Sarah Caden: Prince William's crime isn't that he's workshy, it's that he's disappointingly boring
Published 13/03/2016 | 02:30
Like a modern-day Samson, the appeal of Prince William appears to wane in proportion to his loss of hair.
As the Duke of Cambridge goes bald, as his resemblance to the dead Diana disappears and he grows to resemble more and more the Windsors, so it seems he slowly fades in favour. The hair disappears in a very particular pattern that seems almost specific to the royals and William begins to look like his uncle Edward.
Which prompts one to wonder just what Edward does now? Which prompts one to wonder what exactly young William is doing with his life and whether he's heading the way of his other uncle, Air Miles Andy? Thus, very easily, the second-in-line to the throne, once considered one of the most handsome catches in the world, is suddenly cast as Workshy William. And it's a moniker which, if he's not careful, just might stick.
Last week, when William and Kate took their children George (2), and Charlotte, 10 months, skiing, they must have thought it was a fairly innocuous expedition. They didn't announce the trip until they had arrived at their destination and said that they wouldn't be divulging the specifics of their location until after the fact. William is very careful about guarding his family's privacy and so far that has been fine.
Somehow, this one got on public's goat, though.
Maybe it was a case of bad timing. The skiing trip came on the heels of the revelation that William works only 20 hours a week as a pilot for the East Anglian Ambulance Service, one-third of the weekly hours worked by his colleagues. Who, let's face it, probably didn't head off skiing last week either and wouldn't have had the option of borrowing the Duke of Westminster's helicopter for transport. Suddenly, the second in line to the throne, once an untouchable favourite, was a lazy spoilt brat.
William and Kate are, of course, entitled to take their children on holiday. This trip was, as the palace pointed out, their first family holiday as a foursome. They're hardly on a par with his cousin Beatrice, Andrew's eldest and a far lesser royal, who seems to be habitually on holiday, but you have to wonder if William would be better off if he was a bit more flamboyant?
It could be that it's not the fact of William's being workshy or not that rubs people up the wrong way. It could, in fact, be that he's turned out to be so disappointingly dull. To look at, he's a balding, middle-aged, middle-management type. But with princely perks like private helicopters, high-end holidays and, when he comes up for promotion, a throne and a big title. The two just don't gel.
William, sadly, hasn't shaped up to be very princely at all. And that has come as something of an unpleasant surprise; but it's easier to slag him off for not having a proper job than for being a bit boring.
For a long time, it seemed that Prince William would follow a very different path to the one he now treads. He was a cute kid, Diana's darling, who grew up into a handsome teenager whom we viewed through grief-tinted glasses and then a tall, good-looking, blonde young man. Young girls had posters of him on their walls. His now wife, Catherine, is said to have been one of them.
For a long time, William seemed to be the boy to break the Windsor mould. He had enough of Diana's glamour in him, it seemed, to improve on what the Windsors brought to the gene pool - and not just the looks and the male-pattern baldness, but the stuffiness and the Hooray-Henry element.
Glamour always sat uneasily with William, however. His mother may have played with the press and the paparazzi to an extent - using them when she wanted to, lamenting them when she didn't - but William always hated the intrusion. He hated being stalked through his childhood by cameras, he hated the relentless attention to his mother and that antipathy increased after her death.
William has always wanted to live out of the spotlight and while the Windsors' much-vaunted sense of duty means that he knows he cannot get away from scrutiny, he seems to have turned himself into a less appealing focus for it. Sure, he can't help the hair loss, but the 33-year-old prince dresses like a dowdy dad and wears glasses that are the wrong, non-hipster side of nerdy. He comports himself, basically, as a man who does not want to be noticed.
Unfortunately for William, however, that's just not possible. He will never have a low profile and as his public pay for him to live quite a lovely life with several homes and the freedom to work only 20 hours a week they are entitled to have certain expectations of him.
The expectations of his youth and early adulthood were unrealistic, however, as people wanted to transfer their feelings for Diana on to her now motherless boy. In death, they idealised her, but that ideal is impossible for her son to live up to.
Diana died relatively young, while she was utterly beloved, and the perception of her remained that of the injured party in her marriage to Charles. All that could have changed had she lived, had she married Dodi, had she even split with Dodi and gone on to have further relationships.
Instead, however, she died. And William was perceived as carrying her glamorous flame through the Windsor line. What William has demonstrated over and over, however, is that the life he wants is utterly different to that enjoyed and endured by Diana.
His marriage to Catherine is a case in point. She is relatively ordinary compared with him, in that her parents worked and worked hard to send her and her siblings to posh schools and university and elevate them in class terms.
Kate's mother, Carole Middleton, is often portrayed as a modern-day Mrs Bennet and socially over-ambitious for her daughter, but this marriage is a two-way street in terms of class fluidity. While Kate has definitely gone up a fair few steps by becoming the wife of a potential future king, William has morphed into something of a middle-class middle Englander and met her half-way.
By all accounts, William loves the Middleton family's relative ordinariness and puts his children at the heart of it as much as possible, all in an effort to avoid them having an upbringing focused on duty and distance, as his was.
Of course, he's lucky to be able to have the time to devote to keeping his family private and giving his children more of himself than his father gave him, but there you go.
Yeah, he's lucky that he doesn't have to go out and work 40-plus hours every week to put bread on the table, but there you go. He might not look like one, or act much like one, but William was born a prince and there are perks.
And short working hours and secret skiing holidays are part of them.
If he brought a bit more panache to the table, William might just get away with being a tiny bit workshy. After all, his younger brother Harry gets away with it; but that's younger brothers for you. Harry was never the golden boy; always the cheeky imp. Expectations are lower for the cheeky imp.
When William and Kate returned from their skiing trip last week, she almost immediately made an official visit to a mental health centre.
For William, a report surfaced outlining how he long ago made a deal with the Queen to be a "part-time royal" for now.
Time now with his family will make William a better monarch later, apparently. You see, not workshy. Just waiting for his moment to shine.