Prince George’s Godmother Shared How William Honors Diana With This Unique Parenting Tradition

When Princess Diana tragically lost her life in a car accident, her son, Prince William was a 15-year-old boy. But decades on, the British royal is apparently still finding new ways to honor her legacy. Yes, according to the godmother of his son Prince George, the future king has kept Diana’s spirit alive by indulging in one of her unique parenting traditions.

Julia Samuel isn’t just Prince George’s godmother, though, she’s also a licensed psychotherapist and author, and a specialist in grief counseling. She began her career volunteering for Westminster Bereavement Service in London, helping people face terrible losses. And she eventually went on to launch the charity Child Bereavement U.K., with fellow counselor Jenni Thomas – and the backing of Princess Diana.

You see, Samuel used to be close friends with the Princess of Wales. The psychotherapist was born into the Guinness family – owners of the world’s biggest brewery – and her sister was once romantically involved with Prince Charles, who would later marry Diana. That aristocratic background saw the pair move in similar circles, and they eventually met at a dinner party in 1987.

The two women hit it off straight away. Speaking to British newspaper The Times in 2018, Samuel recalled, “There was something about [Diana] and something about me that just worked.” They quickly became close friends, and the princess even began collecting her bestie’s children from school. Yes, the pair may have both hailed from aristocracy, but they bonded over ordinary, everyday activities.

Samuel said as much to Scottish newspaper The Sunday Post in 2017. Indeed, she recalled, “[Diana] was a princess in the way she treated people. But she was also incredibly special in the way she had fun, or emptied my dishwasher, or cooked lunch.” What’s more, both women shared a passion for helping others, with Diana widely regarded as the “people’s princess.”

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When Samuel launched Child Bereavement U.K. with Thomas, then, Diana played a crucial role in ensuring its early success. For instance, the royal attended the charity’s launch event, drawing the attention of the press. And she even helped her friend prepare for the day by running through her speech. In the years since, what began as a “kitchen table project with big dreams and aims” has flourished.

As well as individual, face-to-face support for bereaved families and children, the charity offers a number of group support programs for families, young people and parents. It operates across the entirety of the United Kingdom, and continues to expand its presence and services. In recent years, for instance, the organization introduced a “Live Chat” facility on its website.

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Nevertheless, Samuel’s experience in the field doesn’t stop her being affected by grief. And she still grieves for Diana, whose death in August 1997 reverberated around the world. The psychotherapist told The Sunday Post, “It both feels like yesterday and a million years ago. I remember it vividly, like a video in my head. I’m really sad, I miss her.”

Samuel has since, however, maintained a close relationship with the royals. And she’s stayed on particularly good terms with William. Not only is the counselor godmother to his firstborn son, but she also has regular meetings with the Duke of Cambridge. That’s because the heir to the British throne has succeeded his mother in the role of Child Bereavement U.K.’s royal patron.

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William has even gone hands-on for the charity, giving it a regal boost. Indeed, Samuel told The Sunday Post, “Having him as a patron has helped hugely. We had an event [recently] where he came and met other bereaved families. A woman whose husband had died was there with her child and she said that after getting over her initial shock, it was just like sitting down with anyone at Child Bereavement U.K.”

According to Samuel, William’s attitude towards mental health issues is very reminiscent of his mother’s approach. Speaking on British talk show Lorraine in March 2020, she explained how Diana “broke a lot of the taboo and stigma around mental health.” The counselor went on to say that the prince has followed in those footsteps, raising awareness of the unseen nature of mental illness.

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Samuel has also maintained a relationship with Diana’s younger son, Prince Harry. In January 2020 Harry stepped back from royal duties, and relinquished the title of “His Royal Highness.” Before he did so, however, Samuel helped his wife, Meghan Markle, gain a better understanding of what his mother was like. And the psychotherapist said on Lorraine that both of the late princess’s children are “very authentic.”

What the princes aren’t necessarily great at, though, is giving gifts. In July 2020 William admitted during a podcast interview that he’s “average at present-buying,” and once totally fluffed a gift for his then-girlfriend, Kate Middleton. Given the royal has the entire resources of the crown estate at his disposal, you might assume he’d never struggle to find something to give.

