The titles King Charles III granted Friday upon his oldest son, William, and William’s wife, Catherine, bridged two distinct eras of the royal family.
Known as the Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Catherine will assume the same titles as King Charles III and his first wife, Diana, a formal acknowledgment of the legacy of the woman known as the “people’s princess.” Soon after they received their new titles, a palace official said the couple “are focused on deepening the trust and respect of the people of Wales over time.”
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in following royal protocol, added that the prince and princess will approach their roles “in the modest and humble way they’ve approached their work previously.” Catherine in particular “appreciates the history associated with this role but will understandably want to look to the future as she creates her own path.”
A global phenomenon in the tabloid era, Diana was described by Roslyn Sulcas in The Times in 2020 as “a protean figure, both accessible and an enigma.” Her death — in a car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997, a year after her divorce from Prince Charles — sent Britain into spiraling grief but the royal family into a cold remove.
Queen Elizabeth II had a fraught relationship with Diana. She initially refused to permit the Union Jack to fly at half-staff over Buckingham Palace when Diana died, then reversed course. She insisted that her responsibility was to privately comfort Diana’s sons, William, then 15, and Harry, then 12.
Both Diana and Charles admitted to having extramarital affairs, and Charles went on to marry his longtime love, Camilla Parker Bowles, after Diana’s death.
“After Diana, the royal family came to accept that modern marriages must be based on compatibility, understanding and love,” wrote Jenni Russell, a columnist for The Times of London, in an editorial published by The Times in 2017, “Charles has his Camilla; they are evidently happy. The next generation has been set free.”
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