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William, Kate Spark Comparison to Charles, Diana

Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton pose for the media at St. James's Palace in London, after they announce their engagement., November 16, 2010

Prince William and Catherine Middleton's big wedding day is just hours away. And while people around the world prepare to toast to their future, some are also drawn to that other happy day nearly 30 years ago when William's parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana said, I do.

It is a modern-day fairy tale, with Kate Middleton soon to wed her prince, just as Lady Diana Spencer did nearly three decades ago.


Middleton is the daughter of self-made millionaires and a descendent of coal miners. But despite the hype about her middle class background, British history professor Julie Taddeo says Middleton, and Prince William's aristocratic mother, Diana, have more in common than you might think.

"A lot of people have said, 'Oh, he’s marrying a commoner.' Diana technically was a commoner," noted Taddeo. "To be a commoner means that you are not royal. So you could be an aristocrat and still be a commoner."


Prince Charles and Princess Diana (official portrait 1985)
Prince Charles and Princess Diana (official portrait 1985)

Prince Charles and Diana Spencer married at St. Paul's Cathedral. Prince William and Middleton will marry at the smaller Westminster Abbey.

On Prince Charles's big day, his bride arrived at their church of choice in the traditional horse-drawn glass coach. The prince and princess again followed tradition by leaving the church in an open carriage.

Middleton, on the other hand, will break with centuries of tradition by traveling to Westminster Abbey in a limousine. But the tradition-breaking stops there.

"She’s exiting in that royal carriage because then she’ll truly become a royal. I think that’s an important statement," Taddeo said.


Prince William's parents had only 13 meetings before their awkward engagement.

"Are you in love?" a reporter asked Princess Diana.

"Of course," the princess replied.

"Whatever 'In love' means," quipped Prince Charles.

In contrast, time has strengthened the bond between Prince William and his fiancee, a couple that Taddeo says is poised and prepared.

"This couple, they’ve basically known each other for over eight years. I don’t think after eight years there’s that many surprises left!" noted the professor.

Public interest

Many Britons find the royal romances fun and entertaining, but Taddeo says the famous family means more than mere amusement to the country.

"They have huge social significance and this is the one thing that has not changed," Taddeo explained, "and really shouldn’t change. And in an increasingly diverse society, you need something that holds people together."

More than 750 million people around the world watched Prince Charles and Diana Spencer tie the knot, and about two billion are expected to watch Friday's celebration.

* For more information on the Royal Wedding, visit our Special Report page

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.