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All the money in the world, though, can’t buy good ideas. And that’s presumably how, early in the couple’s relationship, Kate ended up unwrapping a pair of binoculars. William, recalling the moment he purchased them to British soccer star Peter Crouch, explained, “I was trying to convince myself about it. I was like, ‘But these are really amazing. Look how far you can see!’”

Upon receiving the binoculars, however, it seems Kate wasn’t quite as enthusiastic. William continued, “She was looking at me going, ‘They’re binoculars. What’s going on?’ It didn’t go well. Honestly, I have no idea why I bought her a pair of binoculars.” Nevertheless, the ill-advised gift didn’t put her off, and the pair are now married with three children: George, Charlotte and Louis.

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Fortunately for the youngest generation of British royals, they’re lucky enough to also be related to people with better present-buying skills. Yes, according to Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand’s 2020 book Finding Freedom, Harry has showered his nephews and niece with lavish gifts over the years. On Prince George’s fourth birthday, for example, the uncle reportedly gifted him a toy SUV – thought to be worth up to $2,000.

William, though, appears to have upped his gift-giving game since becoming a father. For George’s seventh birthday, his parents presented him with a yurt, and organized a camping-themed celebration in their garden. What’s more, an anonymous source told Closer Weekly magazine in July 2020 that the future king is apparently “planning to build furniture” for the encampment.

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Kate’s gifts to her husband have also been incredibly thoughtful. For instance, in 2019 the Duchess enlisted the help of her children to create a scrapbook of the family’s most memorable moments over the past year. She then presented the album of photos, paintings and drawings to William on his 37th birthday.

Then again, perhaps William could have spun the now-infamous binoculars as part of a longstanding family tradition. You see, the British royals are well-known for their custom of giving each other amusing novelty gifts. On one occasion, for example, Harry reportedly presented his grandmother – Queen Elizabeth II – with a shower cap that read, “Ain’t Life a B****.”

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On another occasion – before Harry met future wife Meghan – Kate apparently gifted the prince a “Grow Your Own Girlfriend” kit. And when the former actor joined the family, the tradition made her first holiday season with the royals tricky to navigate. Fortunately, she passed with flying colors, gifting William a spoon embossed with the words “cereal killer.”

This unusual gift exchange isn’t the only Christmas tradition among the royals. In fact, the family boasts a long list of annual holiday customs, including sending out over 750 greetings cards. Remarkably, each one is reportedly hand-signed by the Queen, who typically begins penning them during her summer vacation.

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Christmas Eve is a particularly special day for the royals. Not only do they follow afternoon tea with the opening of presents – a means of honoring their German heritage – but the entire family gathers for a black-tie dinner. Christmas Day, meanwhile, typically involves attending a church service, along with an annual post-lunch game of charades.

The Queen, however, has plenty of her own holiday traditions. Perhaps the most famous is her annual broadcast to the Commonwealth nations, which has been televised since 1957. But she also makes several donations to charities around Windsor – and even gifts Christmas trees to churches, schools and buildings, including St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.

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Furthermore, the monarch maintains a family custom gifting around 1,500 Christmas puddings to her staff. Those lucky enough to receive the spiced fruit cake include palace personnel, Post Office workers and even police officers. And they have the Queen’s grandfather, King George V, to thank for starting the holiday tradition.

Writing greetings cards and gifting Christmas puddings are, of course, perfectly reasonable seasonal customs to hold. But one of the Queen’s other annual traditions may leave onlookers slightly more puzzled. That’s because Her Majesty leaves her holiday decorations up for much longer than most. Indeed, she refuses to take them down until February 6 – the day her own father, King George VI, passed away in 1952.

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In this way, the Queen hopes to honor her late father. But she’s not the only royal who pays tribute to beloved family members who have long since passed away. Yes, William has also found a unique way to remember the legacy of his mom, facilitated by Samuel. It all started with Diana herself, who was godmother to the counselor’s son Benjamin.

Samuel told the Daily Mail in 2015 that Diana was “the most brilliant godmother,” describing her as “warm and loving and fun.” And she recalled how the princess would always give Benjamin gifts that he loved, but his parents invariably loathed. They were the kind of presents that were, in the counselor’s words, “huge,” “noisy,” and “nightmarish.”

