Inside Princess Diana’s Relationship With Her Children: 17 Secrets Revealed by Photos

Princess Diana broke many rules during her time as a member of the British royal family. The way she approached her marriage broke royal protocol, and she forged her own path when she became a mother, too. Though she died very young, she made a strong impression on her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, during her lifetime. And photos released over the years have revealed a few secrets about the relationship that Diana had with her children.

Check out the most iconic photos of Princess Diana with her sons, including a few shots from Diana’s own photo album. And discover all of the secrets about her relationship with her children.

1. Princess Diana approached motherhood on her own terms

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Princess Diana holds Prince William after his Christening, flanked by the Queen and the Queen mother, as Prince Charles and the Duke of Edinburgh stand behind them. | PA/ AFP/ Getty Images

  • Date: August 4, 1982

E! Online reports that Princess Diana did things her own way as a mother. She delivered her children at the hospital, not at Buckingham Palace, making Prince William the first heir to the throne to be born in a hospital.

ABC News reports that from the beginning, Princess Diana “rebelled against the royal traditions of arm’s-length parenting.” Diana was reportedly the first mother within the royal family to breastfeed her children. And later, it was part of her morning routine for the boys to run in their pajamas into her bedroom, where she would greet them with a hug.

Next: Princess Diana’s relationship with her children was so close that she wouldn’t leave them at home when she did this.

2. She traveled with her children, even when they were babies

  • Date: April 01, 1983

Princess Diana also broke the tradition of spending months touring the Commonwealth without her young children, instead insisting on taking nine-month-old William on an official visit to Australia. (In the photo above, snapped by royal photographer Anwar Hussein, the family visited New Zealand.)

Prince William recalled that later, when he was two years old, the royal family went to Australia again — and on that trip, Diana gave him a nickname that stuck for years: Wombat. He told Matt Lauer at NBC, “when we went to Australia with our parents, and the wombat, you know, that’s the local animal.  So I just basically got called that.  Not because I look like a wombat.  Or maybe I do.”

Next: Prince Charles was disappointed about this, but Diana didn’t seem to mind. 

3. Prince Charles wanted a daughter, but Diana loved her sons

  • Date: June 12, 1984

Princess Diana seems to have been overjoyed to have two sons. But Prince Charles, quite notoriously, wanted a daughter. As PopSugar reports, Diana revealed a heartbreaking comment that Charles made shortly after Harry’s birth. “His first comment was, ‘Oh God, it’s a boy,'” according to Diana. “His second: ‘And he’s even got red hair.'” (That would have been just a few months after Hussein snapped the photo above.)

Prince Charles had been vocal about wanting a daughter, but Harry showed up instead. Charles even reportedly told Diana’s mother at Harry’s christening, “We were so disappointed — we thought it would be a girl.” Diana even vetoed the names that Charles had in mind for the boys.

Next: Princess Diana’s relationship with her sons became protective. 

4. Princess Diana’s body language revealed her protective instincts

  • Date: August 1, 1987

As the boys grew, Princess Diana’s body language revealed that she felt very protective of her children, Good Housekeeping reports. Decades later, William and Kate seem to have a laid-back parenting style. “Diana, on the other hand, was more tense,” Good Housekeeping explains.

Her body language indicated that she was always watching over her sons. And instead of just picking them up when they fall, like Kate does, Diana would try to prevent William and Harry from falling in the first place. At least part of that might be the fault of the ever-present cameras. Prince Harry once told NBC, “She wasn’t always herself in the camera. She was much more natural behind the scenes when there was no one else there.”

Next: She did all of the things that a ‘normal’ mom would do. 

5. She was a ‘normal’ mother, according to her friends

  • Date: August 1, 1987

Princess Diana looks just like many other mothers in the photo above, shared by royal photographer Georges de Keerle. And The Daily Mail reports that according to her friends, Diana really was “a very normal mother, shouting at the boys sometimes, reprimanding them, especially when there were visitors and, yes, slapping them. All so very different from critics who accused her of swamping her sons with love, almost overwhelmingly at times, or questioning whether she was a good mother at all.”

Like every mother, Diana knew her children’s best qualities as well as their faults. She would tell friends, “William is deep, like his dad, and stubborn, and Harry is a hothead like me. He does the first thing that comes into his head.”

Next: She tried to warn them about this. 

