Diana’s greatest legacy... William married for love - 1 May 2011

It was also lovely that Carole Middleton wore a Catherine Walker dress: Catherine, my neighbour in Sussex, who died last year, was Diana’s favourite designer, and is much missed by all her friends, as well as the world of fashion.

However, for me the most moving moment was seeing Prince William and Prince Harry leaving Clarence House together to go to Westminster Abbey. Their role as Princes means that, in a certain way, they belong to the nation, yet they are also Diana’s gift to us. How very, very proud she would have been of them, of their achievements and their obviously unbreakable bond with each other.

She already saw how strong and precious that bond was, but that did not prevent her from worrying about them constantly, especially when they were apart.

So on the trip around the Greek islands I went on with Diana ten days before her death, I took her to a small Greek Orthodox church where we lit candles for her two boys and my two girls – she was also godmother to my daughter Domenica.

Although Diana was not a religious person in any conventional sense, she understood the intimate connection between faith and William’s future role – a link that the service in Westminster Abbey highlighted in much more magnificent surroundings.

William powerfully reminded us of his mother¿s eternal presence by giving Catherine his mother's sapphire engagement ring.

Diana fought hard to give her sons as normal a life as it was possible for them to have within the constraints of their position. She did not want either of them to feel as trapped as she did, and particularly wanted William to be strong enough to bear the burden of kingship. She expected him to be in touch with his future subjects, to understand the day-to-day realities of their lives, and to be in a position truly to understand those realities, rather than merely to observe them from afar.

It is something that she often talked about with me, and she made it her business to steer them along a common path of empathy with the most vulnerable and troubled in society. Her own painful feelings of inadequacy gave her an intuitive understanding of others’ plight.

This link to Diana’s passion for such work could perhaps best be seen in the presence in Westminster Abbey of a group from Centrepoint, the charity for the homeless, to which Diana introduced William, and of which he is now Patron.
The extraordinary relationship that Diana had with both of her sons shows the immense, transforming power of love. It is an absolute credit to her that William was able to marry Catherine. He did not feel that he needed to marry into the aristocracy – although he would have been aware of the insistent murmurings in the Palaces until relatively recently that the vigorously entrepreneurial Middletons were not the sort of family that befitted dynastic union with the House of Windsor.

William was secure enough in himself to be able to marry for love, and that is Diana’s greatest legacy.

Despite the unhappiness of her own marriage, she was a great believer in the redemptive power of romantic love, and I am sure every mother in the land who has watched the courtship of William and Catherine, in all its passion and ordinariness, would have shed a tear for a mother not there to witness her son’s obvious happiness.

Diana was impulsive – she had a whim of iron – but William has inherited his father’s deep thoughtfulness. So often people make the best decisions based on the most bitter experience; seeing the pain his parents went through has given him a rare wisdom.

Diana met Prince Charles only a handful of times before they married. They did not know or understand each other. How delighted she would have been at the length, stamina and fidelity of her son’s courtship. He and Catherine have been together for a decade, and the time they had together at St Andrews, before anybody was aware of their relationship, is the most precious foundation to a joint life that will have to be lived in the spotlight.
Somehow, Diana’s own unhappiness has helped to give her son both the capacity and the opportunity for great love.

Phoenix-like, a great joy has risen from the still-glowing ashes of Diana’s experience, and it has transformed the future for her son, our future King, and our nation’s history.