Why Isn’t Kate Middleton as Popular as Princess Diana?

Kate Middleton is pretty popular. Many Britons want the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as their next king and queen. (They’d rather forget about Prince Charles.) But the popularity that Kate enjoys, both at home and abroad, doesn’t seem to come anywhere close to the public obsession with Princess Diana. In most people’s eyes, Kate will never be as exciting as the legendary mother-in-law whom Kate never had a chance to meet.

Why isn’t Kate Middleton as popular as Princess Diana? Diana, after all, was called “the people’s princess” for a reason. Here’s what you need to know.

People are still obsessed with Diana, even decades after her death

Princess Diana

Princess Diana | Pierre Verdy/ AFP/ Getty Images

Even decades after Princess Diana died, people are still obsessed with her. That includes Americans. Newsweek reports that 17 million people in the U.S. watched Diana’s 1981 wedding to Prince Charles. They then followed along as Diana spent 16 years as the most photographed woman in the world. During that time, she “shook off the stuffy, stiff-upper-lip traditions of the British royal family and embraced a more American approach to public life and celebrity.”

When her life came to a tragic end, 33 million Americans tuned in to watch her funeral. They also stayed glued to the tabloids as a whole spectacle unfolded, including an investigation into the car crash and conspiracy theories about an assassination. And they still remain fascinated by her. They go over the details of her final days and raptly listen to the stories told by people like her former butler. People can’t get enough of Diana, even decades after her death.

Kate Middleton isn’t nearly as candid as Princess Diana

Newsweek mentions the “confessional culture” in the United States as one reason why people gravitated toward Princess Diana. Diana spoke openly about her failings. (And those of Prince Charles, of course.) For instance, in one infamous interview aired on the BBC, Diana said that there were “three people” in her marriage: Diana, Charles, and Camilla. The Express notes that Prince William recently commented on that infamous interview.

Diana’s eldest son said, “I can understand — having sometimes been in those situations, you feel incredibly desperate, and it is very unfair that things are being said that are untrue.” But William also added, “The easiest thing to do is just to say or go to the media yourself. Open that door. [But] once you’ve opened it you can never close it again.” That might explain why William and Kate don’t ever really rock the boat. In fact, Kate rarely even gives interviews.

Princess Diana had more of a fairy tale than Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton and Prince William

Kate Middleton and Prince William | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Kate Middleton married into the British royal family. And she’s a future queen consort with three adorable children. That’s fairy tale enough for most people. But in several ways, her story isn’t as much of a fairy tale as Princess Diana’s seemed. As The Telegraph reports, Diana herself said that she struggled to live up to the “fairy princess” public image. She came from an aristocratic family. She married a prince. And she became the most famous woman in the world, even as the fairy tale fell apart.

It’s common knowledge that Kate, on the other hand, worked hard to get her fairytale wedding and marriage. She came from a middle-class, if privileged, family. And Vox reports that Kate “famously set out to meet Will — and succeeded — by appearing before him scantily clad in an undergraduate fashion show. The story (apocryphal or not) captures the cultural essence of Kate. She is ambitious enough to want to meet-cute a prince; she has the foresight to choreograph their meeting.” As a “commoner,” Kate seems less mysterious than Diana.

Kate doesn’t embrace fame the same way Princess Diana did

E! Online reports that one of the most striking differences between Kate Middleton and Princess Diana is that Diana was much more interested in embracing celebrity than Kate. According to Alexandra Shulman, editor in chief of British Vogue, “The Duchess of Cambridge is prepared to do her bit, but it’s not one of the things that she most cares about. She loves her kids and the countryside. Dressing up, that’s a professional side to her. It’s a sort of uniform, all those lovely couture costumes.”

Princess Diana, on the other hand, “was more interested in that high-voltage celebrity, that was something she really embraced,” Shulman explained. “One of the things I’ve learned in this job is how much celebrity is a decision.” Diana welcomed the spotlight. And that just made it easier for her to become even more popular and more beloved. Kate, on the other hand, reportedly “doesn’t like the limelight,” and keeps her private life private. No wonder people like Kate — but not as much as they loved Princess Diana, who seemed to love them back.

Read more: Why Is Kate Middleton Not Called a Princess, But Princess Diana Was?

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