So Where Does William Go From Here?

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Almost two weeks out from #skigate (a thing only I am calling it), let’s catch up. First, if you live under a rock missed the original incident, you can catch up here and here. We are re-hashing this whole thing only because, as expected, there’s been a second wave to the news cycle. First came the scandal, then the criticism and then, finally, the defenses. Yes, the Duke of Cambridge did receive some backing up from the press – less rationalizations of his behavior itself, and more “perspective” pieces, if you will.

But the thing is, most people weren’t upset that he went skiing, or that he drank, or that he did either without his wife. This was an issue of timing and the judgment that led him to believe that timing was acceptable or “worth it.” It shouldn’t have been. It was, at best, a dumb move and, at worst, a careless one.

It’s the latter that’s the more troubling scenario because less ideal than being labelled “work shy” – a thing that time will likely fix – is being labelled out of touch or reluctant. The public doesn’t want a 35-year-old reluctant royal, not when the Queen is getting older and the Prince of Wales still has some reputational issues despite a huge image makeover in the last two decades.

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And then I came across the latest Daily Beast column from Tom Sykes (yes, I read this regularly, of course), which carries the headline “Why The Public Loves Prince Harry, Not William.” It struck me because it’s a sentiment that’s slowly been dawning on me for – well, I’m honestly not sure how long. But it’s a complete 180 from where both men were a decade ago, and maybe even five years ago when William still had the newlywed glow of having brought the lovely Kate Middleton into the royal fold.

I find it difficult to speak in terms of “fan” or “like” when it comes to members of the Royal Family because it seems so beside the point – and the former isn’t really in my nature. But I do have opinions on who I think is more effective and natural in their job, a great deal of which, for better or for worse, is tied to an ease with the press. In the past few years, Harry has truly and remarkably blossomed in his position and come into his own. It’s been incredibly impressive, from his candor to his earnestness to the way he seems to carry his responsibility and his position without a great deal of neurosis. Has he made missteps? Sure, maybe – the jaunt he took from an overseas tour to Canada instead of London to see Meghan Markle rankled some.

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William, on the other hand, has gone from being the Windsor golden boy to a man that appears uneasy and hesitant about the whole ordeal of being royal. Some of that perception is unfair – he has been, and will be, until the fall, a part-time royal. And as I’ve said before, I think that’s fine. I likewise think it’s perfectly acceptable, if not admirable, that William and Kate have prioritized taking time when their children are young and not yet in school to be as hands-on as possible. Someday those kids are going to be older and their parents are going to have a hell of a lot more responsibility. So, good for them. It’s a luxury and a privilege, but so long as they’re cognizant of that (and Kate did well to make a nod to that fact in her speech this past week) then by all means.

The problem is, in the meantime, one of the Windsor men has stepped up to the plate, but it isn’t the one who’s the future king. It’s the one with less expected of him and who, frankly, isn’t, and never will be, held to the same standard. It’s not a fair comparison, particularly combined with the fact that Harry isn’t having to guard the privacy of his children, but rather a girlfriend who already has some experience navigating the media.

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Harry and Meghan are an interesting duo and, personally, I think she would make a great addition to the House of Windsor – one who came out of the clear blue sky, perhaps, and on paper seems like a huge “no” (the Roman Catholicism, the divorce, the acting, she’s AMERICAN), but in reality has the makings of a thoroughly modern princess. Together, I have a feeling that they’re also, unwittingly, going to make things a bit harder for William and Kate because 1) they’re new and shiny and 2) they don’t seem to struggle as much in the public eye. Whether they actually disclose more or not (they don’t, really), they seem more accessible and that’s all that matters.

So, what to do? Well, September is going to be a hell of a month for the Cambridges. Once they return to London full time it’s going to be game on and I suspect there’s not going to be much of a grace period. From the press’s persepctive, and from some corners of the public, they’ve already been given that, from University to the army days to the piloting job and children and still, today, they reside mostly in Norfolk and only pop out a handful of times per month. Following that line of thought, it’s time to pay the piper.

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I think they will. Kate, who is more closely scrutinized than William, has upped her game this year. She’s given multiple speeches, taken on more engagements, charmed the French and is due to do the same with the Germans and the Polish this summer. And William, too, has carried out a number of successful engagements (not to mention he was in Paris, too…just, you know, not dressed as interestingly). If they keep it up, and don’t fumble the fall significantly between now and the end of the year, they’re in good shape to begin shaking off the last 18 months of increasingly wary press coverage.

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