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UK's Prince William lives life in spotlight

By Hilary Whiteman, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Prince William is second-in-line to the throne after his father Prince Charles
  • The prince met Kate Middleton at St Andrew's University in Scotland
  • In January 2010, he made New Zealand the destination for his first official foreign visit
  • The prince has written about the loss of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales

London, England (CNN) -- As the first-born child to the late Princess Diana and second-in-line to the British throne, Prince William was never going to be far from the public eye or the photographers' lens.

He was born in London on June 21, 1982, just one year after Princess Diana married heir to the throne, Prince Charles, in a lavish wedding in the city's St. Paul's Cathedral.

The event was watched by about 750 million people worldwide and the intense media interest that surrounded the royal couple swelled to first include William, then in 1984 his younger brother, Harry.

Official photos released to satisfy a curious public showed the young princes, who are second- and third-in-line to the throne, with their adoring mother.

However, the illusion of a charmed childhood was shattered when images of both boys walking behind their mother's funeral cortege were beamed worldwide after her death in August 1997 in a Paris car crash. Prince William was 15, Harry just 12.

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For the first time last year, speaking as the Royal Patron of the Child Bereavement Charity, Prince William revealed the emptiness that engulfed him after her loss.

Writing in Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, he said: "Never being able to say the word 'Mummy' again in your life sounds like a small thing. However, for many, including me, it's now really just a word -- hollow and evoking only memories."

After graduating from elite private school Eton College, Prince William took a year away from study and embarked on what is known in the UK as a "gap year" of travel. Photos were released to the press of a rugged prince chopping wood in Chile.

He also worked in Belize and traveled to Africa before returning to study History of Art at St Andrew's University in Fife, Scotland. Later he switched his studies to Geography, graduating from St. Andrew's in 2005.

It was at St. Andrew's that Prince William met Kate Middleton, a fellow student studying History of Art. The early stages of their relationship were shielded from the prying eyes of the British paparazzi by an agreement protecting the princes' privacy during their full-time study.

The agreement expired after Prince William's graduation and pictures started appearing of the young couple. Much was made in 2005 of Middleton's appearance in the Swiss ski resort of Klosters for the princes' annual holiday.

The following year, British retailer Woolworth's went as far as to issue designs for commemorative plates in anticipation of a royal engagement. It was not to be. Prince William threw himself into a military career, joining the army as an officer cadet at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Surrey, England.

After graduating, he was first posted to the Household Cavalry and then appointed Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, a ceremonial title founded by Edward III in 1348.

In 2008, Prince William received his Royal Air Force wings after completing an intensive 12-week flying course and in 2009 started training as a search-and-rescue pilot. In April, Clarence House announced William would be posted to the RAF base in Wales if he successfully finishes his training in September 2010.

Alongside his military commitments, Prince William has been ramping up his royal role. In January 2010, he chose New Zealand as the destination for his first official foreign visit.

Thousand of crowds lined the streets for a glimpse of the second-in-line to the throne amid vigorous debate in that country as to whether the queen should be replaced as the Head of State.

The New Zealand Herald reported that the cheers and shouting of fans drowned out a protest by demonstrators calling for New Zealand to become a republic.

The prince also received a warm reception after flying from New Zealand to Australia for an unofficial visit. One girl in the crowd was pictured holding a sign saying: "Kate has competition Down Under."

No longer.

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