Midsummer's Day is an appropriately Game of Thrones-ish date for a birthday, and Prince William turns 31 today. It’s been a truly remarkable year for the young royal—although the 12 months ahead look like they will be even more amazing as the future king awaits the birth of his heir, and he comes to grips with fatherhood.
In fact, William’s 31st year started badly, with the ridiculous row over the topless photos of Kate on holiday.
The blurry photos were certainly embarrassing, and it was undeniably a gross example of media intrusion on their private lives, but William’s actions in issuing an emotional statement condemning the pictures as reminiscent of the “worst excesses” of the Diana era (which they were not) and demanding a criminal prosecution against the photographer and the magazine involved—the French edition of Closer—was utterly counterproductive. All he did was ensure the story ran a few days longer than it otherwise would, when most publications—including every single newspaper in the U.K.—declined to run the pictures anyway. The photographer has still not been identified, and probably never will, as under French law he (or she) is protected as a source. The photos are also not illegal as they were taken from a public road.
Interestingly, the route of public confrontation chosen by William would never have been pursued by Charles, who, when it comes to the press, lives by the maxim “never comment, never explain.” William’s decision to launch into a full-blooded battle with the press may be seen as an implicit criticism of his father’s failure to protect Diana from the paparazzi who chased her to her death.
William’s sensitivity to the pictures, and his desire to be seen to be protective of Kate however, can be better understood with hindsight, as it is now clear that when both Kate and he were pictured toasting with water on a royal tour of Singapore, days before the pictures were published, they were indeed actively trying for a baby. The inflammatory statement was drawn up at 30,000 feet, far from the calming influences of his father and home, as the couple traveled to Tuvalu.
Although William appears calm and measured in public, he has always been a hot-tempered young man, and the invasion of his wife’s privacy at such an intense time undoubtedly stirred his ire.
It was noticeable that when pictures were taken of the couple in swimwear on a beach in Mustique in February, the palace let it be known they were not happy, but no similar emotional statement was issued, a sign, perhaps, that the dauphin is beginning to recognize the importance of reining in his mood swings—and the futility of suing every newspaper for the next 60 years.
There are no celebrations planned for William’s birthday this year as he is at work at RAF Anglesey and Kate is staying in London, or at her mum’s, until the birth of the baby, which the palace says is to be expected in "mid-July."
The other theme of this year has been William’s unswerving determination that the Middletons are fully accepted by their royal in-laws. William—who has been known to call Kate’s father Michael “Dad”—has lent the Middletons several million pounds from his personal fortune to buy their substantial new manor house in Bucklebury, Berkshire, which is big enough to afford them a degree of privacy from the media who now besiege them on a regular basis.
The inclusion of the Middletons will continue in the most public way possible when the royal baby is born. Sources say that Carole and Pippa will be with Kate when she goes into labor and is admitted to hospital. If the baby comes unexpectedly, before William has a chance to get back from Wales (he may come by helicopter) then they will be Kate’s birthing partners. The Middletons will certainly lay eyes on the new baby—and know its gender—before the Queen does. William and Kate have repeatedly insisted that they do not know the sex of the baby.
In many ways, William’s next year of life represents the end of his honeymoon period. He is expected to give up his army job of helicopter rescue—which he loves passionately, saying there is “no higher calling” than saving lives—for the somewhat brain-melting existence of life as a professional royal. But with the baby due any moment, priorities are shifting as they do for any young couple.
One dark cloud for the royal couple is their accommodation situation. They are currently living in a small cottage on the grounds of Kensington Palace, and had been expected to move into a refurbished 10-room apartment earlier this year, but the construction has run behind schedule. The workmen are going as fast as possible, but there seems little chance of William, Kate, and baby being able to come home from the hospital to their new home. At best, it might be ready by September. That big house that William helped buy her parents could come in very handy over the next few months.
Kate’s calendar has been cleared for the rest of the year, and this is probably a wise move. Much as she was determined for her and William to experience something resembling “normal” life when they moved to Wales—doing without housekeepers and servants for example—so is she is determined that they will be “normal” parents. She is not hiring a nanny or a maternity nurse.
Instead, she and William will be the first royals to experience the challenges posed by night feeds and sleep deprivation common to most new parents.
Likelihood of them having a rethink on the nanny situation by the time William's next birthday rolls around?
Don't bet against it.