Diana`s legacy to burden Kate Middleton

London: If you think it`s hard for most brides to feel comfortable in a new family, put yourself in Kate Middleton`s shoes: "granny" is Queen Elizabeth II, dad is the famously cranky Prince Charles — and, hardest of all, she`ll always be compared to the late Princess Di.

No one can measure up to the departed, and Middleton will be jousting with the memory of one of the best-known women of the 20th Century.

"That`s a tough legacy to live up to, and I feel bad for the poor girl," said Elsie Andrews, a retired nurse, as she weighed up Middleton`s future with her fiance Prince William.

She said Kate shouldn`t be judged on a "Diana scale" but should be allowed to "make her own waves" and find her own way through the royal maze.

Still, Diana`s imposing presence was unmistakable on the eventful day last month when Middleton and William, both 28, announced their engagement, largely because the prince chose to give his fiancee his mother`s spectacular diamond-and-sapphire engagement ring.

William spoke movingly that day about using the ring as a way to give his late mother a role in the wedding, and Middleton talked publicly about Diana for the first time, calling her an inspiration.

Most engagement rings, of course, come with less baggage. Will the spectacular ring on Middleton`s finger weigh her down, serving as a priceless reminder of the impossibly high expectations she faces as she eases into Diana`s glass slippers by marrying an heir to the throne?

Will Middleton carve out her own path in the royal drama or — like Diana — be crushed by the loneliness and pressure of being a real-life princess?

As Middleton seeks her place, she will find herself bumping into Diana`s legend whichever way she turns.

Looking for glamor? Diana danced with John Travolta at the White House, palled around with Elton John, and spent some holidays off the French Riviera on luxury yachts while the paparazzi used ever longer lenses to try to catch her sunbathing.

Looking for style? Diana`s outfits by the likes of Versace, Galliano, Dior, Valentino and other iconic designers made her a fashion trailblazer whose impact was global. Part of her star power lay in the way her sad, haunted eyes were set off by some of the world`s most spectacular jewels.

Looking for a charitable role? Diana broke the royal mold by embracing AIDS victims and helped shape government policy by walking through fields laced with land mines as part of her effort to get them banned. She was much more than a lady who lunched.

Middleton has stayed resolutely out of the limelight in recent weeks. When she does make her first public appearance since becoming engaged, the British public, and raftloads of commentators, will be gauging whether she has Diana`s natural flair.

Bureau Report