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Prince Charles wed Lady Diana Spencer in July 1981. Thirty years later, their son, Prince William wed Catherine Middleton on April 29, 2011, at Westminster Cathedral.
TODAY contributor
updated 4/27/2012 3:55:35 PM ET 2012-04-27T19:55:35

Separated by a generation, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, have traveled many of the same paths and faced many of the same challenges. And even without Diana’s engagement ring on her finger, Kate would inevitably have faced comparisons to her mother in-law.

But they share as many differences as they do similarities.

“It is almost unfair to compare the two women because of the different roles that they are playing in the royal family,” said Marlene Eilers Koenig, author of “Queen Victoria’s Descendants” and writer of the blog Royal Musings. “Not only was Diana marrying a man, she was marrying a country. The pressure on Catherine is very different because she is not the wife of the heir to the throne, which comes with its own set of responsibilities.”

Slideshow: Princess Diana's life (on this page)
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After Diana’s wedding to Prince Charles in July 1981, she was given little time to settle down and get used to her new role. Royal duties and appearances piled up immediately. And with little training, the new princess was ill-prepared for the frenzy that awaited her.

She made her public speaking debut in October, three months after her wedding. The speech, given at Cardiff City Hall, was written by others and included a few sentences in Welsh. Prince Charles was there.

Kate’s podium debut in March revealed a poised and confident woman : The speech was short, and she wrote it herself. She delivered it solo, as William was deployed in the Falklands, and barely wavered. And though both women wore blue, that's where the similarities ended.

Video: Duchess Kate makes her first public speech (on this page)

Diana struggled through that first year. Complicating her adjustment was how quickly she got pregnant, and the daily morning sickness she experienced at the beginning. Prince William was born in June 1982, only 11 months after his parents' wedding.

Image: Diana's New Family
Princess Diana Archive  /  Getty Images
The Prince and Princess of Wales greet the public with their newborn son, Prince William, on the steps of St Mary's Hospital in London.

“Charles and Diana didn’t know each other nearly as well as William and Catherine, so they were trying to navigate their relationship with each other as well as with the public,” said Carolyn Harris, who writes the Royal Historian blog. “Diana needed to find her way as a wife, mother, and a royal in compressed period of time. It didn’t help that she was very charismatic, and there is evidence that Charles felt overshadowed to a certain extent.”

Slideshow: Princess Diana: Fashionable and pregnant (on this page)

A year into marriage, as with many modern-day newlyweds, William and Kate haven't rushed into starting a family, despite the near-constant speculation in the press.

And Kate's relationship with her in-laws, by all outward appearances, has been a happy one. Over the past year, Kate has received guidance and support from the family. While William was away on military duty this year, she accompanied the queen , her stepmother in-law Camilla, and Prince Charles on several public engagements.

Getty Images, Tim Graham Photo L
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge gives her first speech during a visit to a children's hospice on March 19. Princess Diana delivered her first speech at the Cardiff City Hall, on Oct. 29, 1981.

“Catherine exudes confidence and Diana, at the age of 20, didn’t know what confidence was,” said Koenig. “Diana also didn’t have her own family to support her, whereas Catherine comes from a solid family, making her a better candidate to succeed.”

Video: Will, Kate hit the states

But while they may have as many differences as similarities, the two women are similar in one major way: the public’s hunger to watch their every move. Their personal styles have been met with equal fascination, and Kate has made many a fashion choice that mimics Diana's.

Experts say that may be a coincidence.

Click here to relive the royal wedding in video!

“I don't think that Kate is trying to emulate Diana's style; I just think fashion is very cyclical,” said Gabriele Hackworthy, fashion director at Harper’s Bazaar. “Diana was such a unique character, and I think Kate really wants to carve her own path. She doesn't want to be compared to William's mum. She's much more independent, much more confident and wants to be her own person.”

