Princess Charlotte will sadly never know her paternal grandmother, Princess Diana. Diana died in a car accident long before she was even born. But little Charlotte, according to her parents, takes after her late grandmother in a few touching ways. The two of them share a fascinating connection that many people don’t know about.
It was back in 2017 that Kate Middleton made an intriguing comment about a trait that Charlotte and Diana shared. At the time, she, Prince William and Prince Harry were visiting a garden that had been created to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death. Representatives of Diana’s favorite charities were also there.
It was a very special occasion — a chance for all those who had known Diana, including of course her two sons, to remember her. The garden had been replanted with Diana’s favorite kinds of flowers, all in the color white. The royals walked around and met with the attending charity guests.
Diana supported many charities throughout her life — it was one of the reasons she was so beloved. These included the National AIDS Trust, the Landmine Survivors Network, the English National Ballet and the homeless charity Centrepoint — among others. Prince Harry touchingly told the gathered representatives from these charities, “All of us lost somebody.”
But of course it was Princes William and Harry that suffered from the loss of their mother most of all. For the 20th anniversary of her death they commemorated Diana in other ways too. Both princes contributed to a HBO documentary called Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, and discussed how much she would always mean to them.
Prince Harry remembered, “My mother cherished those moments of privacy and being able to be that mother rather than the Princess of Wales. She 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.”
The younger prince also said, “[Diana] was the best mum in the world. She smothered us with love, that’s for sure. There’s not a day that William and I don’t wish… that she was still around, and we wonder what kind of a mother she would be now, and what kind of a public role she would have, and what a difference she would be making.”
At one point Prince William was asked how he taught his children about their late grandmother. He said that he and his wife “constantly” talked about her to the kids and kept her photographs up around the house. William added, “And it’s hard, because obviously Catherine didn’t know her, so she cannot really provide that level of detail.”
Prince William went on, “So I do regularly, putting George or Charlotte to bed, talk about her and just try and remind them that there are two grandmothers [the other being Kate’s mother], there were two grandmothers in their lives, and so it’s important that they know who she was and that she existed.”
And Prince William had also considered what Diana would have been like if she’d gotten to meet the kids. He said, “She’d be a nightmare grandma, absolute nightmare. She’d love the children to bits, but she’d be an absolute nightmare. She’d come and go, she’d probably come at bath time, cause an amazing amount of sea and bubbles and bathwater all over the place and then leave.”
Diana’s sons have kept her memory alive in as many ways as they can. For example, the engagement ring Prince William gave to Kate originally belonged to Diana. After Diana’s death it passed down to Prince Harry, but Harry thoughtfully passed it on to his brother when the time came for him to propose to Kate.
And when Charlotte was born, Prince William and Kate decided to honor Diana by making her name one of their daughter’s middle names. Charlotte’s full name is Charlotte Elizabeth Diana — Charlotte as a tribute to Prince Charles and Elizabeth as a nod to Queen Elizabeth II. So she’s essentially named after several royal family members.
After Charlotte’s full name was announced, royal commentators spoke to Vanity Fair about it. Ingrid Seward, the editor of Majesty magazine, said, “It reminds us of how much Diana still means to William and the memory of his mother. The Queen perhaps feels that Diana hasn’t been acknowledged enough, and this is a wonderful way of doing so.”
Richard Kay, a writer on royalty who was also a friend of Diana’s, told the publication he thought using Diana as a first name would have been “terrible for the child.” He explained, “There would have been constant comparisons with Diana, and William wouldn’t have wanted that. This way it’s a tribute to his mother and a way of ensuring Diana is always remembered.”
Kay went on, “There are people at the palace for whom the name ‘Diana’ evokes storm clouds. If you think about it, there is no statue in memory of Diana in this country, and before the concert for Diana in 2007, precious little else had been done to commemorate her life. I know that irritated William.”
Another old friend of Diana’s, Simone Simmons, told Vanity Fair that Diana would have been “over the moon” to have a grandchild named after her. She said, “It’s William’s way of honoring his mother’s memory. A way of making sure Diana’s legacy lives on. This way she will never be forgotten.”
And people have noticed that Princess Charlotte bears a striking physical resemblance to Diana, too. Photographs of a very young Diana exist, and when they’re put side by side with pictures of her granddaughter as she is now, it’s obvious that the pair are related. The two of them even have the same smile.
However, there’s something else Princess Charlotte and Diana have in common as well. Kate revealed it to the world when she spoke to English National Ballet head Tamara Rojo at the Diana memorial garden. She let slip an intriguing detail about her young daughter. The then two-year-old princess loves to dance.
Diana had always adored dancing as well. Prince William spoke about this during his conversation with Rojo, saying, “We’ve got plenty of pictures. I remember her showing me ballet shoes she had been given and she was so proud of them.” In turn, Rojo told William that Diana had been invaluable to the English National Ballet.
Rojo sang the praises of Diana, remembering all the work she had put into fundraising for the ballet. Prince William said, “She loved dancing, she was a fantastic dancer. We’ve been going through her music collection recently and there’s some quite eclectic stuff in there. She was elated by the skill.”
Everybody was delighted that little Princess Charlotte had also developed an interest in dancing at such a young age. Rojo invited the Duke, the Duchess and their daughter to the English National Ballet’s “My First Ballet,” series of classical dance shows, and Prince William told her, “We will definitely have to come.”
