The late Princess Diana wasn’t dubbed the People’s Princess because it was a catchy nickname. She was relatable in every way, right down to how she parented her kids. In the ’80s, Diana took it upon herself to ensure that her little princes, William and Harry, had the most normal life possible, despite their royal blood, navigating a path that no other princess before her had. She gave birth in a hospital and not at Buckingham Palace, enrolled her boys in public school, took them travelling, and ensured they understood just how privileged they were.
With William and Kate’s brood about to expand to three, we’re looking back at eight progressive moves the Princess of Wales made during motherhood, ones that changed the game for future royal babies, including what Diana’s grandchildren, George, Charlotte and baby number three.
She gave birth in a hospital
Up until William, royal babies were primarily born in Buckingham Palace. Queen Elizabeth had given birth to all four of her children there, including William and Harry’s father, Charles. But not Diana. She brought both of her boys into the world in a private wing at London’s St. Mary’s Hospital.
She chose her children’s first names herself
Prince William would’ve been called Arthur had his dad had his way. Most royal babies are named after former monarchs as a sign of respect and tradition (Charles’ middle name is Arthur); it’s why there are so many Elizabeths, Victorias, Georges, and Henrys in history.
“He [Charles] wanted Albert and Arthur, and I said no. Too old!” Diana told author Andrew Morton in the 1992 book Diana: Her True Story. So, Di denied her husband’s requests, picked names she actually adored, and the rest is history.
She introduced disposable diapers
Okay, so Diana would have called them nappies, not diapers. Still, instead of using the traditional cloth kind that servants and nannies would wash and reuse, the People’s Princess opted for disposable ones… though it was never confirmed whether she preferred Huggies or Pampers.
She allowed her sons to dress casually
Royal children still have a strict dress code, just as adults do. Male kids can’t wear pants until they’re eight years old, and then are expected to wear khakis, collared shirts and/or blazers for casual wear. But Diana allowed her boys to really dress down, and William and Harry were often spotted wearing jeans and baseball hats, as well as totally rad sunglasses.
She didn’t leave William and Harry alone often
Instead of ditching her kids with an army of doting nannies, Diana often took her children with her. “Diana and Charles bucked the royal trend of separation by taking nine-month-old William, as well as his nanny, with them on the six-week tour to Australia and New Zealand,” royal expert Christopher Warwick told Good Housekeeping. “William and Harry were very, very fortunate with Diana as a mother because her ideas were so different to the previous generation.”
She participated in their lives
Even when Diana did leave William and Harry with the help, she was aware of their lives and wanted to participate. “She tried to arrange her schedule to match the boys,” journalist Katrine Ames wrote in Newsweek in 1997. “In her official calendar, the princess had all the everyday details of her son’s utterly uneveryday lives marked in green ink.”
She showed them what the world was really like
Diana didn’t want her boys to grow up with a skewed sense of reality, thinking that life in a castle with servants galore was the norm, so she made them visit the less fortunate at homeless shelters and hospitals.
“She very much wanted to get us to see the rawness of real life,” William told Katie Couric in an interview that aired on ABC in 2012. “And I can’t thank her enough for that, ’cause reality bites in a big way, and it was one of the biggest lessons I learned is, just how lucky and privileged so many of us are — particularly myself.”
She also tried to normalize their lives by doing things like riding the subway, eating fast food and visiting amusement parks.
She sent them to public school
During childhood, royal tots were often taught within the walls of the palace by tutors or governesses, but Diana wanted a different life for her boys. William was the first royal child to attend public school when he was registered at Jane Mynors’ Nursery School.
“The decision to have William, 3, develop his finger-painting skills among commoners showed the influence of Diana, Princess of Wales, who had worked in a nursery school herself when she was just a Lady,” author George Hackett wrote in a 1985 issue of Newsweek.
The parenting choices that Diana made actually sound pretty normal to us commoners, but they were pivotal moments that changed the fundamentals for future royal babies. If the Princess of Wales were alive today, you’ve got to bet Will and Kate would be turning to her for advice on whether or not Charlotte should be allowed to wear Paw Patrol barrettes in public or if George can stay up past his bedtime to finish watching Peppa Pig.