« Israelis Ignore Critics of West Bank Settlement Plans | Main | Regardless of Gender, Kate Middleton and Prince William's Child Can Succeed the Throne »

Princess Diana Set Royal Motherhood Example for Kate Middleton

Tim Graham/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The world is abuzz with the news that Kate Middleton is expecting her first child.

The news has delighted royal watchers, who have been speculating feverishly about a royal pregnancy since Middleton married Britain’s Prince William on April 29, 2011.

If the 30-year-old Middleton has any doubts about how to embrace motherhood in the coming months, she can follow the example set by Princess Diana, William’s late mother.

Royal watchers say Diana set the gold standard for mothering a future monarch.

“Diana lavished her boys with affection and she was truly a loving parent, which in many ways broke the mold for traditional royal parenting,” Kate Coyne of People magazine told ABC's Good Morning America.

Diana was just 20 years old when she announced she was pregnant with William, her first child.  The announcement came in November 1981, just three months after Diana wed Prince Charles in a wedding watched by an estimated 750 million people around the world.

Their older son’s wedding eclipsed that.  It was seen by a worldwide television audience of about two billion people.

Diana was thrilled to give birth to a royal child, but she wanted to do it in a modern way.

William was the first royal baby to be born in a hospital.  Diana reportedly was in labor for 16 hours before she gave birth to him at St. Mary’s Hospital.  She followed a natural childbirth plan, which included sucking ice, and Charles was by her side during her delivery.

From the very beginning, Diana insisted on keeping her infant son by her side.

“Prince William was the first royal baby brought along on a royal trip,” Coyne said, adding that Diana “insisted that she bring him.  She would not leave him behind and one of the reasons was that she was breastfeeding -- also unheard of in the royal family up until that time.”

Two years later, when she gave birth to Harry, Diana’s hands-on mothering style didn’t change.  She regularly played educational games with her young sons in their nursery, and was actively involved in dropping them off and picking them up from school in London.

Diana also opposed the tradition of sending off her sons to boarding school.

“In the royal family, children as young as 6 and 7 were sent away to boarding school, but that was not OK with Diana,” Coyne said

Diana would go on to take her sons to such kid-favorite haunts as McDonald’s in later years, notably insisting that William wait his turn in line to order.  She also took her boys to amusement parks, famously going on rides with them.

Her goal?  To give her children as normal a childhood as possible.

Years later, the princes would call Diana the best mother in the world.

Kate has some big maternal shoes to fill, but royal watchers predict she is up to the job.

“I think William and Kate’s parenting styles might be similar to what Diana did,” royal watcher Victoria Arbiter said.  “And I think William and Kate are really going to follow that model and do everything they can to ensure as normal a childhood as possible, while at the same time behind the scenes educating their child for their future role.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio