Kate Middleton: Will Duchess of Cambridge feel trapped in Princess Diana's prison?
Last updated at 9:37 AM on 14th June 2011
They will, of course, be waiting — just as they were always waiting relentlessly for Princess Diana when she lived there. For the paparazzi, it will be like old times when Prince William takes Kate to live in Kensington Palace later this month.
This palace, so perfect for the paps because of its high accessibility on all sides, is still resonant of Diana’s unhappy years inside its walls and of that lake of flowers which magically appeared at its front gates after her death almost 14 years ago.
One has to wonder just how deeply Prince William considered the implications of moving into the one royal address that is so personally associated with his mother — and which royal staff really do consider to be ‘unlucky’.
New home: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will move in to an apartment at Kensington Palace next month - one of the former homes of William's mother Diana
Clearly, the Duke of Cambridge is not quite the cautious young man that he seems. First, there was his emotional decision to give Kate his mother’s famous sapphire and diamond engagement ring — for many, a permanent symbol of Diana’s unhappiness.
Now, he moves his bride into Kensington Palace, where every time she tries to slip away to the shops on Kensington High Street — just as Diana loved doing — there will be inevitable comparisons with the mother-in-law she never knew.
To Diana, ‘KP’, as she called it, came to be ‘more prison than palace’.
To Kate, moving there will be the moment she really begins to understand what her royal life is going to be.
So why make their lives there?
Let’s look at the options. Clarence House was briefly considered because that is where William has been sharing an apartment with his brother, Harry. At least, it was considered until the Duchess of Cornwall, in her light but decisive manner, declared: ‘There’s no room here.’
Then there was St James’s Palace next door, where William has his office. But he did not want to live there because, as a friend of his says, it is ‘rather gloomy’.
The only other choice was Buckingham Palace, where Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and the Earl of Wessex still keep apartments.
But just imagine the upheaval — and angst for Charles — if the popular William were to make his marital home in the monarch’s official residence.
‘That would have been a very loaded message, even though entirely unintended,’ chuckles one senior aide. ‘Some people would be bound to see it as the Queen apparently endorsing her grandson as her successor — quite absurd, of course.’
Happy time: William may want to move into Kensington Palace because of fond memories he has of his early childhood before his parents' marital problems
Blessing: Diana, pictured with friend Susie Kassem, used apartments 8 and 9 after her divorce from Charles. They are no longer available
But all the time, Kensington Palace was where William really wanted to live with Kate, if only temporarily, possibly because of his fond memories of his own happy childhood there before things began to go badly wrong with his parents’ marriage.
They are memories that are very precious to Will, though he doesn’t really talk much about his childhood,’ says one of his closest friends.
Even so, the later unhappiness of his mother, whom her ten-year-old son often found himself having to comfort when she was in despair, probably makes it a blessing that Diana’s old flat, Apartments 8 & 9, is no longer available. Situated over three floors with staff quarters and a nursery, it would have been far too big for the newlyweds anyway.
After Diana’s death, it was stripped of everything and left a shell for almost ten years. Now it has been split up into various offices for charities, as well as providing an official home for the Army’s Chief of the General Staff: General Sir Richard Dannatt was its first resident.
Two rather more modest apartments are immediately available.
Comparisons: For Kate, moving in to Kensington Palace will be the first she gets to understand what her Royal life will be like
Turned down: Buckingham Palace was one residence the couple could have chosen but it would have caused too much angst for Charles
One, Apartment 4a, is in a section of the palace known as Clock Court, close to the late Princess Margaret’s old home. Its previous occupant was Sir John Tiltman, the Queen’s director of property services until his retirement in 2004.
The other is Apartment 11, vacated last December by Prince Philip’s former private secretary, Brigadier Sir Miles Hunt-Davis, who had been living there with his wife, Gay, for the previous year.
Until then the couple had resided in Nottingham Cottage, a self-contained house next door to the Duke of Kent’s residence, Wren House. Nottingham Cottage is also empty, and we understand it will be one of these two addresses that William and Kate will move into.
The cottage is favourite — cosy and private — and it will give them the use of a small walled garden, perfect for parking a pram. It is also the ideal spot for the newlyweds to put up the hammock bought for them as a wedding gift by members of the royal household sports club.
It is close to another walled garden, reached through a locked door, to which Princess Diana had exclusive use and which she came to regard as her private refuge. It was there that William was photographed by the world’s Press for his first official photocall at the age of one.
