A version of this story appeared in the February 11 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.
Being an heir to the throne isn’t what it used to be; now you have to actually work. Once a license to while away the days in indulgent obscurity, it’s now about developing your own brand so you’re known and relevant when you accede.
Prince William’s approach was on full display during a busy day of engagements in Dubai this week. He was drafted in by the British government to help promote Brand UK. The royals have long been seen as a unique selling point for the country, and while the family has had its trials and tribulations over the past year, it still exudes stability and strength compared with the chaotic politics of home.
What’s unique to William is how he’s handling his engagements around the core duties.
Climate is the issue that resonates most with the young people who will be his subjects one day, and he’s made it central to his agenda. Before arriving at Expo 2020 Dubai, he met Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed Al Nahyan, son of the UAE’s de facto ruler, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
They planted new mangrove trees in a park that the local government says will capture more than four times as much carbon as an equivalent-sized rainforest. They also provide much needed habitat for wildlife and protect the coastline from flooding and erosion.
Then, taking center stage at the world expo, William issued a stark warning on the climate.
“This is the decisive decade. If we do nothing, by 2030 we will be speeding towards increasingly devastating planetary and humanitarian crises as a result of our changing climate,” the prince said.
It’s the type of message you might expect from a modern royal, using their platform to bring attention to a major public-interest issue. Where William is marking himself out and potentially connecting with the young is that he doesn’t stop there.
He went on to say: “If we act now, we will be on a path towards a repaired and regenerated planet that will flourish for generations to come.”
He pointed to his Earthshot Prize, which he described as a platform to “discover, showcase, accelerate, and scale ground-breaking solutions to repair our planet.”
We heard from two Earthshot finalists, who came up with a land-based coral farm for reef restoration and the largest living seawall on the planet, to support the native marine life, and William announced they would be getting half a million pounds (around $680,000) each from the port operator DP World to help make the ideas a reality.
Royals have long used their profiles to shine a light on causes they care about. Traditionally, that means showing up at charities and events to get them in the newspaper. William’s mother, Diana, famously took that a step further, choosing sensitive issues and putting herself on their frontlines – for example, by walking through a field of landmines or shaking hands with someone with HIV/AIDS.
William is next-level royalty, taking a solutions-focused approach where he acknowledges the problem but also offers a constructive response. It’s hope over fear and evolves what was traditionally a purely ceremonial role.
However, he risks backing a solution that turns out to be controversial or politically sensitive. That will be more of an issue once he is the actual monarch but before then, the prince appears willing to stick his neck out to deepen ties with his generation and the next.
NEWS OF THE WEEK
Queen’s health being monitored after Charles tests positive for Covid-19 again.
There are fresh concerns for Queen Elizabeth II’s health after it was revealed Prince Charles has been reinfected with coronavirus. Clarence House revealed the 73-year-old had pulled out of an appearance in the English city of Winchester on Thursday and was isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 for a second time. A royal source told us that Charles had met with the Queen “recently” but did not elaborate on precisely when the meeting occurred. However, the source added that the 95-year-old monarch is not displaying symptoms and the situation will continue to be monitored. The Queen had appeared to be on great form over the weekend, laughing and cracking jokes with guests at a special reception to mark the start of her Platinum Jubilee year.
Another heartbreaking anniversary for the Queen.
It’s probably been a week of mixed emotions for the monarch. She headed back to Windsor on Monday after Sunday saw her reach the historic milestone of 70 years on the British throne but also marked seven decades since the death of her father, King George VI. Wednesday also marked 20 years since the death of her sister, Princess Margaret. Despite the painful anniversaries, a royal source told us that upon traveling back to Windsor, the Queen would be resuming her regular duties of audiences, credentials and privy council meetings. Her diary is expected to continue as a mix of both virtual and in-person events. And in yet another signal of the Queen’s eagerness to return to normality after her spell of ill health late last year, she is hoping to attend three major engagements next month: a diplomatic reception at Windsor Castle on March 2, the annual Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey on March 14; and a service of thanksgiving for her late husband, Philip, at the same venue on March 29.
