Prince William at Thirty


Turning thirty marks the opening of the next chapter for the future king. A symbolic moment in that long journey took place at a ceremony in Edinburgh where William joined the Order of the Thistle. At a time when the Royal Family’s role north of the border is part of the debate around the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence, the ceremony held a contemporary political as well as personal significance. The event at the city’s St. Giles Cathedral was attended by the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Princess Royal, the Duchess of Cambridge and hundreds of invited guests. Thousands gathered on the city’s thoroughfare The Royal Mile to catch a glimpse of the royals, particularly William and Kate – who in Scotland are titled the Earl and Countess of Strathearn – as they made their way from the Signet Library, across Parliament Square and into the cathedral. The royal party entered the cathedral a little before 11am to a fanfare. They were accompanied by other members of the Order, all wearing their ceremonial gowns. The ceremony was conducted by the Dean of the Thistle, Reverend Gilleasbuig Macmillan. The order dates back to 1687 when James VII of Scotland (James II of England and Wales) claimed, rather dubiously, he was restoring the original order founded by Achaius, King of Scots, in 786. The order can only be bestowed by the sovereign and there are only a select sixteen knights in the order. Her Majesty gave the consent to her grandson’s initiation: “It is our pleasure that His Royal Highness the Prince William, Earl of Strathearn, be installed a Knight of the most ancient and most noble Order of the Thistle.” Prince William then moved to a vacant stall within the Thistle chapel of St. Giles before taking his oath in which he pledged to be “loyal and true to my Sovereign Lady the Queen, and the members of this Order. I shall maintain the honour and dignity of the most ancient and most noble Order of the Thistle to the best power if God let. I shall never bear treason about in my heart against our Sovereign Lady the Queen, but shall discover the same to her. So defend me God.” The service concluded with the national anthem before the procession left the cathedral. A special parade down The Royal Mile to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee began shortly afterwards. Featuring an impressive and noisy four hundred pipers, led by the Lothian and Borders Police band, the parade marched from the City Chambers to the Scottish Parliament, opposite Holyrood Palace, where traditional folk music, Highland dancing and the pipers played for the crowd. The parade was cheered on by large crowds who lined either side of the ‘Mile’. Many were waving Union Jack and the Scottish national Saltire flags. A sight to warm royal hearts with political issues looming on the horizon! Whilst Prince William’s role is steadily growing he does not yet have to grapple with the political twists and turns of the day, a fact he no doubt appreciates.

