The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Plain William Wales keeps his distance from honours

London, May 27: They are often seen together, each with gun in hand and dog at heel striding across the royal estates — a young man and his grandfather engrossed in conversation. These are private moments enjoyed by Prince William as much as by the Duke of Edinburgh.

There is an easy closeness between them as the two go shooting or chat at family gatherings. “It’s not surprising, really,” said one close observer. “They are a lot alike in many ways.” For while physically Prince William may resemble his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, those who know him say he is temperamentally much more of a Mountbatten-Windsor. “In fact, there’s probably more Windsor in him than in his father,” said one family friend.

As Prince William reaches 21, with a growing awareness and acceptance of his destiny, it is only natural that he should seek advice not only from his father but also his grandfather.

Prince Philip’s exotic family background, his wartime exploits, his action-man lifestyle, his sporting prowess, his often challenging relationship with courtiers, politicians, even church leaders, would fascinate any young man, but especially one born to inherit the throne.

And Prince William appears to have embraced his grandfather’s — and also his father’s — reluctance simply to accept things because he is told to. “He is very questioning. He will test you. Even now at such a young age. He is very mature,” one royal aide said.

So he enjoys a very different relationship with Prince Philip from the one Prince Charles had. A sensitive child, Charles was easily cowed by the forceful personality of his father, retreating to the comforting embraces of the Queen Mother. The more confident 21-year-old Prince William is able to meet his grandfather on his own terms.

But then, from all accounts, Prince William at 21 is a vastly different creation from his father at the same age. And that is largely owing to Prince Charles’ absolute insistence that, in so far as is possible, his elder son be allowed to grow up away from public scrutiny.

Perhaps the most striking difference between the two is that Prince Charles was, at 21, heir to the thone, and had been since the age of three. This is a crucial point and one Prince William consciously emphasises.

For example, he continues to eschew the royal style, HRH. As the child of the sovereign through the male line, he is, of course, automatically HRH in the formal sense. Normally he would use it officially at 18.

But Prince William, perhaps eager to stress that his acession is a long way off, requested the Queen’s permission to delay using it.

He has now made it clear to his family and courtiers that he has no intention of using it at 21. So long as he is a student at St Andrews University, he feels it inappropriate. He is, by his own choice, known as plain William Wales.

At the same age his father, for the purposes of state documents, was encumbered with the title “HRH Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Lord of the Isles and Baron of Renfrew, Prince and Great Steward of Scotland and Knight Companion of The Most Noble Order of the Garter”.

But William Wales is the way it will remain while he is at university and probably for years after. There are no plans for the Queen to confer any honours on him to mark his 21st. She is in agreement on this with both Prince Charles and Prince Philip. They are all too aware that he has a life of royal service ahead of him.

Another way Prince William emphasises his distance from the throne is by refusing to undertake any royal engagements without his father being present. Although he performs very few, he absolutely insists on his father accompanying him.

Prince Harry, on the other hand, did not want his father present when he made his public appearances for

his 18th. Yet Prince William, regarded as the more independent of the two brothers, is reluctant to venture in public without Prince Charles. It is a reminder, to all, that he may be a future king, but his father is the future king. It is a comfort to remind himself of it.

However, he has started to think seriously about what lies ahead. When he was 18, officials picked up a sense of irritation from him about what was in store. That is certainly not evident now. That is not to say he does not, at times, harbour doubts. "They all go through it, in their darker moments. They wonder 'Why did I end up in this bed', said one senior courtier.

Prince Charles, who has faced it all himself, has assured his son that it is an entirely natural response, impressing upon him his own mantra of: "I am just an ordinary person in an extraordinary position".

"He knows he is a future king," added the courtier. But for the moment, it is something he has not got to worry about. His father has convinced that him this is an important time in his life and to put as much as he can into it.

Prince William is clearly attempting to do just that. The portents were not good at the beginning of his university career. Adamant that he wanted to study History of Art at St Andrews, he suffered a "wobble" at the end of his first term at the Scottish University. Although "nervous" when he first got there, he quickly overcame his nerves and met lots of new people.

But it was when he came home to Highgrove, Prince Charles's Gloucestershire estate, for the Christmas holiday in his first year, that he was consumed with doubt. He missed his family. He felt he had not made "any real friends". He found the academic side arduous. At Eton, where he was both happy and popular, there was the intimacy of shared values and customs of people from his own class. St Andrews was more mixed and it would take longer for him to feel accepted.

Initially he refused to return. It took much anguished conversation and consultation before Prince Charles ordered: "You're going back and that's that". That was when the penny dropped for Prince William, say those who knew of his predicament. He realised the course work was going to be hard. He realised that he had to work hard at making new friends. He realised that he had to establish a routine.

Prince Charles has every sympathy with his son. As an undergraduate at Trinity College, he had confided to friends: "At the moment in Cambridge, I feel as though I am in a zoo", and retreated to his rooms to avoid the pointing and the stares that seemed to accompany his every moment. During his one term at Aberystwyth University, he was all but shunned by most of the students.

Despite the empathy of common experience, he was adamant that this sense of isolation was something Prince William would have to get through. "And he has," said an aide. "Things have really turned round. Now he's swinging".

