How Princess Diana, and Now Prince William, Have Transformed a Cancer Hospital
William is president of the Royal Marsden Hospital, the same renowned cancer institution his mother represented from 1989 until her death in 1997. Now, as the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death in Paris nears on August 31, a leading specialist who chaperoned the princess when she visited the hospital and now works with William tells PEOPLE of the royals’ similarities.
“[William] has that same wonderful sympathy, down-to-earth nature, way of speaking to patients and staff, and really getting engaged,” says consultant medical oncologist Professor Martin Gore.
“Also, [Diana] was not just associated with this cancer hospital, but with less glamorous charities like those who dealt with AIDS — and Prince William has aligned himself with mental health charities, which were something of a Cinderella subject as well.”
In September 2011, just five months after marrying Princess Kate, the couple opened the Marsden’s children’s unit in Surrey, on the outskirts of London. William returned recently to get an update. “The kids absolutely loved seeing him. Of course, he now has his own children so there is tremendous engagement there,” Gore says. “He has a terrific sense of humor, as indeed [Diana] did, that makes the visits enjoyable.”
William, he adds, has “rather seamlessly picked up the legacy and continued with the same kind of support, and the same tone of the support, as [his mother] did. That is both supporting patients and the staff on the ground. There is a huge buzz when he comes to see us.”
In his time as president, he has also watched surgery at the hospital.
Gore says remembering Diana is important: “Maybe now at 20 years, it is a chance to look back and celebrate her life rather than mourn her death — though I think it still must be very difficult for her family because of how young they were when she died.”
He recalls how Diana would not just come on official visits but also “dropped in” to see friends or people who worked in the Royal Household who were patients. “She was very sympathetic and caring,” he says of those times. “Like all the organizations she was associated with, people on the ground were always struck by her kindness, and her engagements and her sensitivity and her friendliness. Naturally, because of who she was and the type of person she was, that always would give people a tremendous boost when she was around.”
He adds, “The legacy that she has passed on to her children is one of service, not just to the country but to charity work. That’s why it is particularly nice for us at the Marsden that William has carried on her tradition here.”