in the wild west of real news coverage and commentary, you can guarantee one thing: birthdays ending in zero will always be greeted with big, flashy items detailing the achievements, attributes, and clothing successes of the family member in question. It’s a rare time when scandal gets the day off, and if the royals are lucky enough, they may even get a supplement of glossy newspaper photos to kick things off.
the turn of prince williamHis 40th birthday, which he celebrates today (“in private” with his wife and children at home, I’m told), has been no different. It not only comes at a seminal moment in Windsor’s history, but also at a time when his lead role is more important than ever to the Firm. Although Prince Charles is next in line, it is William’s turn that many within the institution feel he has the real potential to bring modernity to the establishment.
The safe space of a birthday profile usually sees palace aides willing to get involved. Rarely in an official capacity (William’s cooperative moment was saved for Big problem—a move that tied in nicely with his continued interest in addressing homelessness), but more often than not helps quietly and behind the scenes in the form of allowing former staff to speak out about or off the record, or help fill in the gaps with quotes from anonymous sources…
When Kate turned 30 in 2012, I remember being pleasantly surprised how, just a year after I had been covering young royals, Kensington Palace officials were more than happy to help me put together a special edition of a popular american magazine
The big one for the Duke of Cambridge this time came on Saturday in the form of a “intimate portrait” in Britain daily mail—a newspaper whose complicated relationship with the royals has had its ups and downs over the decades, but is currently very close. Sprinkled over several pages, it promised to reveal the “true story” of a king in the making, thanks to the generous contributions of those closest to William.
Sharing intimate details or speaking on behalf of a royal as old as William usually only occurs after express permission has been given. My experience with the Duke of Cambridge is that his close circle of friends speak only after a nod from the man himself. In the past, those who have not received such authorization have found themselves in serious trouble.
Watch: Prince William will take a more central role in the royal family when he turns 40
Although the coverage of his birthday included space for William to air his views on conservationism, the future of a reduced monarchy; and his anger at Uncle Andrew, without a doubt it was the relationship with Harry that was front and center. And when royal aides and off-the-record friends turn coverage of the prince’s birthday into a list of family complaints about brother Prince Harry, I’m left scratching my head at the odd direction they’ve chosen to take things. Y the opportunity that was missed.
Instead of hearing more about the Duke’s ambitious environmental plans, sources close to us told us in detail that William feels Prince Harry “has 100 percent crossed that line” by speaking publicly about his struggles within the family.
Instead of sharing how William is preparing for his role as Prince of Wales and taking over the Duchy of Cornwall, we hear from William’s nearest and dearest how his brother has been “sucked into a strange world.” [in California]. . . and there is fuck everything [William] can do about it.”
And it looks like you’ll have to wait until his 41st if you want to find out how William transformed from reluctant heir to obedient king-in-waiting, because sources were too busy talking about how he “flips between hurt and anger.” about Harry’s life decisions.
Admittedly, the situation between the brothers remains dire, but I can’t help but feel that this assortment of sanctioned spokespeople are doing William a huge disservice here. “William is absolutely allergic to drama,” a close friend told the paper proudly. . . while he ranted about the Duke of Sussex. I could have been fooled!
From a PR perspective, Prince William’s milestone birthday was the perfect opportunity to paint a picture of a man focused on getting ready for the big job. After all, he has really been putting in the work. But instead, readers were presented with the hypocritical story of how awful it is for Harry to speak publicly about his experiences…told through Kensington Palace sources who seem to share Harry’s private and personal views. William to Britain’s most widely read tabloid.
After April’s failed Caribbean tour, William’s senior staff was quick to inform royal reporters that he plans to drop the family’s mantra “never complain, never explain” when he becomes king, as he doesn’t let room for accountability when mistakes are made. That outdated rule definitely needs to go, but starting the process with leaked family-fracture stories you once criticized someone else for sharing is probably not the best way to go.