Prince William’s Kate Middleton decision makes history


It is a source of regular and deep sorrow for this royal writer that on occasion, while digging around the dusty corners of the internet, I come across certain photos of Prince William.

There was a time, in the early aughts, when the future King looked less like his jug-eared slightly awkward father’s son and more like he had been specifically created by the most vivid imaginations of the Disney Corporation. That jawline, those luscious blonde locks, the general dreamboaty-iness!

Today, William, now the Prince of Wales, looks a world away from his dishy younger self and more like a Mancunian accountant who spends too much time thinking about his golf handicap and the merits of a Lexus.

But, while his storybook looks might have vanished, the sheer derangement and the filling-rattling madness of March has proven one thing: He truly is every bit the dashing, brave prince.

To wit: the 41-year-old has actually, without anyone quite noticing, just done something that the previous 22 Princes of Wales have bluntly failed at or refused to do.

He has not been a massive, thoughtless, selfish d**khead to his wife.

I know – ALERT THE HISTORY BOOKS! Do the chroniclers know?! Is it too early for someone to start writing songs about this?

Believe me, if you don’t spend all day up to your eyeballs in the history of the royal family (well, someone has to do it) then you might not realise what a truly extraordinary thing this is for him to be doing.

Last weekend, William’s wife Kate the Princess of Wales revealed she has cancer, the announcement coming from a solo princess sitting on a bench in Windsor, a tableau of her own choosing, according to the Sunday Times.

A royal wife calling the shots? Making decisions about her own wellbeing? Those nearly two dozen preceding Princes of Wales are probably so appalled at this notion they are planning to unionise to come back and read the riot act to William.

Yes, Kate might have consciously decided to reveal her diagnosis to the world without her husband but the role he has been playing in private is nothing short of pioneering – for a prince that is.

Royal husbands have a track record that could best be described as absolutely bloody appalling. Quite literary. Princes and Kings have killed, locked up, divorced, abandoned, abused, tormented, and sued their significant others over the course of the centuries.

That’s not even factoring in the untold number (most likely – every single damned one) who also energetically shagged around causing their wives no end of grief, humiliation and anger and resulted in the vast, vast begetting of illegitimate children.

Queens and princesses have always had one job. Actually, make that two jobs. Get knocked up to produce plenty of small HRHs, and then stay nice and quiet. Even better, maybe, having laid back and thought of England and fulfilled their base bodily requirements, might they like to go to some remote manor house in Yorkshire and never be heard from again?

Card games, horses, shooting parties, mistresses, opera singers and the occasional very amenable louche wife of a peer, not to mention occasionally signing bills into law, were really all a Windsor chap could feasibly get done in a day.

Wives and families didn’t tend to really figure into things much, except if there was a portrait to be painted or it was Christmas Day.

Fundamentally, the history of the British monarchy – and probably every monarchy everywhere plus large swathes of all history – has seen men treat their wives somewhere along a spectrum that spans from indifference to callousness to good, old-fashioned cruelty.

So, it is against this backdrop that we should judge William and his hard line approach to looking after his wife and family at this particular juncture in history.

Weeks worth of reporting has driven home one point – that he is absolutely adamant that Kate be given the time, space and privacy she needs, and that the only priority is her health.

In January, after it was revealed that Kate was in the London Clinic for abdominal surgery, it was also announced that William had no intention of doing the stoic, unfeeling bloke thing, putting Duty before basic husbandly decency. No siree. The prince had gone “full dad,” as the Sunday Times put it.

As the paper’s royal editor Roya Nikkhah reported back then , the prince would “combine being by his wife’s and children’s side” and that inside the Wales household, the motto was “100 percent family first”.

All this, it must be noted, the prince is doing with the firm and full backing of his father King Charles, who really didn’t do that well at the marital fidelity stakes while Prince of Wales.

William’s uncompromising approach has only become more so with Kate’s subsequent cancer diagnosis.

A royal aide told the Times: “All he wants to do is protect his wife and children. The family just want to go away for Easter, spend time together, the five of them, close off from the world.”

Last weekend a friend of the Waleses told Nikkhah: “Undoubtedly what has happened to him in his life [with his mother] has led him into the protection mode he is in now”.

I can already hear the criticisms of this William cheerleading I am doing – why should a man be applauded for doing what most of us would consider par for the course for a wife? That is, him being wholly and fully there his partner is seriously unwell and his kids need him?

To which I would say, see above: royal men.

The Prince of Wales is doing something that, as far as I’m aware, no prince has ever really done before: Put his wife and family’s needs above his own and above the needs of the monarchy.

William might not have gotten things perfectly right – like letting Kate take the heat for the Great Mother’s Day Photo mishap – but what has become evident is the extent to which the man is trying to do right by his family.

In 2021, Prince Harry talked about wanting to “break the cycle” of the “pain and suffering” when it came to raising his own kids. (Back in Clarence House, Charles sniffled into a monogrammed hanky.)

Well, William is currently breaking the cycle of s**t royal husbanding and dud dadding that predates the Norman conquest. (I really don’t think that Alfred the Great spent a lot of time worrying about establishing strong emotional foundations for his children, Æthelflæd, Edward the Elder, Æthelgifu, Ælfthryth and Æthelwear, and he was far more interested in having a red hot crack at repelling the Viking hordes.)

Thus, let’s break out the gold stars and some pats on the back for the prince who is clearly trying as a husband and father – something that all those Edwards and Henrys and Georges never, ever gave a fig about.

Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

Read related topics:Kate MiddletonPrince William