A month after the Heads Together push leading up to the London Marathon, the Duke of Cambridge has debuted on the cover of British GQ with an accompanying interview in which he discusses why mental health issues are important to him. A black and white photo of him with his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, and their two children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte, is also included. Most critically, the real star of the family has his moment in the spotlight: Lupo, the cocker spaniel.
Similar to some remarks he has made over the past few months, he described why reducing stigma around mental health issues are important to him:
“I’ve been really shocked how many people live in fear and in silence because of their mental illness. I just don’t understand it. I know I come across as quite reserved and shy, I don’t always have my emotions brewing, but behind closed doors I think about the issues, I get very passionate about things. I rely on people around me for opinions, and I am a great believer in communication on these issues.
“I cannot understand how families, even behind closed doors, still find it so hard to talk about it. I am shocked we are so worried about saying anything about the true feelings we have. Because mental illness is inside our heads, invisible, it means others tread so carefully, and people don’t know what to say, whereas if you have a broken leg in plaster, everyone knows what to say.”
Like Prince Harry, he also touched upon the impact of his mother’s death 20 years ago this summer:
“I am in a better place about it than I have been for a long time, where I can talk about her more openly, talk about her more honestly, and I can remember her better, and publicly talk about her better.
“It has taken me almost 20 years to get to that stage. I still find it difficult now because at the time it was so raw. And also it is not like most people’s grief, because everyone else knows about it, everyone knows the story, everyone knows her.
“It is a different situation for most people who lose someone they love, it can be hidden away or they can choose if they want to share their story.”
And he spoke briefly about the importance of his own current family with Kate and his children:
“I would like to have had her [Diana’s] advice. I would love her to have met Catherine and to have seen the children grow up. It makes me sad that she won’t, that they will never know her.
“I could not do my job without the stability of the family. Stability at home is so important to me. I want to bring up my children in a happy, stable, secure world and that is so important to both of us as parents.
“I want George to grow up in a real, living environment, I don’t want him growing up behind palace walls, he has to be out there. The media make it harder but I will fight for them to have a normal life.”
As I’ve said before, a candid William is the best William and I strongly believe he is at his most effective when he’s speaking directly to people, either via a speech or interviews such as this. This is being compared to the podcast interview that Harry gave to The Telegraph last month, but I’m not sure that’s quite fair to either party. Harry spoke at length about his own mental health issues, whereas William hasn’t quite gone that deep. And that’s not a criticism at all, but there is a marked difference between saying that a tragic event has illustrated the importance of mental health support and openly describing your own experience.
And that’s fine – these are two different men with two different experiences and, quite frankly, two different roles to play. But let’s leave it separate, then.
As for the last remark, about the importance of a stable home life and raising George in a “normal” environment – yes, I think it’s been clear for a while these are William’s priorities, as well as his Achilles heel. It’s understandable, if not commendable, that what he took away from his parents’ marriage and his own childhood was the importance of taking marriage and fatherhood seriously. That’s not a condemnation of his parents, but rather a perfectly natural response to a family life that was chaotic, to say the least.
But the media thing kills me a little bit. Yes, the media is absolutely a factor in why it may be a struggle for George to march up and down the street with his nanny or his parents, but the reason as to why there is media interest is the real rub here. He’s the future king and that may seem painfully obvious, but let’s be quite clear on why George’s “normalcy” will be a struggle. The Cambridges are not Kardashians; they are members of the Royal Family. The interest stems from their public roles and the media glare is a necessary evil so long as that life is encompassed in privilege and duty (and it is). It didn’t sprout out of a vacuum, so let’s not lunge for the low hanging fruit at every turn and blame the media for everything.
All that said, I thought the interview was well done and I’m incredibly happy to see the younger Royals having these conversations, be it on mental health or simply making themselves accessible and relatable to the public. We’ll have really turned a corner when we see Kate do one of these solo…