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Legacy of a princess: William and Kate's touching tribute to Diana

During the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's tour of Pakistan this week, the couple made sure to remember William's late mother, writes Caitlin McBride

Regal style: Prince William and Kate during their visit to Pakistan
Regal style: Prince William and Kate during their visit to Pakistan
Mirror image: the Duchess and Diana wearing similar outfits during their visits to Pakistan
The royals visiting sick children
The royals visiting sick children

Prince William and Kate Middleton's trip to Pakistan may have been sanctioned by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but there is something exceptionally personal about this trip in comparison to others.

It would be hard for even the most staunch anti-royalists not to appreciate the emotional investment the Cambridges are making in this tour; recreating photo opportunity after photo opportunity to promote the late Princess Diana's enduring legacy.

Diana visited Pakistan three times and Prime Minister Imran Khan, a former cricketer, considered her a close friend. She also visited the region just three months before she died in 1997.

This year has been a trying one for the Royal Family, in particular for William and Harry, both of whom are leaning into their mother's legacy, both for the undoubted personal satisfaction from walking quite literally in her footsteps and the additional benefits of bolstering her popularity with a new generation.

Since arriving in Pakistan on Sunday night - Kate in an ombre dress by Catherine Walker - she has displayed the sort of sartorial expertise that inspires confidence in her ability to effectualise diplomacy. The assessment of royal attire can be easily dismissed as fashionable frivolity, but one step wrong can inspire backlash and a few savvy choices can secure an easy win in the eyes of the public.

The message of the trip has been that Britain is a "key partner and friend" to Pakistan and Kate, arguably the world's most effective high-low dresser, has been reflecting those values in her wardrobe. She has spent much of her downtime in a contemporary take on the traditional salwar kameez, which pairs a loose tunic with trousers.

For the first day of activities, she wore a blue floral kurtaw with similar pleated trousers underneath by Pakistani designer Maheen Khan and a pair of £23.99 nude buckle heels from New Look. During the evening festivities at an event hosted by Thomas Drew, the British High Commissioner to Pakistan, in Islamabad, it was time for William to showcase his own style power.

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Kate opted for a glittering forest green gown by Jenny Packham, her long-time preferred designer - it allowed the duke to shine in a similarly hued traditional sherwani buttoned coat by Karachi-based designer Naushemian.

By the following morning, their early start made for other Diana comparisons. When the royal couple arrived at Chitral, they were greeted with traditional hats, the same which were worn by the late Princess of Wales in 1991, prompting a flurry of side-by-side images for fans following the tour through traditional and digital media outlets.

Kate, donning a silk brown skirt, leather waistcoat and brown suede boots by Really Wild, once again chose accessibly priced accessories. Throughout much of the three-day trip, the Duchess of Cambridge has been championing Pakistani brand Zeen, whose earrings average at less than £10.

It's of little surprise that her stylish experimentation is back in the headlines as she has brought her "secret weapon" with her to Pakistan: her long-serving stylist and former assistant Natasha Archer, who has just returned to work from her maternity leave.

"Tash has spent hours combing through look books with Catherine ahead of the tour and compiling a really beautiful and practical tour wardrobe," a source told Vanity Fair. "There are between one and three outfits planned for each day so that the duchess has options."

Tash will also have been responsible for photographing every outfit and wrapping it in colour-coded tissue paper.

For the Cambridges' meeting with Mr Khan at his residence in the capital, William reminisced about meeting him during his cricket days, speaking of his political ambitions more than 20 years ago.

The duke told how everyone laughed at a gathering in Richmond-upon-Thames, south-west London, in 1996 when Khan announced his ambition of becoming prime minister to William and his mother Diana, Princess of Wales.

The former international cricketer was a friend of Diana, who had taken the young duke to visit him and his then wife, Jemima Goldsmith.

Recalling his younger aspirations of becoming a cricketer, Khan said: "When I went with my mother to see a Test match, my cousin was playing and he scored a century and I told my mother I wanted to be a Test cricketer.

"I never realised how difficult it was to eventually become one.

"Similarly, when I told you that I wanted to succeed, I didn't realise it would take me 22 years."

Diana visited a cancer hospital in Lahore as a guest of Khan and his then wife in May 1997 - just three months before she died. And on Thursday, the Duke and Duchess were at the bedside of Wafia Rehmani, a seven-year-old who is suffering from kidney cancer, in the same hospital. Wafia, who is on her second round of chemotherapy, poured from her plastic tea set as Kate donned a toy tiara. She also proudly showed the Cambridges her toy medical set and William tried out her stethoscope. Doctors say they are optimistic about her prospects of recovery.

At another event with schoolgirls, a group of young women told William they were "big fans of your mother".

"Oh, that's very sweet of you," William replied.

"I was a big fan of my mother too. She came here three times. This is my first time and it is very nice to be here and meet you all."

Anglo-Pakistani relations might have been the main focus of the trip, but global issues like climate change, which William, in particular, about which he is vocal, have also dictated part of the agenda. Isolated communities in the area have suffered from flash flooding in recent years as a result of the glaciers melting.

While in the Chitral valley, the couple also explored a site damaged in severe floods in 2015, met the local community and heard how they are adapting their way of life in response to climate events.

And on a visit to a historic mosque Kate also followed in Princess Diana's footsteps, donning a green headscarf. The duchess wore a shalwar kameez in a matching colour as she went barefoot at the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore. She and William sat cross-legged on cushions with religious leaders for a discussion about interfaith harmony.

As the highly successful five-day tour came to an end, the similarities between the visits made to Pakistan by Diana and those by her son and wife nearly two decades later have been striking - and Kate has never looked more like the inheritor of her late mother-in-law's mantle, in every sense.

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