Diana’s love of dance isn’t exactly common knowledge, but it was a lifelong passion. Diana wanted to be a ballerina when she was young, but her height and the disapproval of her family meant she didn’t follow that dream. However, she continued to dance as a hobby even after she became part of the royal family.
In 2017 Diana’s one-time ballet teacher Anne Allan was interviewed for the British TV documentary Diana: In Her Own Words. She recalled, “When I first met her you could see that there was a huge shyness. But over time as we went through our dance class I realized just how much dance meant to her.”
Allan continued, “She had dance in her soul. I realized the pure enjoyment that it gave her. She loved the freeness of being able to move and dance. She loved it. I could see it helped to alleviate her emotional life. That was hard for her at that time.” It wasn’t until later in life that Diana got to really demonstrate her dance skills.
In November of 1985 Diana danced with John Travolta at a White House dinner in a scene that soon became iconic. Travolta remembered the moment to the website Yahoo! News in 2019, saying, “I was awestruck with her… She led the way, and I thought, ‘Well, that’s not going to happen! I’ve got to go back to my school days of learning ballroom dancing and show that I can lead her.’”
This scene became so famous that Diana’s stunning dress which she wore for the dance was sold for a small fortune in December 2019. A charity called Historic Royal Palaces, which look after many notable royal locations in Britain, bought the dark blue Victor Edelstein creation for an impressive $280,000.
The month following her famous dance with Travolta, Diana took part in another, rather less well-known one. She appeared at the Royal Opera House and performed a brief routine to the Billy Joel song “Uptown Girl” alongside British dance star Wayne Sleep. It was all a surprise for her husband Prince Charles, who was sitting unaware in the audience.
In 2017 Wayne Sleep spoke to The Guardian newspaper about his relationship with Diana. He remembered, “Our paths first crossed when she approached me for dance lessons in the early 1980s. Diana loved ballet, but she also wanted to learn jazz, tap and contemporary. Sadly, I couldn’t teach her, because I was away on tour so much.”
Sleep continued, “But [Diana] approached me again when she wanted to perform at the Royal Opera House — it was a private show for supporters and friends of the Royal Ballet. Charles was going to be in the audience and she wanted to surprise him; it was all top secret.”
Remembering the evening, Sleep said, “The audience gasped when Diana appeared, as if they’d all taken one huge breath. The routine had a bit of everything: jazz, ballet, even a kickline. At one point, I pirouetted and she pushed me down; then I carried her across the stage. I remember thinking, ‘Don’t drop the future Queen of England.’”
Diana’s performance went off without a hitch. Sleep said, “She loved it, but was most thrilled we’d kept it secret from Charles, and our rehearsals away from the paparazzi. She loved the freedom dancing gave her. A few days later, I got a letter. She wrote: ‘Now I understand the buzz you get from performing.’”
Apparently though Prince Charles himself wasn’t impressed. In 2017 royal commentator Richard Kay appeared in the documentary Princess Diana: The Woman Inside and claimed, “Charles wasn’t terribly impressed, he thought she was showing off. In fact, it was incredibly courageous of her to go on stage at the home of English ballet at Covent Garden and to do a routine with the great Wayne Sleep.”
And Diana was distressed when pictures of her performing at the Opera House appeared in the British newspapers in 1995. Sleep told The Guardian, “No one knows for sure how they got hold of them. Diana got suspicious — by then, she didn’t know who to trust any more — and we drifted apart.”
However, despite everything Diana’s love of dance lives on in her grandchildren. Princess Charlotte isn’t the only one of her generation to be taking after Diana in this way — her brother Prince George is also reportedly a ballet enthusiast. Prince William revealed this in October 2018, while meeting finalists of the BBC’s Teen Hero Awards at Kensington Palace.
Speaking to a young street dancer named Junior, Prince William said, “George is doing dancing as well, he loves it. And it’s kind of…my mother always used to dance, she loved dancing. And if it’s something you love, you do what you love. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Keep at it.”
And in 2019 it was revealed that Prince George would actually be studying ballet at school. His timetable included the dance classes alongside things such as science, math and history. When reporting this on Good Morning America presenter Lara Spencer laughed and remarked, “we’ll see how long that lasts,” which provoked a backlash.
Many male dancers felt this was an unfair mockery of what they chose to do. Choreographer Brian Friedman wrote on his Instagram, “Growing up as a dancer I was bullied horribly which is exactly what this is. [Spencer] is teaching the word that it is ok to laugh at boys for dancing and that is so sad.”
Ultimately, Spencer apologized for the anger her remark sparked. A week after her original comment she said on air, “I screwed up. The comment I made about dance was insensitive, it was stupid, and I am deeply sorry … I have listened, I have learned about the bravery it takes for a young boy to pursue a career in dance.”
Currently it would seem that Prince George and Princess Charlotte are taking the exact same dance lessons. Both attend Thomas’s Battersea school, which states on its website, “The aim of teaching Ballet at Thomas’s is to inspire and nurture in our pupils a love of classical ballet and dance, its history and traditions and associated arts.”
So, both kids will get the chance to pursue the same art that their grandmother loved so much. However, don’t expect Prince William to join in, though. When speaking to the finalists of the Teen Hero Awards at Kensington Palace back in 2018, the Duke of Cambridge revealed that — unlike his children — he “can’t even dance properly, anyway.”