Prince William is back at work and facing a new normal

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Prince William, heir to the British throne, returned to the public stage on Wednesday, trying to project a sense of normalcy, three days after the announcement that his father, King Charles III, had been struck by cancer.

But as William performed a ceremonial honor at Windsor Castle and attended a charity fundraiser in London, a shadow of uncertainty hung over the 41-year-old prince. No one besides Charles and his wife, Queen Camilla, faces more lingering disruption from the king’s cancer diagnosis than his eldest son.

The advocacy work, family life and zone of privacy that William has carved out for himself are very different from those of his father, when he was Prince of Wales. It is, at best, uncertain whether William will be able to preserve these qualities while filling in for his father during his treatment.

“William devoted himself less to the day-to-day work of the monarchy than his father, focusing instead on larger, more ostentatious engagements,” said Ed Owens, a royal historian. “But now he will be expected to participate in many of these more mundane public outings.”

It’s not just about managing a calendar: William’s professional goal, his team members say, has been to devote his energy to a few high-impact social issues – most recently, climate change and shelter – where he believes he can make a tangible difference.

The scale of William’s ambition is evident in the impending upheaval of his Kensington Palace office. He and his wife Catherine are expected to appoint, for the first time, a general manager. Using a corporate title rather than the traditional title of private secretary, a person with knowledge of the position said, is likely to attract candidates with professional qualifications and reinforce the professional nature of the office.

Among the prince’s flagship projects is a five-year program to end homelessness in six cities across Britain. Although Charles had a similar attachment to issues like organic farming and architecture, he approached them in a more ad hoc manner. Much of his time, as with other royals of his generation, was spent on ribbon cuttings and other ceremonial duties.

From now on, part of this burden will fall on his son.

“William was trying to explore the limits of what he could do as heir, what he couldn’t do as king,” said Peter Hunt, a former BBC royal correspondent. “The tension is how to continue your own activities while supporting the monarch. William will feel this sooner than his father.

A spokesman for William, Lee Thompson, said Kensington Palace was in discussions with Buckingham Palace about how to divide the king’s public engagements (William’s events on Wednesday appeared in his diary before the revelation was revealed). his father’s illness).

In the meantime, Mr Thompson said, William continues to drop off and collect his children from their school in Berkshire, west of London. It’s another departure from the more distant parenting style of the royal family of previous generations.

It’s a ritual that William and Catherine usually share, but which he took on as a single parent when she was unexpectedly hospitalized last month (he had suspended his public engagements until Wednesday to take care of her).

The zeal with which William cast a veil of privacy around his family was dramatized by his wife’s medical treatment. Kensington Palace provided little information about her condition, saying only that she was undergoing abdominal surgery. There were no photographs of the couple’s children – George, Charlotte and Louis – visiting their mother in hospital. There was also no footage of her returning home nearly two weeks later.

The contrast with Charles was striking. Buckingham Palace has revealed he will undergo surgery for an enlarged prostate. Camilla was pictured visiting her husband and the couple left the hospital together, waving to the cameras as they headed to their car.

Some of these differences can be explained by history. Although Charles took his share of ground in the British tabloid press, he continued to work with these newspapers in what is essentially a transactional relationship.

William, however, still bears the scars of the merciless cover-up by his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, which ended with her death in a car crash in Paris in 1997, pursued by the paparazzi. In 2021, the prince harshly criticized the BBC for a sensational broadcast interview with Diana in 1995, during which she spoke about the marital infidelities of her ex-husband, Charles.

THE The BBC apologized for the report after an external investigation concluded that its correspondent, Martin Bashir, had used deceptive methods to obtain the interview and that BBC management had covered up the matter.

“It brings indescribable sadness to know that the BBC’s failures contributed significantly to her fear, paranoia and isolation that I remember from those last years with her,” William said in a video statement.

The prince’s younger brother, Harry, claimed that William did not hesitate to tell stories about his family members to the tabloids. William has also not hesitated to use lawyers to go after the press, winning a “huge sum of money” in 2020 from Rupert Murdoch’s British press group to settle allegations that his Journalists allegedly hacked his cell phone, according to a legal filing submitted by Harry.

It’s no surprise that William’s emotional scars extend to his brother. The two fell out after Harry and his wife, Meghan, moved to California in 2020, and there are no signs of reconciliation. Harry flew to London this week to visit his father, but the brothers have not met, according to a person familiar with their schedules.

As the royal family’s ranks have thinned, William’s family has come to the forefront at events such as Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and Charles’ coronation. This inevitably attracted the attention of the camera. The couple’s 5-year-old son, Prince Louis, has become a modern version of young Harry, squirming and making faces during solemn occasions.

A charming image for the newspapers, certainly, but which also reminds us that William and Catherine still have a young family.

Charles had to wait decades before becoming king. If his health deteriorates, his eldest son may face the opposite problem, forced into employment before having the chance to explore his social and philanthropic ambitions, and exposing his children – particularly his eldest son and heir, George – to unwanted attention.

“It will be quite a problem for him,” Mr Hunt said. “George is only 10 years old. You can imagine William thinking, ‘How can I make a stamp for him?'”

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