The caller was posh, polite and unusually patient. But the benefits office operator had no idea he was also a future king.
Introducing himself simply as ‘William’, the stranger politely explained that he was ringing on behalf of a young homeless person to enquire about what financial help they were entitled to. He chatted amiably about forms, proof of ID and the many hoops that young homeless people have to jump through when trying to get back on their feet.
Each year the Duke of Cambridge makes up to half a dozen secret visits to accommodation services run by Centrepoint, the national charity for young people to which he was first introduced by his late mother.
‘On one occasion, he spent a week with us, turned up and was presented as a locum staff. He even rang up the benefit office on behalf of one young person. That was an education for him!’ laughs Seyi Obakin. The charity’s CEO has known William since the second-in-line became patron in 2005 and has even slept rough with him on the streets for a night.
‘When someone said to him he looked like someone famous, William just smiled and replied: ‘I’ve heard people say that, but don’t believe it!’ And then he carried on working. He was so low-key, just turning up and doing his thing, that only the manager knew who he was.
‘It is a measure of who he is that, by the time he got married, he had developed such a good relationship with that particular manager that he invited them to his wedding.’
In the first part of a landmark Daily Mail series ahead of his 40th birthday tomorrow, I explored William the man, husband, father, brother and son.
Today I look at William, Prince of Wales-in-waiting, and Britain’s first ‘millennial monarch’.
I have discovered that, far from being a passenger on his royal journey, he has his own distinct vision to ‘reshape’ the monarchy and won’t be afraid to get his hands dirty — or speak his mind on the issues that matter.
Like his father, he also believes that a slimmed-down Royal Family is the best way to ensure its survival — and that his shamed uncle, Prince Andrew, should never have a part to play in it again.
Prince William, Prince Andrew and Prince Charles are pictured together at the funeral of Prince Philip. William is lobbying the Queen to have his uncle Andrew barred from public life
‘[William] has strong views on the Duke of York and believes his insistence in trying to cling on to a public role is highly dangerous for the institution,’ said a friend (pictured: Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (L) and Britain’s Prince Andrew, Duke of York (R) in 2018)
Prince Andrew is pictured driving alone at Windsor. He is reportedly being frozen out of public duties at the insistence of Prince William
A source told the Evening Standard of William’s involvement in getting Andrew banned from public participation in the Order of the Garter service: ‘The Duke of Cambridge was adamant. If York insisted on taking part publicly, he would withdraw’. It would have also meant that his wife Kate would also not have attended (William and Kate are pictured with their kids earlier this month)
‘He feels very strongly about this and if it had been up to him he would have pushed for things to have happened a lot faster than they did,’ remarks a friend.
There is no doubt that William passionately believes the Royal Family has an important part to play in national life, as long as it remains credible and relevant. But while he is never going to do anything to unsettle it, it is a mistake to assume he will follow his grandmother’s ‘never complain, never explain’ mantra.
‘People are simply not going to be happy with silence any more. The Queen’s approach has worked very well for her during a more deferential age, with different forms of communication. But what William is working out is how to take the best of what his grandmother has done and make it relevant today,’ says one former royal adviser.
‘And he believes the monarchy needs to better explain its own thinking, particularly in terms of its place in the world.’
This was sharply demonstrated on the Cambridges’ recent tour of the Caribbean which was beset — according to some of their critics — by controversy. Those on the ground, such as myself, have strongly argued that the trip was, in fact, largely well received.
Fascinatingly, many in his camp believe he and Kate were left open to unfair criticism of being blinkered and out of touch by the inaction of Buckingham Palace.
‘The big problem was not with the specifics of the tour — although the duke himself acknowledges that it was not a good look to agree to get into that Land Rover [a vehicle previously used by the Queen in Jamaica that was derided for looking ‘too colonial’ against the backdrop of the island’s republicanism]. They were pushed into it, but should have gone with their gut instincts, which are normally sound,’ says one insider.
‘The problem is actually an institutional one. The palace didn’t do enough in advance to publicly recognise that the countries they were going to visit are going to become republics and that their decision to do so would be greeted by the monarchy in a spirit of friendship.
‘These countries are not Canada, Australia or New Zealand: they are places with particular colonial histories. Slave labourers were taken to these islands and deposited there. The idea that they now feel confident enough to seize their own destinies is something that should be celebrated. But because the palace can be so unwieldy and didn’t do that, it meant that every time anything didn’t go quite to plan it looked negative and combative, rather than conciliatory. Buckingham Palace just sleepwalked into the problem.’
Another senior figure in William’s circle agrees, but says the tour at least allowed the prince to ‘set out his stall’ by issuing a highly candid statement at the end of the trip without even consulting the palace hierarchy first.
Prince Andrew pictured taking a stroll through New York’s Central Park with convicted paedophile and child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge depart from Abaco on March 26, 2022 in Great Abaco, Bahamas
The Duchess of Cambridge waves at children during a visit Trench Town, the birthplace of reggae in Kingston, Jamaica
In it, he made clear that the future of the countries he and Kate had visited were for their own people to decide. He went so far as to suggest that the next head of the Commonwealth after his father should not automatically fall to the British Royal Family.