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The psychotherapist also revealed that she now looks to Diana as a role model while fulfilling her own child-based duties. William appointed Samuel as George’s godmother at the young prince’s christening in 2013, which took place at St. James’ Palace. But she wasn’t the only one of his seven godparents with ties to the late princess.

In fact, one of the future king’s godfathers is also connected to his grandmother. The heir to the Duke of Westminster, Hugh Grosvenor, was just 22 years old when William asked him to take on the role. But the appointment made sense: Grosvenor’s mom is godmother to the Duke, and the families have long been intertwined.

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However, it was godmother Samuel who revealed that William honors his late mother with a unique parenting tradition. In July 2020, the counselor spoke to author and journalist Elizabeth Day for her podcast, How to Fail With Elizabeth Day, in which the broadcaster quizzes interviewees on what they’ve learned from their failures. The episode was then published on Diana’s 59th birthday.

During that conversation with Day, Samuel talked about her relationship with her royal godson. And she revealed that her godparenting style was inspired by Diana’s. Or, more specifically, one particular aspect of it. Yes, the psychotherapist shares the princess’s sense of humor with George by preserving one of her hilarious traditions.

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Of course, William also talks to his children about his late mother. In a 2017 documentary titled Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, the prince said that he chats about Diana to the youngest royals at bedtime, to “remind them that… There were two grandmothers in their lives.” But Samuel is uniquely positioned, as the princess’s close friend, to offer another perspective on her life.

And Samuel does just that by invoking one of the princess’s more humorous traditions. Speaking to Day, she said, “I do to George what [Diana] did to us, which is give impossible toys that are really noisy and take a lot of making.” Indeed, the counselor revealed that just like their grandmother, she prioritizes gifts that the young royals’ parents would never buy, because they’re such a pain to assemble.

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Samuel continued, “I come in slightly tipped by the size of the present that 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. That makes me laugh, and it makes George laugh.” By maintaining Diana’s tradition, then, the counselor and the future king embody the playful spirit of his late mother.

Despite Diana’s penchant for frustrating presents, though, William acknowledged that she would have been a fantastic grandmother – at least in the youngsters’ eyes. During Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy, the prince joked, “She’d love the children to bits, but she’d be an absolute nightmare… She’d come in probably at bath time, cause an amazing amount of scene, bubbles everywhere, bathwater all over the place… And then leave.”

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Samuel naturally shares the prince’s view, telling the Daily Mail that Diana “would have been a fantastic grandmother.” She continued, “It breaks my heart even thinking about it, because she would have been amazing, she really would.” And she told Day that the late princess would have particularly doted on George. The counselor explained, “He’s funny and feisty and cheeky… She would have loved him so much.”

Traditions clearly run strong in the royal family, and birthdays are no exception. But elaborate gifts aren’t the only mainstay in William’s household. That’s because the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge also have another annual custom for George, Charlotte and Louis’ birthdays. Every year, Kate heads to the kitchen to create one last birthday surprise for her children.

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Yes, it turns out the Duchess is an enthusiastic baker – so rather than buying a cake for the children’s birthdays, she rolls up her sleeves and gets to work. She told British baking legend Mary Berry in 2019, “I love making the cake. It’s become a bit of a tradition that I stay up ‘til midnight with ridiculous amounts of cake mix and icing, and I make far too much. But I love it.”

There are, unfortunately, no photos of the cake Kate baked for George’s seventh birthday. However, the royals did release two brand new images of the youngster to mark the occasion. Both photos paint a happy picture of the fresh-faced future king, who can be seen smiling at the camera while sporting a camouflage-print t-shirt.

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According to some royal commenters, George’s choice of attire in the pictures pays touching tribute to his family. For instance, businesswoman Elizabeth Holmes wrote on Instagram, “Pictures of [the royals] in uniform are important to the visual narrative the family crafts… This is a sign, that at age seven, Prince George’s life is devoted to service of his country.” In other words, it’s simply another heartfelt royal tradition – just like Samuel and William’s devotion to honoring Diana’s gifts.

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