The new Princess of Wales
It’s been 25 years since Princess Diana’s tragic death. Since then, no one has held her former title, at least publicly. Now, the beloved ‘people’s princess’ finally has a successor: Princess Kate – or, officially, Princess Catherine – the new Princess of Wales. King Charles III bestowed that title on Prince William’s wife, Kate Middleton, shortly after Queen Elizabeth’s death.
For obvious reasons, comparisons between Kate and her late mother-in-law are inevitable. Of course, the two women have some similarities, including Kate and Diana’s fashion sense and the times they wore nearly identical outfits. William also used his late mother’s engagement ring to propose, and more recently, Kate wore a pearl choker to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral that Diana once donned. But Kate won’t just be a slightly modernised copy of the ‘people’s princess’ of the 1980s. “Diana and Catherine are completely different personalities,” says royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams. “[Plus,] Catherine has had over a decade to successfully make her own identity as a hardworking royal. She is beloved because she stayed true to herself.”
But what will Kate focus on in her new role, and how will she do things differently than Diana? She already went through one royal transformation when going from commoner to the Duchess of Cambridge, and here’s what we might see now that William has moved up the royal line of succession and she’s the Princess of Wales.
When did Kate Middleton become the Princess of Wales?
A royal by marriage, Kate’s Princess of Wales title is dependent on her husband’s place in the royal family, and William is now next in line for the throne. While the heir apparent is the only one who can hold the title Prince of Wales, that title isn’t automatically bestowed on him, unlike the Duchy of Cornwall. Instead, royal law holds that the monarch must give the Prince (or Princess) this title, and that’s exactly what happened on September 9, 2022, the day after Queen Elizabeth’s passing.
“I am proud to create him (William) Prince of Wales,” King Charles said in his first speech to the UK and the Commonwealth. “With Catherine beside him, our new Prince and Princess of Wales will, I know, continue to inspire and lead our national conversations.”
Technically, King Charles III’s wife, Camilla Parker Bowles, was also the Princess of Wales before she became the queen consort. But she never used the title and instead went by the Duchess of Cornwall. “When Camilla married Charles in 2005, there were some resentments, given how people perceived the couple had treated [Diana],” explains Fitzwilliams. “But Catherine has no connection to that period, and the public will be very pleased about her being princess.” In fact, Princess Kate already ranked third in a March 2022 survey by Ipsos that asked Brits about their favourite royals; only Queen Elizabeth II (first place) and Prince William (second) were ahead of her.
What are the duties of the Princess of Wales?
The main duty of the Prince and Princess of Wales is to support the sovereign in ensuring the stability and continuity of the British monarchy, as well as ‘bringing people together across all sections of society,’ according to the Prince of Wales’s official website. In reality, this slightly vague job description means that the holders of these ceremonial titles attend a lot of functions, state dinners and royal events, including the annual Trooping the Colour, alongside other senior members of the family. The main goal? To represent the British monarchy in the best possible light.
As the Princess of Wales, Kate will mainly support her husband as the couple represents the Head of State both in the UK and on overseas trips. Highlights of Diana’s reign included a tour through Australia and New Zealand in 1981 and a trip to Washington, DC to meet President Ronald Reagan four years later. (It was during the latter visit, FYI, that she danced to music from Saturday Night Fever with John Travolta at a White House dinner.) And while charity work technically isn’t part of the job, it has become an unofficial tradition.