William: popular prince becomes heir to the throne
Heir to the throne now that his father has become king, Prince William has stepped up to royal duties after the exit of his brother, Harry, and uncle, Andrew.
William has grown up with a strong sense of his future responsibilities, with Charles’s reign inevitably set to be shorter than that of his mother, Queen Elizabeth II.
And as the new king ages William will have a much more visible public profile, preparing for his later role as king, said Robert Hazell, professor of government and the constitution at University College London.
“William will have to undertake more of the load, so I have no doubt that there will be an increasing share of royal duty that William will assume,” he told AFP.
William, 40, has so far managed to carve a life largely out of the spotlight, taking on military and civilian jobs and as a hands-on father of three with his wife, Catherine, proving popular with the public.
They are known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and now after the queen’s death, also as the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall.
The couple have become prominent campaigners for mental health.
They have also advocated for protecting the environment and conservation, showing a more modern face to the ancient institution.
“I think that most people think that William and Kate will make a great team and be a great king and queen,” said Phil Dampier, a royal author.
– Born to be king –
From his birth on June 21, 1982, William Arthur Philip Louis Mountbatten-Windsor was destined to be king. Harry — the “spare” to William’s “heir” — came along two years later.
But both boys were treated the same in terms of education, with nannies and then boarding school from the age of eight.
He was just 10 when his parents separated, leading to their divorce in 1996, and was 15 when his mother, princess Diana, was killed in a car crash in 1997.
An enduring image of the young boys was at their mother’s funeral, when they walked, heads bowed, through the streets of London behind her funeral cortege to Westminster Abbey.
The brothers have always spoken warmly of their mother, and as a young man, William, with his blond hair, bore a striking resemblance to her, earning him pin-up status.
William once recalled his mother singing along to Tina Turner’s hit “(Simply) The Best” in the car to raise their mood as they returned to a new term at school.
He also jumped to her defence when a 2021 inquiry found the BBC had tricked her into agreeing to a bombshell 1995 television interview where she admitted adultery.
He has also not been afraid to speak his mind, and answered tersely when asked about brother Harry’s claims of royal racism.
“We are very much not a racist family,” he told reporters.
– Music and football –
William has yet to respond publicly to Harry’s claim that he and their father are “trapped” by convention.
But it is clear he appreciates the need to portray himself as a safe pair of hands to ensure the monarchy’s future survival.
He has given few in-depth media interviews and with Catherine, a keen amateur photographer, they have sought to control the narrative through social media.
The family’s 2021 Christmas card showed their relaxed style, posing in a desert landscape in Jordan with William and Catherine’s hands casually placed on each other’s knees.
He has given snippets of his eclectic taste in music ranging from English band Coldplay to Australian hard rock band AC/DC.
While at the prestigious Eton school, he declared a love for Aston Villa, choosing the unfashionable Birmingham club because he “wanted to have a team that was more mid-table that could give me more emotional rollercoaster moments”.
He became president of the Football Association in 2006 and has been a regular at England games, but also participates in upper-class pursuits such as polo and grouse-shooting.
William and the then Kate Middleton first met at the University of St Andrews in Scotland and their relationship blossomed after he spotted her modelling at a student fashion show.
While Harry became known as a party prince, William forged a more wholesome image. The couple married in 2011.
William became a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue helicopter pilot for three years, living in a farmhouse in rural northwest Wales with Kate and their first child, George.
– Enhanced profile –
The family then moved to Norfolk in eastern England, where William took on a civilian role of air ambulance pilot in 2015.
He has said this also involved traumatic experiences, trying to help people who were “at death’s door”.
In 2017 William left his job to become a full-time royal, shuttling between London and Norfolk, where they have a home on the sprawling royal estate in Sandringham.
During the coronavirus lockdown, William said he and Kate shared schooling duties of their two eldest children, George and Charlotte, and their struggles with basic maths.
William’s enhanced profile developed after the queen’s health declined, Harry quit royal life, and their uncle was stripped of his role due to a US civil case for sexual assault that he eventually settled out of court.
© Agence France-Presse