In an iconic and relatable moment from when Prince William and Prince Harry were young, their mother, Princess Diana, took them to McDonald’s—showing that yes, while the boys were royal, they were also just kids who wanted a Happy Meal from time to time.
Though the Princess of Wales wants as normal of an upbringing for her own three children as possible—as normal as a childhood can be when the eyes of the world are upon you—The Daily Mail reports that she wouldn’t dream of, say, taking them to Mickey D’s or rocking the royal protocol boat in any way, shape, or form. Think normal—but not too normal.
In his new book, Gilded Youth (opens in new tab), Tom Quinn explores Kate’s parenting style, writing that she wants to be involved in her children’s day-to-day lives, but that she is also happy for her children—Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis—to have the “luxuries and privileges of a royal upbringing.”
“Kate makes no effort—unlike Diana—to bring the children down to earth, because she doesn’t want them to have a ‘normal’ childhood in the sense that Diana wanted it for William and Harry,” Quinn says.
Quinn says Kate feels that Diana’s modern parenting style created issues, “most especially with Harry,” by seemingly adding to his “dissatisfaction with his royal role.”
The book also quotes a former member of the Palace staff, who said “Diana enjoyed slumming it and was in many ways downwardly mobile—she wanted to escape her aristocratic childhood. Kate wants to escape her middle-class childhood. She dislikes burgers and chips and wouldn’t dream of taking her children to McDonald’s, and she doesn’t rock the boat when the vast weight of traditional royal pursuits bears down on her children.”
And for William and Harry, the McDonald’s visit wasn’t just a one-time situation: Paul Burrell, Diana’s butler, recalls that every Saturday, the princes would down a Big Mac and fries slumped in front of a trash television show. And, remembers a Kensington Palace kitchen chef, despite having a team of top chefs at their disposal, the boys would regularly seek out fast food.
“I remember the Princess came into the kitchen one day and said ‘Cancel lunch for the boys. I’m taking them out. We’re going to McDonald’s,'” chef Darren McGrady says. “And I said ‘Oh my God, Your Royal Highness, I can do that. I can do burgers.’ And she said, ‘No, it’s the toy they want.’”
McGrady added “Yeah, the boys loved McDonald’s, and going out to pizza, and having potato skins—sort of the American foods. They were royal princes but had children’s palates.”
Burrell agreed: “The three of them would nip to McDonald’s for burger and fries before coming back to watch Blind Date,” he said. “All three of them would squat on this massive, stuffed hippopotamus Diana had in her sitting room.”
Rachel Burchfield is a writer whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family. In addition to serving as the royal editor at Marie Claire, she has worked with publications like Vogue, Vanity Fair, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. She cohosts Podcast Royal, a show that provides candid commentary on the biggest royal family headlines and offers segments on fashion, beauty, health and wellness, and lifestyle.
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