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“I think it’s undoubtedly a burden for Kate,” said Susan Lee, a columnist at the Liverpool Echo newspaper who has written extensively about the royals.

“Diana was the most photographed woman of the age. She transformed the House of Windsor, she changed the way we look at royalty, and she was very accessible, she spoke to ordinary people, and people felt they could speak to her. She made royalty human for the first time.”

Middleton may reject Diana’s way and choose a much more private course once she becomes a princess. If she is looking for marital harmony, she will have to look beyond Diana for inspiration.

Diana and Charles suffered the most public of marital breakdowns _ each confessing their infidelities and unhappiness to the press _ and the savvy, well-educated Middleton must know that the Windsors’ vast wealth and public position tends to make marriage tougher, not easier.

“I am so glad that I am not in the situation that Kate is in,” said Ashley Ellensberg, a 22-year-old London college student. “Kate has great potential as a princess, and she might grow to shine brighter than Diana did. I think Kate is exactly what we need right now. I think she will do just fine and will develop as a princess in her own way.”

All of the pressures that a young bride faces will be magnified for Middleton, whose very choice of a wedding dress is fraught with political, social and financial implications. And Diana’s ghostly presence will intensify the pressure.

“It is hard for any woman marrying into a family to live up to the legacy of the mother-in-law, or to even just be approved of by her,” said Ann Buchanan, director of the University of Oxford Center for Research into Parenting and Children.

“But Kate is her own person and does not need to follow directly in Diana’s footsteps. She has developed her own identity, which is quite different from that of Diana, and I think this will help her in the long run.”

Buchanan said there are key differences between the two women that should work in Middleton’s favor as she copes with the fishbowl that is royal life in the Internet age. She said Diana had a difficult childhood complicated by the divorce of her parents, while Middleton comes from a stable family environment.

In addition, she said, Diana was only 19 when she got engaged, much younger than Middleton is today, and Diana became a mother almost immediately, even as she coped with her new husband’s ongoing affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. By contrast, Middleton has a more solid base as she joins “the firm,” as the monarchy is sometimes called here.

Kate is older, she has some idea of who she is,” Buchanan said. “She has a university education which helps her problem solve; she has spent many years considering the possibility of marrying into royalty. The marriage is not an impulsive act. I suspect the royal family have learnt a lot from the past. And hopefully there is no ‘Camilla’ in William’s life.”