The turning point was him moving out of St Salvators hall of residence, into a shared flat at the beginning of his second year. The town was relaxed about his being there and he has discovered an incredibly loyal and supportive group of friends, all of whom are extremely protective. Even those who don't know him have reported journalists snooping around asking questions. The students at St Andrews, it seems, really want it to be a success. As a result Prince William is able to lead a relatively normal life, paying his way from a monthly allowance he draws from a trust fund, set up after the death of his mother. He had a strong basis on which to build, emerging from Eton with confidence and a worldly knowledge that eluded his father in his unhappy days at Gordonstoun.

Had it been Prince William, stranded in a public bar on a remote Scottish island aged 15, he would never, as his panicked father did, order a cherry brandy. Rather, he would have demanded a pint of lager.

Today he likes going to the cinema, to bars, and to restaurants in the small university town. Away from college there is polo, hunting and stalking, and rugby. He has fun. He drinks a bit too much sometimes. He can get raucous. He does throw himself into the student partying. "He's just like the rest of them," said one official. Except that he isn't. So he takes the precaution of going out in groups. Many of his friends are drawn from the hunting and polo set. If he has a serious girlfriend - and plenty of names have been linked to him by publications feverishly speculating on his love life - she would be difficult for the paparazzi to spot in the crowd.

And, should he require a little more privacy he has the use of a cottage on the Balmoral estate, which was a gift to him and Prince Harry from the Queen, where he can entertain away from St Andrews.

Although there are now many miles between them, Prince William maintains a relatively close relationship with his younger brother. He is protective of Prince Harry, an instinct borne out of their very great shared loss with the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Friends recognise that Prince Harry still misses his mother enormously, but finds it relatively easy to talk about her. With Prince William it is harder. "I don't think he's ever dealt fully with that grief," said one. "He's bottled it up, for many reasons." One reason, widely accepted by those close to both princes, is that as the elder brother Prince William felt it was he that must cope, he had to shoulder it all, and to be protective of his brother.

Another is that Prince William does not readily show his emotions. It is not just a Windsor trait, although the Windsor royals have all been schooled in the royal imperatives of public behaviour - not to succumb to emotion or sentimentality, always to be polite, and so on. But his mother also instilled in him the need for a "stiff upper lip". While Prince Harry is demonstrative, especially with his father, Prince William is more controlled. That is, say observers, simply his personality. Until recently, Prince William exercised great influence over his brother. That has naturally diminished as both have matured and lead increasingly separate lives.

Both young men are said to have a "friendly"relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, whom they see as "Papa's friend". They are, say friends, relaxed with her, although Prince Harry is said to have taken longer to accept his father's long-term companion. But they rub along at Highgrove, which is not particularly big, so they do find each other difficult to avoid. Mrs Parker Bowles is credited with making the relationship easier for the princes. From the start she did not try to be maternal towards them, and her success, say friends, was that she has never sought to be anything other than a friend. If either feels that she contributed to their mother's unhappiness, it is not a sentiment that is ever voiced. "They are too well brought up," said one source.

That is not to say Prince William is so well brought up that he never voices his opinions on other matters. By consensus, he has a temper. "He sometimes can just go 'whoosh!' " said one source. Prince Harry rarely loses his. He giggles, he defuses tension through humour. Untrue stories in the media about him are usually met with a shrug.

Prince William, however, can become very irate. His father has passed on the Windsor "gnashes" - the nickname given to King George VI's tantrums. His mother, too, could easily flare. Usually it is the media that sets him off. "Where did they get that rubbish from'" he'll rant, at the latest tabloid speculation. He was really hurt by the publication of a book by Ken Wharfe, his mother's former police protection officer. "He saw that as a real betrayal," said one source. It was the more devastating because the Prince had grown up with Ken.

By and large, the agreement between the media and St James's Palace to leave him alone in exchange for regular controlled access is working. It has enabled him to wander around St Andrews, in the casual clothes he prefers, and to pop into Tesco.

On one such occasion he was snapped, Tesco carrier bags dangling from his arms, and a newspaper did publish. Yes, he was irritated, say those close to him, but the pictures did at least show he was relaxed enough to go to Tesco. He hopes he will be able to continue to do this, but is afraid that it could change.

He is, naturally, extremely wary of the media. He is very aware of what the media did to both his mother and his father, particularly at the time of their marriage break-up. He has indelible memories of his mother being harassed by photographers. Sometimes, as a small boy, he was with her when the paparazzi lenses hove into view.

Some parts of the media he finds very distasteful. He was particularly distressed when some newspapers dragged up intimate aspects of his mother's life in the wake of the collapsed trial of Paul Burrell, the former Royal butler. However, he knows that he has to overcome this wariness. He knows he has to find a way of making it work. While there have been great advantages to the media agreement to leave him alone, there are also disadvantages.

Apart from his gap year and his arrival at St Andrews, there has been no media access. So the public hasn't seen him. Not only does that mean he is unused to handling himself before the cameras, it has also engendered an insatiable tabloid thirst for the smallest detail about him.

By the time Prince Charles was 21, he was a fully integrated working royal - despite still studying at Cambridge. At 20 he had been formally invested as Prince of Wales at Caernarvon Castle, which marked his official emergence as a public figure with duties and responsibilities. But, by then he had already taken his place as a Counseller of State, one of the members of the Royal Family nearest to the succession authorised to act for the Sovereign in her absence. There are, as yet, no plans for Prince William to hold such a position.

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