And it was in this secluded spot, shielded from the noise of the grinding Kensington traffic, that one of the most extraordinary and deeply moving episodes of his mother’s time at Kensington Palace took place.
Other owners: The Duke of Kent, left, owns a lavish home within the building, while the Duke of Gloucester owns a 21-room apartment
When her great friend Rosa Monckton’s baby was stillborn in 1994, Diana offered to have the child buried in the garden she referred to as ‘my little oasis’. Diana’s two butlers, Paul Burrell and Harold Brown, dug the tiny grave, and prayers were said for little Natalia by Roman Catholic priest and old Etonian Alexander Sherbrooke (whom Diana had met in Calcutta where he was working with Mother Teresa), who consecrated the ground.
She gave Catholic Rosa and her husband, journalist Dominic Lawson, a key to the garden door so that they could visit. Sadly, after Diana’s death they had to give it up.
And then the garden passed to Prince and Princess Michael, who have had an apartment at Kensington Palace for many years.
The couple knew nothing of the burial because even an urn which Diana placed on the spot had been removed after her death. When they were told what had taken place there, they cancelled plans for a complete relandscaping of the garden in order to preserve the consecrated spot.
Princess Michael and the Duchess of Cambridge are bound to bump into each other from time to time, but Kate will find that she will not quickly get to know the other royal women who live in the palace.
There is little or no community spirit among the families occupying the grace-and-favour apartments. Kate will find — perhaps to her disappointment — that they all live very separate lives, especially her royal in-laws.
Royal neighbours: Prince and Princess Michael of Kent have an apartment in the Palace and have access to the garden
As for William, few married men choose to move their bride into the home where they were brought up.
For him, there will be the memories of scrambling with Harry round the endless corridors, and playing with chauffeur David Griffin’s dog on the green outside the palace, as well as with their cousins — the three children of the Queen’s then private secretary Robert (now Lord) Fellowes, married to Diana’s sister Lady Jane.
William is bound to tell Kate the glorious tale of when imperious Princess Michael brought in pest control people to round up all the stray cats she felt were troubling her Burmese and Siamese pedigrees.
Humanely trapped in cages, the cats’ escape was then secretly masterminded by Diana and William, who arranged their dramatic release, replacing them — to haughty Princess Michael’s fury — with a solitary stuffed toy cat.
No doubt, William’s memories will come flooding back once the couple are installed. Not all of them will be happy, but Diana would be thrilled to know that he’s brought Kate back to live there.
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I can't for the life of me understand why William felt he wanted to give Kate Diana's ring........Surely after her divorce from Charles it held no happy memories for her..........so why pass thhose unhappy memories onto Kate...........everytime I see it on Kate's hand I remember the tragic life Diana had.........it would have been better to put the ring in the Diana exhibition at Althorpe house............I think William should let his Mum rest in peace and not try to reserect her and move on.
- TJ, Bristol, 14/6/2011 12:48
The treatment her husband and his bit on the side gave to Diana contributed a lot to her state of mind, how many wives could have put up with that kind of betrayal. - M Grant, Dundee, 14/6/2011 13:16****************************************The sort of wife who has many "bits on the side"!! Had Diana been a bit more mature and stable she would have used the situation to her advantage. She was able to live her own life, spend money as she wanted, adored by the press and able to avoid the in-laws except at the occassional official function, just like many wives of heirs and kings before her.When she said in the interview" their were 3 of us in the marriage", she forgot the "O" after the 3.Had Diana lived we would now have 14 years of her life and activities to reflect on, as it is she is frozen in time and in the eyes of many can do no wrong.Poor Charles can do no right, but I think the way William and Harry love their father and have fully accepted Camilla speaks volumes.
- Lynda, Yorks, 14/6/2011 12:45
Oh give it a rest DM! They could live in the shed at the bottom of someone's garden and it would be something to do with Diane ! Let them live how and where they want to ... please!
- charlotte, leeds, 14/6/2011 12:44
Who cares, only the serfs.
- Tim J, London UK, 14/6/2011 12:36
Nothing like a bit of positive journalism DM... and yes, I am being sarcastic. Give it a rest can't you!! What a non-article! Are you really so desperate to write anything that will contain the names of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge, because it seems like it. Its called media obsession and it contributed to the death of Prince William's Mother! Haven't you learned anything?
- JT, London, 14/6/2011 12:36
Kensington Palace isnt the problem, Diana married a man who also wanted to continue with his bit on the side, Camilla.
- jack., ashford.england, 14/6/2011 12:31
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