The Diana Effect: The Pressure to Fill Her Shoes

Will the public expect Middleton to be the next "people's princess"?

Nov. 16, 2010— -- The engagement of Miss Catherine Middleton to Prince William became official Tuesday with the happy princess-to-be showing off Princess Diana's ring to the media. But can the Berkshire native live up to being the next Princess Di?

"It's my mother's engagement ring and it's very special to me, as Kate is very special to me now, as well," William told a U.K. news conference Tuesday. "It was my way of making sure mother didn't miss out on today and the excitement and the fact that we're going to spend the rest of our lives together."

Like Diana, Middleton is from middle-class roots, which will most likely earn her the title once given to Princess Di: the "people's princess."

In the hours after the royal engagement went public, news venues in the U.K. and across the Atlantic were alight with side-by-side comparisons of the future princess and the Prince's famed mother, contrasting background, gumption and even personal style.

If Middleton is expected to fill the late Princess Di's shoes, coping with the daunting task of marrying into royalty may prove a strain.

In an interview with the U.K. media, Middleton admitted that thinking about the task that's before her is "nerve-wracking" but also expressed excitement about tackling the challenge.

The Stress of Being New Royalty

One thing's for sure: The future princess of Wales has already had a crash course in pestering paparazzi 101.

Like Diana, Middleton has certainly had her struggles with the media. Her battle with the paparazzi began as soon as she started seeing Prince William in 2005 and the St. Andrew's grad has been forced to take legal action against the media several times to fight for her privacy.

The first rumble with the media occurred in 2005, shortly after Middleton began seeing the Prince. Her lawyers claimed that she was being followed constantly in a letter to a newspaper that published a photo of Middleton taken through a bus window.

Media pressure was even blamed by some for the couple's split in April 2007, according to the BBC, although no official statement was issued by either concerning this.

Although she had managed to dodge heavy media coverage since the break up and subsequent reunion, now that Middleton's engagement to Prince William is official, the pressure from the media and her upcoming role as royalty will be substantial.

"It's obviously nerve-wracking, I don't know the ropes, William is obviously used to it, but I'm willing to learn quickly and work hard," Middleton said in one interview.

But with Middleton's extensive experience in the public eye, this may mean she's better-equipped to handle the challenging times ahead.

"She has been in the spotlight from the time they went out more than once. She has been tested for how she handles the spotlight. What will be new is 'royal duties' of her own," said Pepper Schwartz, relationship expert and author of a number of books on sex and relationships.

"But she seems to know how to have fun with it and make no missteps," she added.

No Need to Fill Shoes

But while Diana is an "inspiration woman" to Middleton, who never met her fiance's mother, she will be making her own mark going forward.

"There's no pressure [to be like Diana] ," Prince William told the U.K. media. "Like Kate said, it is about carving your own future. No one is trying to fill my mother's shoes, what she did was fantastic. It's about making your own future and your own destiny and Kate will do a very good job of that."

Said Middleton: "I really hope I can make a difference, even in the smallest way [in the role as princess]. I am looking forward to helping as much as I can."

The wedding will take place in the spring or summer next year in London.