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Photos: Life

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  1. Lady Diana Frances Spencer, later Princess Diana of Wales (1961-1997), is shown July 1, 1963, at Park House, Sandringham, Norfolk, England. (Keystone via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Lady Diana Spencer, then a children's nanny, is shown with two of her charges in 1980, the year before she married Prince Charles. (Hulton Archive via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Lady Diana Spencer playfully gestures toward photographers during a visit to Broadlands, the former home of Earl Mountbatten, in Romsey, England, on May 9, 1981. Walking behind her is police bodyguard Graham Smith. (Tim Graham / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Princess Diana and Prince Charles are shown on their wedding day in London on July 29, 1981. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Princess Diana dances with actor John Travolta during a visit to the White House in 1985. (Tim Graham Picture Library via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A 1986 Emanuel ball gown worn by late Princess Diana is displayed on a mannequin during an auction in London, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. According to the auction house, Diana wore the gown with gold sequins, crystals and pearl beads comes with matching headband, optional sleeve panels and petticoat, in various occasions. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) Mandatory Credit: Photo by Today/REX USA (105461a) PRINCESS DIANA Richard Von Weizsacker state visit, banquet at the German Ambassador's residence, London, Britain - Jul 1986 (AP, Rex USA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Princess Diana visits a hostel for abandoned children, many of whom are HIV-positive or suffer from AIDS, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on April 24, 1991. (Tim Graham Picture Library via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Princess Diana chats with Mother Teresa during a visit to a convent in Rome on Feb. 19, 1992. (AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Prince Charles and Princess Diana are shown during their last official trip together, in Seoul, South Korea, on Nov. 3, 1992. They attended a banquet at the government Blue House in Seoul. (Tim Graham Picture Library via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Princess Diana returns to Kensington Palace in London on Dec. 9, 1992, after the initial announcement that she and Prince Charles would separate. (Thierry Saliou / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Princess Diana leaves a press conference at the Hilton Hotel, London, in which she gave a speech resigning from her public duties, on Dec. 3, 1993. (Hulton Archive via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Princess Diana watches a military parade on V-J Day, Aug. 19, 1995, in London with her sons Harry, second left, and William, second right, and Prince Charles, right. (Johnny Eggitt / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Princess Diana smiles during a visit to Leicester, England, on May 27, 1997. (John Stillwell / Pool via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Princess Diana tours a minefield dressed in a flak jacket and face shield in Huambo, Angola, on Jan. 15, 1997. The visit was part of Diana's campaign to raise awareness for victims of landmines. (John Stillwell / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Princess Diana attends a preview party at Christies, New York, on June 23, 1997, for an auction of her dresses. Lord Hindlip, chairman of Christies International, accompanies her. (Tim Graham Picture Library via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. From left, Prince Charles, Prince Harry, Earl Charles Spencer (Princess Diana's brother), Prince William and Prince Philip (Charles' father) watch the coffin bearing Diana's body being taken into Westminster Abbey, London, on Sept. 6, 1997. (John Gaps III / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Prince William, left, and Prince Harry appear on stage during the star-studded Concert for Diana, which honored their mother, at London's Wembley Stadium on July 1, 2007. More than 60,000 people attended the event on what would have been the princess' 46th birthday. (Stephen Hird / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A photograph and plastic flower in memory of the late Princess Diana sit within the grounds of Kensington Palace, London, on Aug. 30, 2007, a day before a memorial service in honor of the late princess. (Lefteris Pitarakis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Baby Diana
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    Above: Slideshow (18) Princess Diana's life - Life
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    Slideshow (21) Princess Diana's life - Style
  3. Image: Royal Engagement
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    Slideshow (14) Princess Diana's life - Wedding
  4. Last moments
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    Slideshow (10) Princess Diana's life - Final moments
  5. Image: Royal Engagement
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    Slideshow (14) The wedding of Charles and Diana - Wedding
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    Slideshow (18) The wedding of Charles and Diana - Life
  1. Image:
    Getty Images via InStyle.com
    Slideshow (21) The wedding of Charles and Diana - Style
  2. Last moments
    H.M. Coroner via EPA
    Slideshow (10) The wedding of Charles and Diana - Final moments
  3. Image: The Duke And Duchess Of Cambridge Support Development Opportunities For Young People In South London
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    Slideshow (51) The life of Duchess Kate
  4. Image: Catherine Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William Duke of Cambridge visit the Stephen Lawrence Centre in London
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    Slideshow (172) Duchess Kate’s royal style
    Slideshow (8) Princess Diana: Fashionable and pregnant

Video: Duchess Kate’s first year as a married woman

  1. Closed captioning of: Duchess Kate’s first year as a married woman

    >> note sunday marks the one year anniversary of the duke and duchess of cambridge and what a year it's been for the young couple, especially for kate middleton . michelle kosinski is at buckingham palace . good morning, michelle .

    >> for kate it's hard to imagine life changing more virtually overnight. she's now the future queen of england. royal watchers say their popularity has surprised even will and kate themselves, in their first flawless year since that kiss here on the balcony. days away from the first anniversary, cameras always sneaking at kate 's middle and trying to, and what she's drinking. water again. she and william dote all over. a baby. they both love children.

    >> he likes me.

    >> reporter: and while not parents yet, the hands-on pair has come a long way since that sweet nervous walk. almost immediately kate wowed the world. uncommonly laidly-like, understatedly glamorous. she sparkled in canada. and america. then her solo appearances. much more confident. and personal touch.

    >> celebrity obsessed red carpet fever it's quite nice to have a rising star who isn't a showoff and isn't too extroverted, who just goes about her business being quietly confident.

    >> reporter: a decade older than princess diana when she married, kate is more independent. after diana's first year, she was pregnant. but some strain was also starting to show. kate has a queen herself as a mentor. and with william , a power couple, but also a love match.

    >> a member of the royal family the other day was staying they have allowed the queen to see over the rainbow . she can see that when the crown passes on through the generations, it is in safe hands.

    >> william and kate may walk the red carpets, but still have a cottage in wales. kate does the shopping. cooks dinner.

    >> their chemistry is an absolute delight.

    >> reporter: bringing an unexpectedly infectious mix of energy and normalcy to quite possibly the most extraordinary life imaginable. they will celebrate this first year of marriage in private. and what first anniversary would be complete without barbies in one's own image and likeness. although some of the guys in our office were a little disappointed it didn't come with that cool convertible they drove in right after the wedding. carl?

    >> you can send that to me at 30 rock , michelle . thank you very much. michelle


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