Prince William became the heir to the British throne after the death of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. Once his father became King Charles III, he bestowed the titles of Prince and Princess of Wales to William and his wife, Kate Middleton, making them the two most-senior royals behind the king and the queen consort, Camilla Parker Bowles.
As the longest-serving heir in British royal history, Charles’ ascension to the throne has been expected for decades. And at 73, Charles will be the monarch for just a fraction of time compared to his mother. As one royal expert notes, this is a “very transitional monarchy,” and William and Kate are now much more important than the current sovereign.
The new Prince of Wales has been famous since the day he was born
The royal family has always been a major focus of the British media even in the early days of newspapers, radio, and TV. But their coverage exploded in the 1980s after then-Prince Charles married Diana Spencer.
When they introduced their firstborn child on the step of the Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital, William immediately became a public figure. Ever since he’s lived most of his life in the public eye.
Now 40, William has managed to avoid major controversy and the scandals that have plagued many of his relatives. This has made him an incredibly popular figure in the UK and across the Commonwealth. That popularity has only gotten greater since he married Kate and they welcomed their three children — Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis.
Why the Prince William and Kate Middleton are more important than King Charles III
According to Arianne Chernock — a professor of history at Boston University and an expert on the modern British monarchy — “this is a very transitional monarchy” now that Charles is king. She says that many royal watchers and historians see William and Kate as the real future of the monarchy because that’s the image the family has constructed.
“I think we’re going to have to wait honestly until William and Kate, until we see more significant updating. But always, of course, also attuned to and mindful of tradition,” Chernock told The New York Times.
Laura Clancy — author of the book Running the Family Firm: How the Monarchy Manages Its Image and Our Money — agrees that the palace has made a clear effort to make William and Kate relatable to the public, and focus on their family life. This is a much different approach than in royal generations past.
Do royal fans really know what Prince William and Kate Middleton’s personalities are like?
Dr. Clancy noted, “I think you get an image that is more intimate probably than what Charles offers. That kind of staging of that very nuclear family, you can still see that with Kate and the children and him as this hands-on dad.”
She went on to say that “we don’t really know what their personalities are like.” When you think about it, the public doesn’t “know that much about Kate at all really, or William.” But, Dr. Clancy noted that “you think you do, and that’s important.”
During King Charles‘ first speech, he said it would be impossible to continue giving so much time and energy to the charities and issues he cared about so deeply, but he knew the important work would be in “the trusted hands of others.”
According to Dr. Chernock, that message was “directed squarely at William and Kate.” She says they can use this period before they become king and queen to start doing “some of the work” of “modernizing” the monarchy.