before the monarchy and all future royal mothers have her to thank for that.” Biographer Andrew Norton added, “It’s ironic, isn’t it. Diana had a troubled childhood but brought up sons who are triumphs of parenting.”
So, there’s a sense in which Diana shaped the life of Charlotte long before the latter was born. That’s why it’s all the more delightful that they look so alike. Indeed, the two look like sisters when you put a photograph of Charlotte next to a photo of Diana at the same age.
People started noticing the similarities right away after a fan Instagram account started posting pictures of Diana and Charlotte in 2018. One person commented, “Goodness. I thought she looked like her father but with the pictures of… Diana next to her as a child it’s amazing how much they resemble.”
The likeness is made even more obvious when Charlotte dresses up in clothes similar to some of Diana’s favorite outfits. Indeed, when she wore a green coat for Christmas Day celebrations in 2019, people noted that William and Harry’s mom had also once worn a coat with the same color and style.
Some think that Charlotte and Diana would have had a very close bond if the latter had lived. In 2019 her one-time press secretary Dickie Arbiter told the Daily Mail newspaper, “[Diana] would have loved being a grandmother and particularly would have doted on Charlotte because she always wanted a daughter, and that wasn’t to be.”
The princess’ former bodyguard Ken Wharfe also spoke to the newspaper, saying, “Diana always wanted a daughter so she would have loved having a granddaughter. She would have gloried in the fact that her sons had healthy children and she would be able to enjoy them without any restraints.”
In fact, had Diana not passed away at a young age, there’s a chance that she might have ended up having more kids. In October 2019 her former butler Paul Burrell told Closer magazine, “… Diana always wanted more children. She felt that two were not enough. She would’ve had an army of children running through the corridors of Kensington Palace.”
William has also unsurprisingly considered what Diana might have been like as a grandmom had things been different. He touchingly spoke about it during the Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy documentary, saying, “[Diana would] be a nightmare grandmother. She’d love the children to bits, but she’d be an absolute nightmare.”
According to William, “[Diana would] come in, probably around bath time, cause an amazing amount of scene – bubbles everywhere, bath water all over the place – and then leave.” It’s an easy image to picture – given how Diana interacted with her boys and the happy, normal lives she gave them.
In the documentary, William also spoke about how he kept Diana’s memory alive for his own family. The prince said that he and the kids were “constantly talking about granny Diana,” and they had plenty of photographs of her around the house. It was “hard,” William said, but he always persevered with it.
William continued, “So I do regularly – putting George or Charlotte to bed – talk about her and just try and remind them that there are two grandmothers, there were two grandmothers in their lives, and so it’s important that they know who she was and that she existed.” And now that Prince Louis has come along he’ll likely hear the same stories.
Furthermore, it seems that Charlotte has some personality traits that her grandmother also had as a child. When Diana was young, the future princess gained a reputation as a tomboy as she apparently loved climbing trees and running around. Interestingly, everyone thought the exact same thing of Charlotte when she was in nursery school.
Charlotte had the very cool nickname of “Warrior Princess” at her nursery, according to the royal journalist Katie Nicholl. She told Entertainment Tonight in 2019, “Apparently [Charlotte] earned that nickname because… she’s quite a tomboy. She loves climbing trees and she’s very much an adventurer, she was quite known for her feisty personality.”
So, Charlotte has a lot in common with her grandmother Diana – probably more than even she realizes. As she grows older, more connections between the two will probably appear. But the differences between them are important, too.