Prince William celebrates his 40th birthday on Tuesday, a milestone for who has become an essential face of the British royal family, striving to balance modernity and tradition in anticipation of one day becoming king in his own right.
The Duke of Cambridge, second in line to the throne, will enter his 40s a few months after his wife Catherine in January, with whom they form a close and well-loved couple who embody the future of the monarchy.
“This is a very important step for him as, together with his father, Prince Charles, he is increasing his support for the Queen and continues to build an identity as the future king,” royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told AFP.
Over the years, William has won the hearts of Britons, many of whom even want him to succeed his grandmother, Elizabeth II, directly in place of the less esteemed Charles. According to the YouGov Institute, she is the most popular of the “Royal” behind the Queen, with 66% positive opinions.
Since the 96-year-old sovereign slacked off due to ill health, William has multiplied his commitments. When she misses the speech at the opening of parliament in May, he accompanies Crown Prince Charles, who replaces her.
According to the British press, William is also influencing important decisions, for example by speaking out against the participation of Prince Andrew, his sex scandal-hit uncle, in the traditional Order of the Garter ceremony in June.
He and Kate “are the future of the monarchy,” insists Richard Fitzwilliams, “as evidenced by their appearance on the balcony (of Buckingham Palace)” with the Queen for her 70-year reign.
Fully invested in his role since retiring as a helicopter paramedic pilot in 2017, William is reportedly planning to leave London’s Kensington Palace to move with his family to a four-bedroom cottage in the grounds of Windsor Castle, where Elizabeth II now resides.
It’s a significant transition that allows her to grow closer to the Queen and strengthen the little hard core of the royal family around her.
Stayed on the ground
Leaning unceremoniously on his commitments, William also works to provide relatively normal lives for his three children, ages 4 to 8, he having experienced a childhood marked by his parents’ divorce and then his mother’s death Diana was struck in a car accident in 1997 when he was 15 years old. He appears as a modern man and, for example, helps the two eldest children to do their homework during the confinement.
This tall, partially balding blonde also wants to be down to earth like Diana. In June he was spotted in London selling The Big Issue, the British homeless magazine, a cause close to his heart, like the environment or mental health.
He was “formatted” by a “traditional” queen during Sunday lunches with her at Windsor while studying at the elite college of Eton, notes Marc Roche, author of several books on the monarchy. But “in William’s strengths, given his generation, perhaps his mother’s influence, lies a great sensitivity to diversity and ecology.”
Discreet about his moods, the prince had come to defend the royal family after a shock interview with his brother Harry and his wife Meghan on American television and assured that she was not “racist” as she had been accused.
However, he recognizes the need to modernize this millennial institution so that it can continue after Elizabeth II as the idea of a republic gains ground among young people. An awareness that is all the more significant as she was traveling with Kate in the Caribbean in March, where the monarchy had been criticized for its colonialist insinuations.
“One of the things that is close to William’s heart is the image of the monarchy and how it can move forward,” he wants to make it a “relevant” and “timely” institution, according to Richard Fitzwilliams.
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