Princess Diana's Surprising Answer on If She Thought Prince William Should Succeed Queen Elizabeth

In 1995, Princess Diana sat down with BBC for her unprecedented interview, giving her side of the story about her divorce from Prince Charles

Even when he was a teenager, Princess Diana felt her son Prince William had the makings of a monarch.

In November 1995, less than two years before her tragic death, Diana sat down with BBC1 Panorama for her unprecedented interview giving her side of the story about her divorce from Prince Charles — and therefore, her separation from the royal family that played a huge role in the lives of her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.

With William, then 13, second in line to the British throne, Martin Bashir asked Diana if she believed her son should succeed Queen Elizabeth as monarch.

"Do you think it would make more sense in the light of the marital difficulties that you and the Prince of Wales have had if the position of monarch passed directly to your son Prince William?" he asked.

Diana replied, "Well, then you have to see that William's very young at the moment, so do you want a burden like that to be put on his shoulders at such an age? So I can't answer that question."

Diana, Princess of Wales and Prince William attending Christ
Princess Diana and Prince William. Tim Graham/Getty

Bashir rephrased: "Would it be your wish that when Prince William comes of age that he were to succeed the Queen rather than the current Prince of Wales?"

"My wish is that my husband finds peace of mind, and from that follows others things, yes," Princess Diana said.

The Prince and Princess of Wales with sons Prince William, right, and Prince Harry
Princess Diana, Prince Harry, Prince Charles and Prince William. PA Images via Getty Images

In April 2018, Queen Elizabeth made the rare move of publicly backing Prince Charles as the next Commonwealth leader. The 94-year-old monarch formally asked the Commonwealth Heads of Government to appoint Charles as her successor of the association of Britain and its former colonies.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles.

Even if the Queen desired to skip Prince Charles in favor of Prince William, she doesn't have the power to choose her successor on a whim. The 1701 Act of Settlement is the act of Parliament that determines the succession to the throne, and requires that a monarch’s heir must be his or her direct successor (and a Protestant). That’s Charles, not William. And as the Queen doesn’t truly have any political power, it’s not up to her to change a law — instead, it would have to be taken up in Parliament, and it wouldn’t be a quick and easy process.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall
Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Could Charles ever opt to abdicate? Highly unlikely. Some may point to King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne in 1936 after just 11 months because of his desire to marry a divorced woman, Wallis Simpson — something the Church of England didn’t approve of, as both of Simpson’s former husbands were still alive. (The Prime Minister wasn’t thrilled either.) Charles himself is divorced, as is his second wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and it is public knowledge that he was unfaithful in his first marriage to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, with Camilla. Why is the situation different?

Short answer: It is no longer 1936. In 2002, the Church of England relaxed their position on remarriage if a former spouse is still alive. Though this has changed, Charles and Camilla were still not allowed to marry in the Church of England (they instead had a civil ceremony), because their relationship played a large role in the breakdown of Charles’s marriage to Diana. But even if the Church didn’t give Charles and Camilla their full blessing at the time of their wedding, societal attitudes toward divorce have evolved as well. In fact, divorce has become relatively commonplace in the royal family: Three of the Queen’s four children have been divorced, as was her late sister, Princess Margaret.

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In December, Queen Elizabeth posed for a portrait with the next three generations of expected monarchs: son Prince Charles, grandson Prince William and great-grandson Prince George.

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