As King Charles III takes the throne, Prince William is one step closer to becoming king himself.
It’s a destiny that William has been preparing for since childhood.
But as the world starts to demand more of monarchs, William’s training may not be enough.
Prince William is now one step closer to the British throne — a role he’s been preparing for his whole life.
As heir, William was put through years of training to ensure the survival of the British monarchy. But one fact cannot be ignored: His two teachers — King Charles III and the late Queen Elizabeth II — are of different eras. By the time he reaches the throne, William’s training could be woefully out of date.
Since his grandmother’s coronation in 1953, the world outside of Buckingham Palace’s gates has changed considerably. Society has seen massive sociological and cultural shifts brought about by civil-rights movements and reforms in gender equality and LGBTQ rights, to name a few. During the late Queen Elizabeth’s reign, 17 countries also removed their monarchies and became republics.
Charles, now 74, becomes the oldest monarch to ever assume the British throne. Royal experts such as Marlene Koenig believe Charles knows “his time is shorter” in the role and sees himself as a caretaker of the throne for William.
Still, public support for the monarchy is at an all-time low. Published days after the Queen’s death, a study from the National Centre for Social Research found that 55% of the British people surveyed believe it’s “important for Britain to continue to have a monarchy.” As the study notes, that figure is the lowest on record since it began in 1983.
As such, the task of ensuring the monarchy not only survives but thrives in the 21st century rests heavily on William’s shoulders. But experts say to pull it off, he’ll need to keep up with changing times.
William has been trained to lead an outdated monarchy
In William’s childhood, Princess Diana did her best to shield him from the fact he would one day be king. He had “genuinely no idea” of his destiny until he started school, Andrew Morton wrote in his 2011 book, “William and Catherine: Their Lives, Their Wedding,” according to the Express.
But William’s future was always a looming specter. As time passed, William became fully aware of his future through regular mentorship with the Queen as a teenager, People reported. As he entered adulthood, the gravity of his future became crystal clear.
After graduating from the University of St. Andrews in 2005 and spending a few years at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, William went on to complete a two-year intensive training course in the art of being king, The Daily Mail reported in 2008.
The program was devised by the Queen and Charles to teach William about the British government through lessons in constitutional law and navigating high-profile meetings, including one with the former Prime Minister John Major, the publication added.
Outside of training, William made strides in his 20s to fulfill the traditional expectations of a monarch. He married Kate Middleton in 2011, and the couple has three children, ensuring there’ll be a future heir (and spares).
All the while, William increasingly showed a willingness to take on more royal duties, sometimes at the cost of his own personal ambition. As Harper’s Bazaar reported, William stepped down from his role as an ambulance pilot in order to focus on his duties.
Now, Charles’ coronation brings William another step closer to the throne, and he’s taken on even more royal duties recently. Following Queen Elizabeth’s death, William inherited a $1 billion property estate from Charles and was named the Prince of Wales, a title traditionally given to the heir apparent to the throne, Kristen Meinzer, a royal watcher, told Insider.
She also said William’s increasing responsibilities were compounded by factors such as Prince Harry and Prince Andrew stepping away from their royal duties in recent years.
Royal training hasn’t shielded William from mistakes
Under the mounting responsibilities he’s shouldering, William — like the heir before him — has made several missteps.
One of his biggest PR controversies over the past few years includes his and Kate’s disastrous royal tour of the Caribbean in 2022.
Intended to be in celebration of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, William and Kate came across to many as the poster children of the monarchy’s colonial past. Stops on the tour were canceled due to protests demanding reparations for slavery and the couple faced backlash after photos of them greeting children through holes in a wire fence in Jamaica were released, Newsweek reported.
In February 2021, William — who is president of the Football Association — faced criticism after condemning “racist abuse” when a handful of British players were sent hateful messages online. Several royal commentators like Meinzer and Aly Walansky questioned why he wasn’t willing to take a stand against racism when it came to his own family since his sister-in-law Meghan Markle has dealt with racism from British tabloids since she started dating Harry in 2016.
Since 2019, William has also faced cheating rumors when British tabloids speculated about a fallout between William and Kate and their friend and neighbor, Rose Hanbury, the Marchioness of Cholmondeley, Gawker reported.
While nothing substantiated ever arose, rumors resurfaced in July 2022 when the celebrity-gossip Instagram account Deux Moi posted a blind item from an anonymous submitter alleging that an unnamed member of the royal family was having an affair that was an “open secret,” The Cut reported at the time.
Neither Kensington Palace nor Buckingham Palace addressed the rumors, but The Cut reported that the palace had considered legal action against Deux Moi after the report. Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.