‘The duke strongly felt it was something that needed to be said and [it] was definitely a turning point for him,’ they said. ‘He has a shared responsibility in the institution’s future and wants to use his voice. He knew he had to draw a line in the sand, so he sat down with his team and said, ‘This is what I want to say and I’m going to say it’. The duke’s view is that the Royal Family will be around for as long as people want them and need to prove their value. He is listening and he is learning.’
William is equally clear in his vision when it comes to his campaigning zeal. Homelessness will be his biggest cause, aside from the environment, and he is not going to be afraid of jumping into the issue feet first. ‘He thinks there is a big space outside of politics where he can play a role over issues such as homelessness and housing. Children are being raised in conditions in this country which are absolutely unacceptable. Where does homelessness end and housing affordability start? He really cares about this as an issue and it’s where he wants to put his energy.’
Charlie Mayhew MBE, the chief executive of Tusk, the conservation charity with which the prince has a 17-year association, impresses that William is also becoming a powerful force on the international stage.
He credits William’s trip to China in 2015, where he secured an unprecedented last-minute meeting with President Xi Jinping, as being directly responsible for the country introducing a domestic ban on ivory.
‘He increasingly understands the convening power that he has and wields it carefully and to great effect,’ says Mr Mayhew. ‘I frequently get WhatsApp messages from him to discuss an issue that has occurred to him and I’m always impressed by his maturity.’
It’s also fair to say that William is becoming less of an angry young man — and more of a diplomat.
‘A decade ago, he was just as furious as Harry was with the media. But, unlike his brother, he wanted to work things through, particularly when it came to ring-fencing his children,’ a friend explains.
‘He did that in a level-headed and conciliatory way as he understands more than anyone the interest in them as a family. Once that was in place, he was much better equipped to cope with the levels of interest. It’s why many think Harry and Meghan just didn’t give it enough time [to work through].’
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attend the inaugural Commissioning Parade for service personnel from across the Caribbean, in Kingston, Jamaica, March 24, 2022
(L-R) Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince George of Cambridge, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Princess Charlotte of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Louis of Cambridge on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Platinum Jubilee Pageant on June 05, 2022
That is why, as livid as William was about the BBC’s Martin Bashir scandal — when the Corporation was found to have covered up its journalist’s faking of documents to persuade Princess Diana to give the explosive 1995 interview that hastened the end of her marriage — he has continued to work with Auntie on several high-profile projects.
‘His anger was palpable,’ says a friend, ‘but he went away and did his research and placed the issues in their true historical context.
‘While he is still furious about the way in which his mother was duped, he is not going to hold our national broadcaster to account for something that happened a quarter of a century ago.’
William also ‘absolutely’ shares his father’s willingness to speak out about issues close to his heart, say insiders.
‘Look at the way the Prince of Wales was ridiculed for some of the things he said about climate change, but is now seen as ahead of his time,’ explains one.
‘The lesson he has taken from his father is to be careful how you pursue these issues.
‘But he’s also learnt from the Prince of Wales that there are things he holds dear that will require the same kind of courage from him.
‘If he thinks something is right, then he believes he has a responsibility to speak out because of the privilege that comes with his role.
‘He will be careful and he doesn’t like courting controversy, but he is also not afraid in taking risks.’
Speaking his mind is something that William is starting to do with increasingly regularity inside the family, as well.
He has always enjoyed a close relationship with his grandmother but he is now, at long last, being given a say in the ‘big’ decisions, whether that be Harry and Meghan’s future within the Royal Family or his uncle Andrew’s excommunication.
He visits his grandmother frequently and talks to her on the phone several times a week.
‘Not just about the big decisions, but the little things as well. He’s always checking in with her to make sure she understands why things are happening in a certain way because he and Catherine want to do something different to the traditional model. He never wants the Queen to be taken by surprise about anything,’ one source explains, the words ‘unlike his brother’ hanging in the air.
They added: ‘He and the duchess also spend a lot of time with her with the children.
‘It’s one of the things that has hastened their move to Berkshire this summer. Losing the Duke of Edinburgh has a left a big hole in all their lives. He was a great counsel to William and he feels very protective of his grandmother.’
When it comes to his future vision of the family, William is ‘absolutely on the same page as his father, always has been, always will be’, I am told. That means a slimmed-down monarchy.
‘He is very close to his cousins, Beatrice and Eugenie, but these women have their own families and careers and he believes this is a very good thing. He is even closer to Zara (Tindall) and Peter (Phillips) and admires the lives they have built outside of the family. They will always all be included in family moments, but that’s very different from having royal roles,’ says one insider.
The Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Louis, Mike Tindall and Mia Tindall during the Platinum Jubilee Pageant in front of Buckingham Palace, London, on day four of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations
Prince William and Kate are pictured alongside Zara and Mike Tindall
He is also a great champion of the Earl and Countess of Wessex, his uncle Prince Edward and his dependable wife, Sophie. The two families spend a lot of time together privately.
And for the perennial headache that is his Uncle Andrew?
