3 minute read
David Van Biema

HIS DAYS ARE REGIMENTED: BREAKFAST AT 8 A.M., chapel at 8:30. Lessons begin at 9, pause briefly for an 11:20 biscuit break, then resume. Lunch is at 1:25: a meat, two vegetables and a traditional pudding. And then, after lunch, he forays onto those famous playing fields. At Eton there are few spare moments for reflection, and it may be just as well. One can only guess the thoughts last week of the 13-year-old registered at that ancient school as William of Wales, H.R.H. Prince.

Like all children of divorce, William Windsor has been both the battle’s fulcrum and its victim. It was William, known chummily from birth by the press as Wills, who reportedly demanded of his father, “Why do you make Mummy cry all the time?” With the divorce imminent, William’s strategic position becomes even more charged–both as his mother’s trump card in her continuing negotiations with the palace and as the next King of England in the unlikely, yet much speculated upon, instance that Charles marries Camilla Parker Bowles and abdicates. But royals watchers hope that having lived with their parents’ separation for three years, William and his younger brother Harry have become steeled, and that the young man described by author Brian Hoey as “rather vulnerable, but with some of his father’s arrogance,” has already cleared the most difficult emotional hurdles.

At Eton, William is one of 200 F-Tits, “tit” meaning “squirt” and F denoting the school block inhabited by freshmen. He sleeps in a simple 10-ft. by 7-ft. room above the kitchen; he has his own security man next door. Prince Charles’ misery at Gordonstoun is legendary; but Eton’s reputation for canings and oppression of younger boys by older ones has faded in recent decades, and William, who had several good friends matriculating with him, was very popular at his previous school.

The press has for the most part left William alone at Eton, but he was considered fair game when he ventured into London recently to attend a tony teenage ball. The tabloid Sun promptly established a hot line for girls who had kissed the prince, recently deemed “very fanciable” by the editor of a teen magazine that ran his picture as a pinup.

William seems to have adapted well to the holiday schizophrenia that afflicts any child of divorce. With Diana, he and Harry wear jeans and bomber jackets and eat at trendy restaurants, surf the Caribbean or (last summer) dirt-bike at Goldie Hawn’s Colorado ranch. Vacations with Dad are spent shooting and fishing at Balmoral Castle in traditional tweeds. William reportedly no longer demands hamburgers and Cokes while at Balmoral but requests venison and red wine. For his 13th birthday, Charles presented him with the services of a valet.

All indications are that Britain’s heir-but-one is developing the emotional arsenal to survive his singular fate. He seems to have inherited his mother’s relaxed manner and something of the paradoxical shy self-confidence that so rivets her public. He may also be the most media-savvy person in his family. When Diana was offered the presidency of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the avid gamesman advised her, “You can’t do that–every time I kill something, they’ll blame you.” It looks as if he may make it after all.

–By David Van Biema. Reported by Helen Gibson/London

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