THE OTHER TAKEAWAYS FROM THE QUEEN’S PLATINUM JUBILEE MESSAGE
As expected, we didn’t see the Queen on Sunday but we did get that extraordinary message in which she expressed her wish for Camilla to take the title of Queen Consort when Charles becomes King.
The blessing from the monarch upon her daughter-in-law is being seen as a reward for Camilla’s years of public service but also an endorsement of the kind of monarchy that Charles is trying to create. Camilla has been a divisive figure, with some continuing to blame her for the demise of Charles’ marriage to the late Princess Diana. Sentiment toward the Duchess of Cornwall has softened since the ’90s, and the Queen’s moves to future-proof the monarchy suggest the family feel the British public is finally ready to accept her as future Queen.
But the Queen’s intervention on the subject of Camilla’s future title was so unexpected that you may have missed a few other noteworthy moments in her Platinum Jubilee message.
One thing the monarch made abundantly clear was that she has no intention of going anywhere soon. As she approaches her 96th year, some have speculated on whether the Queen might step back or even abdicate, but she firmly ruled that out by saying: “My life will always be devoted to your service.”
The other moment royal-watchers might have missed was the touching acknowledgment of Prince Philip’s life in service to her. She described feeling “blessed” at having “a partner willing to carry out the role of consort and unselfishly make the sacrifices that go with it.”
Elizabeth was only 25 years old when she ascended the British throne upon the death of her father. Seventy years on, here’s a look back at how the second Elizabethan age began.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
Prince Andrew to testify under oath next month.
The Duke of York has agreed to give a statement under oath in the UK on March 10 as part of the civil sexual abuse case against him, a source close to the duke told CNN on Saturday. David Boies, the lawyer for Andrew’s accuser, Virginia Giuffre, said in a statement last month that her legal team was looking “forward to confronting Prince Andrew with his denials and attempts to blame Ms. Giuffre for her own abuse at his deposition and at trial.” Boies and another lawyer representing Giuffre, Sigrid McCawley, will conduct the deposition, which is expected to last two days, according to the Daily Telegraph. Andrew, 61, has repeatedly denied Giuffre’s allegations. Read the latest developments in the case here.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Camilla was straight back to work after receiving the ultimate seal of approval from the monarch in her jubilee message at the weekend. In her first outing since the Queen’s announcement, the Duchess of Cornwall visited a primary school in the English city of Bath on Tuesday before heading to a local domestic abuse charity, St. John’s Foundation.
Eugenie reveals her son’s super-cute nickname.
To celebrate her son’s first birthday, Princess Eugenie shared two adorable family snaps of August Philip Hawke Brooksbank on Instagram. The first was a picture of mom smiling down at the little boy in her arms as dad Jack wraps his arm around the pair. A second snap shows the cutie playing with toys with a name tag stuck to his back. The doting mother wrote wished “our little hero Augie” a very happy birthday in the caption, adding “You are such a special soul that brightens every room with your smile and wave.”
IN THE ROYAL DIARY
You’ll soon be able to get the Duchess of Cambridge to help send the kids to sleep. Bedtime is getting the royal treatment, with Kate set to narrate a story for a children’s television program on Sunday. The special royal guest will feature on BBC children’s TV channel CBeebies in its “Bedtime Stories” segment as it marks Children’s Mental Health Week across the UK this week. Kate has opted to read Jill Tomlinson’s “The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark,” according to a BBC press release. It tells the tale of a baby barn owl, Plop, who grows in confidence and overcomes his fears with the help of others. Read more.
The Duke of Sussex described himself as “a typical guy” who “just wants to help fix things” as he urged the public to get tested for HIV and know their status in the same way we’ve learned to do for coronavirus to keep others safe. Harry spoke with British rugby player Gareth Thomas about eradicating misunderstanding and the stigma around HIV in a video chat released to mark National HIV Testing Week. You can watch the full conversation here.