How Prince William and Duchess Kate Have Been Channeling Princess Diana
The royals' trip echoes Prince William's late mother's first visit to NYC.
By CAROLYN DURAND
December 9, 2014, 8:15 PM
• 4 min read
-- As William and Kate tour New York City for the first time, we're reminded of another royal who became America's sweetheart over 25 years ago.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been following in iconic Diana's fashionable footsteps - becoming devoted charitable role models.
"There are some extraordinary parallels between this visit and that visit 25 years ago," Patrick Jephson, Princess Diana's former chief of staff, told ABC News. "This is New York’s chance to get a fresh look at a new princess. And when Diana came, she wasn't very well-known. I mean, everybody knew that she was the future queen, but she hadn’t been to America on her own before. Very significantly, this was her first solo overseas trip."
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge today paid a visit to a City Kids Foundation project, the same charity Princess Diana helped support. This isn't the first time Prince William will invoked memories of his mother: He has also taken on roles in philanthropic endeavors with Centrepoint and the Royal Marsden, two organizations that were important to her. On Monday, Kate took a page from Princess Diana by visiting Harlem and spending time with young children at the Northside Youth Development Center, even being confused by some children as a "Frozen" princess. Diana famously changed the perception of AIDS at a Harlem hospital nearly 25 years ago by embracing a child who had the disease.
"When I’ve spoken since then to senior management at the hospital they have said... it was an enormous signal to the world that people who have AIDS can be hugged; should be hugged and loved and appreciated," Jephson said. "And she then, of course, went on all over the world to break down similar taboos, not just with AIDS, but also with leprosy, drug addiction, mental illness, homelessness... There is a gritty side to her. She was not afraid to take on the big issues and, of course, by her own special magic, she was able to, in many ways, send great public health and humane messages to the world at large."
Even the smallest details of their trip seem to conjure up William's mother's memory. The royals' Manhattan home away from home is one of Diana's favorite hideaways, the famed Carlyle hotel, where she famously met JFK Jr. shortly before they both tragically died.
"She loved New York and that’s why she came back several times more. And, indeed sometimes I think, had she lived, had her life turned out differently, she would very well have found herself with somewhere to live in New York," Jephson said. "She liked it here. And I think it was a mutual admiration society."