Prince William and Kate Middleton’s New Titles Carry “A Huge Emotional Weight,” Royal Expert Says

We haven’t referred to a couple publicly as Prince and Princess of Wales in over a quarter-century.

Prince William and Kate Middleton
(Image credit: Getty)

Yesterday, King Charles III officially named Prince William and Kate Middleton the new Prince and Princess of Wales. It’s not a surprising move, considering that the title typically goes to the first in line to the throne in the order of succession—in this case William—and, as his wife, Kate would naturally become princess alongside him.

Charles was named Prince of Wales by his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, when he was nine years old in 1958. (His investiture didn’t happen until he was 20 years old in 1969.) Now 73, Charles held the Prince of Wales title for 64 years before becoming King on Thursday, upon the death of his mother at age 96.

When he married Diana Spencer in 1981, she became the Princess of Wales, and after their divorce in 1996 and, one year later, her death, the title of Princess of Wales has not been used, although technically upon her marriage to Charles in 2005, Camilla became Princess of Wales. (Knowing that the title was so closely associated with Diana, Camilla opted to not use the Princess of Wales title publicly and instead went by her Duchess of Cornwall title.)

All of that to say—we have not had a Prince and Princess of Wales that we’ve referred to publicly in that way for over 25 years, so William and Kate taking on these titles carries “a huge emotional weight,” according to royal expert Gareth Russell, speaking to Us Weekly, noting specifically Kate’s use of a title so closely associated with a woman who was once the most famous person in the world. “Princess Diana had such a great impact across the world with both her charisma and her fame and also her humanitarian and charitable activities…but the title [of Princess of Wales], you know, was used by many people before Diana, and…it is now being used afterward.”

Russell says he believes William and Kate will honor Diana’s legacy with “a real respect” with their new titles: “I think it is quite moving for a lot of people that the last person to hold [the Princess of Wales title] was William’s mother, and now it’s his wife,” he says. “I think it puts a good kind of pressure [on William and Kate] because it brings a lot of the…emotional collateral charisma that Princess Diana had…and invests that title with a certain emotional appeal to people.”

Just a day into her new role as Princess of Wales, a royal source tells PEOPLE “the new Princess of Wales appreciates the history associated with this role but will understandably want to look to the future as she creates her own path.” 

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.