Will and Kate as Parents: Following Diana’s Lead

Will and Kate, 2013 , Charles and Diana, 1982 (photo: AP Images)
When Prince Charles was only 2, his mother, Princess Elizabeth, left him to celebrate Christmas with his grandparents while she visited her husband, who was stationed in Malta. It's unlikely that the new royal baby boy will be spending important holidays without his doting parents. Just as they seem comfortable with being referred to as "Will and Kate" by millions of royal watchers, it's predicted that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's parenting style will be warm, casual, and hands-on.

And it seems as if the hands-on part has already begun, as new mom Kate announced to the world upon exiting the hospital on Tuesday that it was her husband who had changed the baby's first nappy (better known as a diaper in the United States).

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"Prince William benefited from Diana's attempts to provide a normal childhood," Arianne Chernock, a Boston University professor and expert on British royal history, told Yahoo! Shine. Diana broke with royal tradition in many of her parenting choices, starting with the birth of her first child. She was the first royal mum to deliver her babies in a hospital and it's also speculated that she was the first to breastfeed them.

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According to Judy Wade, who reported on the royal family for HELLO! magazine during Diana's years in the palace, every morning Will and Harry would bound into her bedroom and jump onto her bed for a hug. That's a stark contrast to Queen Elizabeth and Charles as a boy; she often shook his hand rather than embracing him.

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Middleton's upbringing will also have an influence. The first commoner in 350 years to marry an heir to the throne, Kate had a normal, albeit affluent, childhood in Bucklebury, Berkshire, attending a nearby private school, participating in school plays, and excelling in sports. Not only did she spend the weeks leading up to her delivery at the home of her parents, Carole and Michael Middleton, but also plans on spending time there to recuperate with her new son.

"Kate is very close to Carole, and an awful lot of young women, when they have had a baby, like being with their mum," royal biographer Penny Junor told the National Post "I suspect that William not only approves of that idea but may even be driving it."

It's important to note that Kate and Will's style will also reflect current parenting norms that encourage both mothers and fathers to be closer and less formal with their children, royal or not. Chernock pointed out that when Prince Charles was born in 1948, Queen Elizabeth was grappling with the pressures of being a young, female monarch in a highly conservative era. Her public persona as a proper mother, which has been analyzed retrospectively as "cold," may have been part of her efforts to master the formalities and requirements of her station. "The palace has been increasingly releasing private footage of the royal family," said Chernock, "which reveals a warmer presence."

Even Queen Elizabeth's great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who supposedly described her nine children as "frogs," has gotten something of a bad rap as a mother. "She made them very central to her reign," countered Chernock, "and [her husband] Prince Albert was also very hands-on. There are pictures of him on all fours with the kids hanging all over him."

Like all royals before them, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be tasked with gracefully navigating their family's public and private lives. They keep their subjects enthralled by a tradition, which is seen by some as increasingly irrelevant, and at the same time hold them at a manageable, healthy distance. Despite their best intentions, one of their greatest challenges as parents will be providing a semblance of normalcy in the era of the 24/7 news cycle. Now, more than ever, the royal baby will grow up in the glare of paparazzi and cell phone cameras.

Between Twitter and the Internet, there will be no lack of advice sent their way—much of it from other celebrities. Snooki, new mom and Princess of the Jersey Shore, has already sent her "words of wisdom" via a letter she posted on YourTango: "In the beginning, right when you take your royal golden nugget home to the castle is the most exciting experience of your life. I couldn't wait to wake up in the middle of the night to take care of my little prince Lorenzo," it reads in part. "But that lasts for about a few days. Then it's like, 'I love you, but OMG stop crying! I'm exhausted.' The lack of sleep you will get used to—just do your makeup, put a tiara on, and you'll look beautiful as usual."

Photo by: Courtesy of Tim Graham/Getty Images
The Prince and Princess of Wales, United Kingdom, 1986
Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana with their two sons in the wildflower meadow at Highgrove House,... more 
Photo by: Courtesy of Tim Graham/Getty Images
The Prince and Princess of Wales, United Kingdom, 1986
Charles, Prince of Wales, and Diana with their two sons in the wildflower meadow at Highgrove House, their country home in Gloucestershire, England.

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