‘He has strong views on the Duke of York and believes his insistence in trying to cling on to a public role is highly dangerous for the institution. He would have cut him loose a long time ago if it had been up to him. He understands that when it comes to mother and son the situation is complicated, but honestly I think he just wishes he would vanish from public view,’ says a friend.
William knows, with so many relatives unexpectedly dropping by the wayside, the future of the monarchy rests even more heavily now on the shoulders of his ‘little family’. It’s an expectation he once bridled against and while he naturally doesn’t welcome it, he’s now not afraid of it either.
‘In truth he’s not the natural person for the job. His grandmother wasn’t either. But that’s exactly why he is the right person to do it,’ says a source.
‘The last person you want stepping up is the one who rubs their hands and says ‘I can’t wait to be King’. You want someone who understands the significance and the pressure of what they have to do without hankering after any of the trappings.’
So, as he enters his fifth decade tomorrow, it is clear that the future King William V feels more ready than ever for the challenges ahead.
‘Monarchy does have to evolve and that’s its great strength,’ says his former private secretary and mentor, Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton. ‘The interesting thing about this evolution is when the Queen goes it will, in effect, be the end of the last Imperial monarchy.
‘The Empire was still there when the Queen acceded to the throne, and she was surrounded and supported by the great leviathans of the day like Churchill and Attlee. So, the Queen’s style has been one of continuity, constant and really reassuring, but it might not necessarily work quite so well for others because, of course, times change.’
He adds: ‘My own view is that the Princess of Wales and the Prince of Wales both recognised this. They saw that things were moving, and they moved with them in their own ways.
‘In his own time, William will too.’
‘Best dada!’ Princess Eugenie posts loving tribute to husband Jack Brooksbank on Father’s Day sharing snaps of family life with baby August – but doesn’t mention Prince Andrew
- Princess Eugenie, 32, wished Jack Brooksbank a Happy Father’s Day on Insta
- The Princess called her husband the ‘best dada’ as she posted photos of him playing with their one-year-old son August
- Eugenie, who rarely shares photos of her son in public, offered an insight into their family life with the photos
- Prince Andrew’s eldest daughter didn’t publicly wish her own father a Happy Father’s Day after he settled a civil sexual assault lawsuit in the US this year
By JESSICA TAYLOR for MailOnline
The princess, 32, who is 12th in line to the throne, shared a rare glimpse into her family life as she posted a photo of Jack pushing one-year-old August down a country path in the pram.
She also posted a heartwarming snap of the father and son walking side-by-side at The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations as little August tottered along in his blue knitted jumper embroidered with a Union Jack.
Another sweet photo she shared showed the pair playing together at home.
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Princess Eugenie, 32, wished Jack Brooksbank a Happy Father’s Day on Insta, posting a series of sweet photos to her Instagram stories
The shots included the pair strolling at the recent Platinum Jubilee celebrations, and a shot of them playing with a toy at the family home
Eugenie failed to give a nod to her own father, Prince Andrew, who was stripped of several military titles amid a civil sexual assault case filed against him in the US earlier this year.
Andrew settled the lawsuit with his accuser, Virginia Giuffre, in February after she accused him of sexual assault on three occasions when she was under the age of 18.
He has always strenuously denied the allegations. Since settling the lawsuit Andrew has kept a low profile in public – and couldn’t attend Platinum Jubilee celebrations due to testing positive for Covid.
Eugenie largely kept August out of the limelight for his first year, but delighted fans when she shared a video of her son dancing during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
The adorable posts follow a similarly heartfelt tribute posted to Jack last year on his first ever Father’s Day.
Underneath a photo of Jack pushing August in the pram, she wrote: ‘Happy Father’s Day to you my love.. you are the ultimate father to our boy!’
In May this year, the princess posted another cute tribute to her husband as she shared two beaming selfies.
She wrote: ‘Happy birthday to you my Jack. 36 years today. What a journey it’s been so far. Can’t wait for so many more.’
Eugenie, who tends to keep her family life private, first introduced baby August to the world in an Instagram post shortly after he was born.
Princess Eugenie, who rarely showed off baby August in public during the first year of his life, delighted royal fans when she celebrated with him at the Platinum Jubilee
Sharing a stunning family portrait taken by her midwife, she wrote: ‘We wanted to introduce you to August Philip Hawke Brooksbank.
‘Thank you for so many wonderful messages. Our hearts are full of love for this little human, words can’t express.
After giving birth during the height of a national lockdown, the Princess also thanked the key workers who had helped deliver her son safely.
The princess, who is 12th in line to the throne, married wine merchant Jack in October 2018 in a stunning ceremony at St George’s Chapel in Windsor.
The pair first began dating in 2011 and confirmed their relationship in an appearance at Royal Ascot that same year.
When Eugenie left London to work for an auction house in New York in 2013, the pair maintained a long distance relationship.
At the time, Jack told The Daily Mail: ‘We spend a lot of time on Skype. It’s great. We’re still very much together.’
In 2015 the Princess returned to London where the pair grew ever closer – and they sparked engagement rumours the following year.
But it was two more years before Jack popped the question while the pair were away in Nicaragua in January 2018.