Princess Diana Started a Hilarious Birthday Tradition That Now Leaves Prince William Struggling

Diana’s sense of humor is still felt, especially when it comes to giving gifts to kids.

Princess Diana on a red carpet
(Image credit: Getty)

Even though his late grandmother Princess Diana has been gone for nearly 26 years, her presence is still very much felt, her dear friend Julia Samuel said on the “How to Fail” podcast (and per The Mirror), and will be especially so on Prince George's tenth birthday today. Though Diana never got to meet her grandchildren George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis, Prince Archie, and Princess Lilibet, a tradition Diana started is still upheld on their birthdays, including George’s birthday today—buying the kiddos “impossible” toys that dads Prince William and Prince Harry have to spend days carefully assembling.

“I do to George what [Diana] did to us, which is give impossible toys that are really noisy and take a lot of making,” Samuel said. “William then has to spend days putting together. And then put all the machinery together, and it makes awful tooting noises and lights flashing and all of that.”

Princess Diana on a red carpet

(Image credit: Getty)

And, while poor William struggles for days to put together the complex toys, the rest of the family takes great pleasure in watching him squirm—especially “cheeky” George, she said. Samuel said it “makes [her] laugh, and it makes George laugh.”

Samuel—who is godmother to the future king—said George is “amazing,” adding Diana would have adored him, too: “He’s funny and feisty and cheeky and, God, she [Diana] would have loved him so much,” she said. “That is heartbreaking for all of them.”

Prince George

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Though this Diana tradition continues, George’s life is worlds apart from William’s when he himself turned 10 in June 1992. Back then, William was already boarding at Ludgrove School—and had been for two years. (George, Charlotte, and Louis are all day pupils at Lambrook School, meaning they come home every evening.) And as opposed to George’s parents’ healthy marriage, the marriage between the then Prince Charles and Diana was disintegrating; they would be separated by the end of that year.

Princess Diana and Prince William in 1992

(Image credit: Getty)

“At the same age William was very sensitive and increasingly weighed down by his royal status,” Majesty Magazine editor-in-chief Ingrid Seward told The Mirror. “The sight of a camera made him uncomfortable. He became withdrawn and always kept his head well down. He was a boarder at Ludgrove School and had started to make friends, but when he was out and about, he became moody and difficult.”

George is helped not only by his parents, but also by other members of the royal family—particularly Charlotte, “who gives him the odd dig in the ribs if he forgets to wave or smile,” Seward said.

Princess Diana with sons Prince William and Prince Harry in 1992

(Image credit: Getty)

She continued “William and Kate are conscious that George needs to develop his philanthropic side and discuss things with him like the plight of the homeless—there are many on the streets of Windsor Town—and how he will be in a powerful position to help,” Seward said. “There is nothing normal about being a royal prince, however hard his parents try. But, as William once said, ‘right now it’s just a case of keeping a secure, stable environment around him and showing as much love as I can.’ They have done exactly that.” 

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.