6. Princess Diana tried to prepare her sons for media scrutiny

  • Date: September 11, 1989

Princess Diana felt the pressure of constant media attention. And when Prince William was old enough to go to school,  Diana prepared him for the media attention that has followed him ever since, ABC reports. Diana reportedly said on his first day of school at Wetherby, a boys-only school just a short walk from Kensington Palace, “Now listen, William, there’s going to be a lot of photographers at your new school, so you need to behave yourself.”

The young prince supposedly responded to the warning, “I don’t like ‘tographers.” And Diana said, “Well, you’re going to get this for the rest of your life.”

Next: Princess Diana made sure that her sons didn’t stay behind the palace walls. 

7. Prince William and Prince Harry didn’t grow up isolated

Prince William, Prince Harry, and Princess Diana attend a rugby match

Princess Diana, Prince William, and Prince Harry applaud during the Wales vs France Five Nations Cup match. | Jean-Pierre Muller/ AFP/ Getty Images

  • Date: February 01, 1992

As her children grew up, Princess Diana had to figure out how she wanted them to navigate the world outside the palace. Patrick Jephson, Diana’s chief of staff for six years, told ABC News that while young royals used to grow up separate from their subjects, Princess Diana took Prince William and Prince Harry outside the palace walls.

Jepson explained, “She made sure that they experienced things like going to the cinema, queuing up to buy a McDonalds, going to amusement parks, those sorts of things that were experiences that they could share with their friends.”

Next: Prince William got this funny habit from his mom. 

8. She passed on an adorable Christmas habit to Prince William

Princess Diana attends a lunch hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce

Princess Diana with Lord Jeffrey Archer and Lord Denis Healey, both dressed as Santa Claus. | Thierry Saliou/ AFP/ Getty Images

  • Date: December 19, 1992

Prince William and Prince Harry have often spoken of Princess Diana as a fun mother. And it sounds like she loved Christmas and all the excitement that goes with it just as much as any child. PopSugar reports that Prince George can’t resist opening Christmas presents early. He inherited that habit from his father, William, who got it straight from Diana.

Diana once wrote in a letter, “I could not resist opening my present, as a parcel of any shape or form has never been safe with me. I fear that William has also picked up this dreadful habit from his mother, as I find wrapping paper undone in the most extraordinary places.”

Next: These trips may have made Diana’s relationship with her children even closer. 

9. Diana took vacations with her children

Princess Diana with her sons at Indian Castle Beach on Nevis

Princess Diana heads out into the surf as her sons William and Harry enjoy the waters of Indian Castle Beach | Paul J. Richards/ AFP/ Getty Images

  • Date: January 1, 1993

AOL notes that Princess Diana took some glamorous vacations. She spent winters skiing in the Swiss Alps, and took tropical vacations to destinations such as the British Virgin Islands and Saint Kitts. But don’t assume that she left Prince William and Prince Harry behind when she escaped London.

She often traveled with her sons, taking them both to Switzerland and to the Caribbean. Everyone who’s ever been on a family vacation knows just how stressful they can get. But Diana always seemed to handle the stresses of travel with grace.

Next: Her body language around children revealed a lot about her. 

10. She always got down on children’s level

sits on Banana Beach in West Indies as children in her group play

The Princess of Wales sits on Banana Beach in West Indies as children in her group play. | Paul J. Richards/ AFP/ Getty Images

  • Date: January 4, 1993

Body language reveals a lot about Princess Diana’s relationship with her children. Good Housekeeping learned that Princess Diana would often bend down to be at the same level as her sons, speaking to them eye-to-eye.

Body language expert Patti Wood explained, “This is one way that parents show their children that they’re equals. We see this with Princess Diana and Kate Middleton, as well as with Prince William” with his own children. Diana not only bent down to talk to her kids, but did the same with other people’s children, as well. The move demonstrated that she was really listening when they talked to her.

Next: She took her sons to this beloved vacation destination. 

11. Princess Diana took her children to Disney World

Princess Diana and Prince William MGM Studios at Walt Disney World

Princess Diana took her sons to Disney World. | Bob Pearson/ AFP/ Getty Images

  • Date: August 25, 1993

Many parents feel the pressure to take their kids to Disney — even royal parents, it seems. Princess Diana once took Prince William and Prince Harry to Disney World, even accompanying them on a ride on Splash Mountain.

Prince William later told NBC of the experience, “Everywhere we went, everyone was really sweet to us.  But you know one of the things that we kept sort of joking about was about how many times we were told to watch our heads and mind our step.” People also kept telling Diana and her sons, “‘Have a nice day,’ all this sort of stuff.  And it was classic, we had a really good fun time.”

