THE Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expected to be hands-on parents who will follow the example of Diana, Princess of Wales, in the way they bring up their baby. Joe Willis reports.

PRINCESS Diana and her young sons were photographed together numerous times before her tragic death aged just 36.

Many of of the images are memorable, iconic even. Diana playing with William in the sea and helping him with a puzzle, both boys and their mother laughing after being soaked on an amusement park ride, the three skiing together or heading off to school, the two boys clinging to their mother during an official photo call and Diana playing with a giggling baby William.

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The photographs show tender family scenes which would be unremarkable where the subjects not so famous. What the images also clearly reveal is the love Diana had for her boys – and they for her. 

Never before had the world seen such intimacy between a member of the royal family and their children. The photographs reveal what royal expert Christopher Warwick, believes was Diana's modern approach to child-rearing which was vastly different to the previous royal generation.

He claims this approach has had an enormous impact on William and will shape the way the couple embark on parenthood. Mr Warwick believes the Cambridges will try to give their children as free and informal a childhood as they can in the circumstances, including public fascination with the royal couple. 

The childhood is likely to be far removed from that experienced by William's father, the Prince of Wales. When he was two-years-old, his mother Princess Elizabeth flew to Malta to spend Christmas with the Duke of Edinburgh who was commanding a frigate, leaving him with his grandparents.

At the age of three, Charles again stayed with grandparents while his parents went on an official tour of Canada.

“They weren't there a lot of the time. Royal duties took precedence over family life. Today all that is very different,” says Mr Warwick.

“There was no way Diana was leaving William when she went to Australia and New Zealand in 1983. William and Kate will be exactly the same as Diana was - hands-on parents.

“Diana and Charles bucked the royal trend of separation by taking nine-month-old William, as well as his nanny, with them on the six-week tour to Australia and New Zealand.”

Mr Warwick adds: “William and Harry were very, very fortunate with Diana as a mother because her ideas were so different to the previous generation.

“The importance of this to her two sons has been enormous. William will want this for his children.”

He says the Duchess's own happy experiences as a child will also have a great influence on the way they parent their children.

“Kate wasn't subjected, until recently, to the ways the aristocracy work. Her childhood was pretty ordinary. She wont want her baby to be subject to rules and protocol before they need to be.”

He adds: “I think (the baby's childhood) will probably be as normal and as ordinary and as fun loving as any of these kids can have, given what they're brought up into.”

Being born third in line means the prospect of becoming monarch is likely to be many years away for the Cambridge's baby, says Mr Warwick.

“It's almost too far in the distance to anticipate - which for this baby is a good thing.

“At Kensington Palace and Anmer Hall, when they're not at school, they will have as free and informal and hopefully unstructured a time as William and Harry knew.”

He believes that William and Kate would not want constitutional training and lessons in king and queen-ship for their baby.

“I think the training is on the job. It's learning by experience. This is what is going to happen with the Cambridge baby.”

William and Kate's desire to start a family of their own has always been evident. Both have shown themselves to be at ease with the youngsters they have met on official engagements and in the run up to their wedding, they both spoke openly about the next stage in their life.

Kate told ITV News in her engagement interview: “(Family's) very important to me. And I hope we will be able to have a happy family ourselves.”

It is a hope shared by the nation which is looking forward to watching the new prince grow up ready to one day become king.