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William at 40: A milestone birthday in a life on the test bench

The world watched as Prince William grew from a schoolboy of two to a dashing air-sea rescue pilot to a bald father of three.

But as he turns 40 on Tuesday, William is making his biggest change yet: taking on an increasingly central role in the royal family as he prepares for his eventual accession to the throne.

That became clear two weeks ago when William took center stage at Queen Elizabeth II’s extravagant 70th anniversary concert, praising his grandmother as an environmental pioneer as he called for action on climate change.

“Tonight was filled with optimism and joy – and there is hope,” he said as images of wildlife, oceans and jungles were projected onto the walls of Buckingham Palace behind him. “Together, as we harness the very best of humanity and restore our planet, we will protect it for our children, our grandchildren, and future generations.”

Get ready to see more of it.

Slowed down by age and health problems, the 96-year-old Queen is gradually handing over more responsibility to her son and heir, Prince Charles. This in turn gives William, his eldest son, a more prominent role and more opportunities to make his mark on a new generation of the monarchy.

“William was keen to show how he’s going to handle things differently,” said royal expert Pauline Maclaran, author of Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture.

“And so we’re seeing that more and more where the future of the line is being emphasized, with Charles being put more in a sort of holding position for William. We’re always reminded that William is after Charles,” she added.

Of course, William’s position as eventual heir to the throne was sealed at his birth on June 21, 1982, as the first son of Charles and the late Princess Diana. This brought him into the public eye from the second Charles and Diana presented him to television cameras outside the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital in London.

The world has watched William from his school days in London to his courtship of Kate Middleton at St Andrews University in Scotland and their spectacular wedding at Westminster Abbey.

After graduating from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, he appeared again in front of the cameras and then joined active service in the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force. He eventually became a civilian air ambulance pilot before moving into full-time royal service five years ago.

His charities and causes – from mental health to the environment – have offered clues as to what kind of monarch he might one day be.

But events just before and during the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations gave a clearer indication of William’s vision for the future.

William and Kate represented the Queen last March when they embarked on an eight-day tour of Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas, three of the 14 independent countries where the British monarch still serves as head of state.

They were greeted with brass bands and gala dinners, but also demonstrations by protesters demanding redress for Britain’s role in the enslavement of millions of Africans. Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness told royals his country intended to become a republic and sever ties with the monarchy.

After the trip, the young royals were criticized as “tone deaf” for perpetuating images of British colonial rule.

But instead of resorting to the traditional Windsor response of “never complain, never explain,” William took the unusual step of issuing a statement reflecting on everything that had happened.

“I know this tour has brought questions of the past and the future even more into focus,” said William. “In Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas, people have to decide about that future.”

“Catherine and I are committed to the service,” he continued. “For us, that doesn’t mean telling people what to do. It’s about serving and supporting them in whatever way they see fit.”

This willingness to be open-minded is vital for the House of Windsor as it seeks to remain relevant to younger people and cement its role in British society, Maclaran said.

“It’s important that William shows that there will be changes in the monarchy,” she said. “Otherwise, you know, I suspect she really can’t survive.”

https://www.local10.com/entertainment/2022/06/20/william-at-40-a-milestone-birthday-in-a-life-under-scrutiny/ William at 40: A milestone birthday in a life on the test bench

Sarah Y. Kim

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