More recently, William’s reputation took a hit when Harry published his memoir, “Spare.” In the book, Harry made several claims about William that confirmed reports of a rift existing between the pair for years. One of the most devastating allegations in the book was that William physically attacked his younger brother in 2019 during a confrontation about Meghan. (Kensington Palace also did not respond to Insider’s request to comment on this matter.)
William’s ‘never complain, never explain’ strategy might not work in the long run
In response to the controversy, William has mostly stuck to the royal mantra of “never complain, never explain” — much like his father and grandmother.
In the face of the allegations Harry made toward him in “Spare” — as well as in his Netflix docuseries and several TV interviews — William has mostly been silent.
A recent exception was William’s spokesperson indirectly responding to the resignation of Lady Susan Hussey, a close friend to the royal family and the prince’s godmother, who was accused of making racist remarks about a Black guest at a Buckingham Palace event in November 2022.
The Kensington Palace spokesperson didn’t name Hussey, a former lady-in-waiting, but said the comments were “unacceptable” and they were “really disappointed to hear about the guest’s experience.”
Leaning into this unforthcoming strategy may have worked in the short term. A poll conducted by Ipsos Mori, shared by The Telegraph in January, showed that 53% of 1,000 people between the ages of 18 and 75 polled in the UK still felt favorably toward the royal family in the aftermath of “Spare.” William and Kate remained the most popular royals, with favorable ratings of 61% and 60%, respectively.
But as young people in the UK are losing faith in the monarchy, that strategy may only take William so far.
A YouGov opinion poll of 4,592 adults, commissioned by the BBC, found a growing dissatisfaction with the monarchy, particularly among Gen Z. Those polled between the ages of 18 and 24 were only 32% in favor of a monarchy — a big drop from the 59% in favor among the same age bracket when YouGov conducted the same poll in 2011.
Some royal experts say William must show he’s willing to try new approaches to lead a monarchy that’s losing its touch and ensure it can exist in a modern-day society that values transparency.
Meinzer said William is showing glimpses that he’s open to change, citing the Caribbean royal tour as an example. Kensington Palace’s tweets after the tour, where William was criticized by protesters, who said he didn’t take “responsibility” for the monarchy’s role in slavery, highlighted his willingness to carve a new way forward, she added.
The tweet appeared to be written by William and said that for him and Kate, the tour “brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future.”
“What matters to us is the potential the Commonwealth family has to create a better future for the people who form it, and our commitment to serve and support as best we can,” he added in part.
For Meinzer, William’s words spoke to his understanding and desire to see the monarchy progress.
“William has come to realize that he has to be a different kind of monarch than his grandmother — one that acknowledges the transgressions of the monarchy and the desires of his subjects,” she said.
William’s readiness to reinvent the monarchy is still up for debate
Experts are torn on whether William will be a changemaker as king or simply uphold tradition.
The royal historian and author Leslie Carroll told Insider she thinks William will stick to old rules set out by the firm, a nickname for the royal family, rather than forge a new path.
“From my vantage, I’m seeing William’s character evolving to become more like his father,” she said. “I’ve seen nothing change in terms of the royal family’s relationship with the press, through whom they funnel all their complaining and explaining.”
“He once declared, ‘My mother was the people’s princess.’ I want to be ‘the people’s king.’ I see him moving away from that sentiment, which is really unfortunate,” Carroll added.
The royal watcher Amanda Matta — who makes educational videos about the royals on TikTok — shared a similar view.
“Let’s just say that I’ve seen no evidence that he’s ready to be king,” Matta, who has over 1.2 million followers, said in an email to Insider.
While Charles made a point of laying out the priorities he’d focus on as king during his tenure as the Prince of Wales — namely environmental sustainability and social issues — Matta said William has yet to take a firm stance on topics such as the royal family’s connection to historical slavery and racism that can no longer go unaddressed.
William has shown a dedication to the environment by launching the Earthshot Prize Awards and denouncing wildlife poaching, but he has yet to approach other topics with the same vigor.
“I’ve never gotten the sense that there’s a fire under Prince William that is driving him to address these topics,” Matta added. “He may very well want to forge a new path for the monarchy in the 21st century, but we haven’t gotten a true look at what that may entail.”
Matta said it’s clear William’s task of modernizing the monarchy will be a tipping point, one filled with pressure but also potential.
“I can see William rising to that challenge, but it will take immense focus and an ability to rise above palace squabbling,” she said.
Meinzer is also optimistic, saying confidently, “He’s ready. And the public would embrace him — embrace him more readily, in fact, than they’re currently embracing Charles.”
While Charles is king, William still has time to decide what kind of monarch he will be — but he won’t have as long as his father did to figure it out.
This story is part of “Charles in Charge,” our package of stories all about King Charles’ coronation. Read the rest here.
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