Next: Princess Diana made sure that her sons knew this. 

12. Princess Diana showed her sons just how privileged they are

  • Date: 1994

As the boys grew older, Diana also took Prince William and Prince Harry to hospitals and homeless shelters, according to ABC News. She wanted to “introduce them to the work she had found so fulfilling in her own public life — and that would be their destiny,” ABC reports.

Prince William later said of the experience, “She very much wanted to get us to see the rawness of real life. And I can’t thank her enough for that.” In an interview with NBC, William said of Diana’s own charity work, “She didn’t want praise for it.  She did it because she cared. ” He added, “She wanted to give so much love and give so much care to people who really needed it.”

Next: She had this adorable habit when walking with her sons. 

13. Diana’s body language kept her connected with her children

Princess Diana and Prince Harry arrive for the start of the British Grand Prix

Princess Diana and her son Harry arrive for the start of the British Grand Prix at the Silverstone racetrack. | AFP/ Getty Images

  • Date: July 10, 1994

Good Housekeeping reports that body language experts characterize Princess Diana as an “incredibly hands-on” mother. For proof, just look at the way she’s walking with Prince Harry in the photograph above.

Susan Constantine told Good Housekeeping that Diana was always physically connected to her children. When walking, she would typically put her hand on one of their backs. “This 1-on-1 connection makes children feel safe,” Constantine explains. “It’s an anchoring movement that’s especially important in potentially stressful situations.”

Next: Princess Diana embarassed her sons with this. 

14. She embarrassed her sons with her fashion choices

The Prince and Princess of Wales and their sons Prince William (R) and Prince Harry, on William's first day at Eton. Diana, Princess of Wales, and her friend, Dodi Fayed, died in a car crash t 31 August in Paris

Princess Diana wanted her sons’ outfits to coordinate. | John Stillwell/ AFP/ Getty Images

  • Date: September 6, 1995

Hello! Magazine reports that as Princess Diana became a fashion icon, she often color-coordinated with her sons, apparently to the chagrin of Prince William and Prince Harry. (Though it’s not obvious in the photo above, the boys definitely fell victim to the same 1980s and 1990s fashion trends that appeared in everybody else’s baby pictures at the time.)

Prince Harry later said, “Looking back at the photos it just makes me laugh and I think, ‘How could you do that to us?'” He added that eventually, William “would turn around and go, ‘This is ridiculous, I’m the older brother. Why do I have to be dressed the same as him?’ And I’m sort of thinking, ‘Hang on a second, if you’re going to dress differently, I’m not going to be the only person dressed like this. This is ridiculous!'”

Next: Prince William and Prince Harry seemed to learn her values early on. 

15. The princes knew that they would serve others

Princess Diana seems to have instilled the idea of service into her sons. NBC News once reported that as a child, Prince William wanted to be a police officer. And Prince Harry “has been in uniform, it seems, since he was a little boy. He says he loves the army and, like the rest of his life, his military training has been duly chronicled.”

Both brothers served in the British military. And the values that Princess Diana instilled in them were on display when Prince William commented on the death of a friend who had been killed in the line of duty. “It brings it all to reality, you know, how much these guys and girls out there are facing and how much they’re put in harm’s way,” William said.

Next: Her sons remember this about her. 

16. According to her children, Princess Diana was a child at heart

The Telegraph reports that when Prince Harry later appeared in the documentary, Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, he said of Princess Diana, “She was one of the naughtiest parents.” Prince William corroborated Harry’s account, explaining, “She was very informal and really enjoyed the laughter and the fun. She understood that there was a real life outside of Palace walls.”

In the clip above, Prince Harry describes Princess Diana telling the boys that they could be as naughty as they wanted as long as they didn’t get caught.

Next: Princess Diana wanted this for her sons. 

17. Princess Diana wanted her sons to have a normal life

According to E! Online, Princess Diana wanted her children to have a normal life. (Or at lesat as normal of a life they could have, growing up in palaces and taking on their duties as members of the British family.)

Prince Harry later said in an interview that Diana “made the decision that no matter what, despite all the difficulties of growing up in that limelight and on that stage, she was going to ensure that both of us had as normal life as possible. And if that means taking us for a burger every now and then or sneaking us into the cinema, or driving through the country lanes with the roof down in her old school BMW to listen to Enya.”

Read more: Royal Family Secrets Reveal What Prince Harry and Prince William’s Relationship Is Really Like

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