Turning thirty also brought with it a rather spectacular personal bonus as William is now entitled to his share of his late mother’s will, estimated to be around £10 million. The Queen has also gifted a cottage on the Sandringham Estate. The Duke and Duchess are particularly fond of the 20,000 acre Norfolk estate that has been owned by the Royal Family since 1862. Anglesey can’t be a permanent residence for William and Kate, particularly as they consider when to start a family. The Norfolk Estate will provide an ideal private space for them to be together. Undoubtedly William has plenty to celebrate at thirty but the coming twelve months will be a time for decisions as he looks to balance the various strands of his life: family, duty and career. William often makes being second in line to the throne look easy but the workload and the restrictions on his personal freedom are inevitably increasing. In fact, rather than “easing” their way into full time royal life William and Kate are in great demand. Which no doubt made William’s birthday present from Kate all the more welcome, or at least invigorating. There was no pomp or ceremony for the day, instead Kate organised for William to be dragged behind a boat in a ‘sea-doughnut ride’ off the coast of Anglesey. The only hitch in the plan was that Kate expected the summer weather to be good, but in best British style it was wintry wet and cold. William took it all in the best spirits and thoroughly enjoyed his dunking in the freezing ocean water as Kate, Prince Harry and a group of friends looked on. There was also a low key dinner at Prince Charles’ Tetbury home, Highgrove House with family and closest friends. The Prince of Wales’ gift to his eldest son was a commission to artist Nicky Philips to paint a portrait of Kate. As always William had done his best to keep it all as light hearted and as low key as possible. He certainly looked a little sheepish during his Order of the Thistle installation – historic it may have been but William tends to look rather uncomfortable in ceremonial dress! Whilst HRH has handled being the centre of so much attention and expectation extremely well over the years, he is quite reticent and cautious. Prince William of Wales is certainly a different character from his recent predecessors. William’s great-great grandfather, King Edward VII, was known for his playboy lifestyle but married young – at the age of twenty-one – to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. Marriage did not stop Edward from pursuing a very active love life and a string of mistresses, most famous amongst them Alice Keppel and Daisy, Countess of Warwick. Princess Alexandra accepted her husband’s foibles and when he eventually came to the throne in 1901 he was, to the surprise of many, a successful king. Unlike his father King George V did not have a wandering eye. He married Princess Mary of Teck following his elder brother Prince Albert’s death in 1892. An arranged marriage but also a happy one which gave the country a quarter century of steadfast constitutional monarchy. The next Prince of Wales was the notorious, Prince Edward – ‘David’. He too followed the playboy path and indulged himself in the high society life of the post-war period. But if Edward VII?had matured to become a good king and George V a cornerstone of stability, David was not cut out to be a monarch. His disastrous decision to marry the US?divorcee Wallis Simpson, combined with a disturbing flirtation with Nazi?Germany, made William’s great-uncle the most notorious British royal of modern history. The crown fell to Edward VIII’s brother, Albert, Duke of York, and the title of Prince of Wales skipped a generation to his grandson, Prince Charles. Where William’s father fits in the history of Princes of Wales is still a matter of debate. In his youth Charles did enjoy the ‘playboy’ life but the label does not really fit for this thoughtful and sensitive man. Charles is cut from a very different cloth than either Edward?VII?or Edward VIII. The breakdown of his first marriage and his gradual return to public favour reflect Charles’ ‘agonising’ nature. Life is not a lighthearted matter for the current Prince of Wales. What Prince Charles does have in common with Edward VII is that he has waited a lifetime to ascend the throne. But as king Charles will bring a very different and in a way more political agenda to the role of monarchy than any of his predecessors.

Prince William of Wales marks a break with the past. Whilst he has more freedom in his life in some regards, paradoxically William has much less scope for the trysts and misdemeanours of previous generations.There has been no playboy era for William and there are certainly no mistresses. Just one serious girlfriend and a long, careful courtship. Intelligent and academically capable, but not so intellectually inclined as his father, normality is the cornerstone of William’s success and that reflects his down to earth nature. William and Kate are both determined to maintain the boundary between public and personal life and have made every effort to be able to live as normally as possible. Their protection officers are lodged in the farmhouse’s converted outbuildings, leaving William and Kate the main house for themselves. Daily life is simply working life for William. William couldn’t be happier with his work on a shift rota as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot based at Anglesey’s RAF Valley. Kate’s free days are becoming more domestic and with the arrival of pet dog Lupo she enjoys taking the cocker spaniel for three walks a day. Shopping is done at the local supermarket and Kate likes to cook. The preferred evening pastime is to relax with a DVDs and the couple recently polished off The Killing – a series recommended to them by the Duchess of Cornwall – in a marathon sitting. William and Kate love the outdoors and are big walkers – often to be seen strolling along the beach near their home. A typical young couple in many ways their favourite sweaters are ‘his and hers’ purple cashmere. Fashionwise, William is most comfortable keeping it casual; he has a plentiful supply of his favourite brown chinos and light blue shirts. And he has a surprising eye for celebrity-driven ‘cool’. And if Prince Harry has quipped that his brother has become middle-aged since his marriage a little excitement is on hand when William and Kate go to the nearby cinema or the local pub, zipping through the lanes on William’s Ducati motorbike, Kate riding pillion. Life in Anglesey will certainly provide plenty of memories to cherish as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge steer their course through the various roles and demands of their unique position. (Extract from Royalty Vol. 22/08)

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