Prince William celebrates his 40th birthday on Tuesday, a milestone for the one who has become an essential face of the British royal family, eager to reconcile modernity and tradition, in the expectation of becoming king one day in turn.
Second in the order of succession to the throne, the Duke of Cambridge joins the circle of forties a few months after his wife Catherine in January, with whom he forms a close-knit and popular couple embodying the future of the monarchy.
“This is a very important step for him because with his father, Prince Charles, he is increasing his support for the Queen and he is continuing to build an identity for himself as a future king,” royal commentator Richard Fitzwilliams told AFP. AFP.
Over the years, William has won the hearts of Britons, many of whom even want him to succeed his grandmother, Elizabeth II, directly in place of the less-appreciated Charles.
According to the YouGov institute, it is the most popular of the “royals” behind the queen, with 66% of favorable opinions.
– Transition –
Since the 96-year-old sovereign eased off due to fragile health, William has multiplied his commitments.
When she misses the Speech from the Throne for the opening of Parliament in May, he accompanies Crown Prince Charles who replaces her.
William also weighs in on important decisions, according to the British press, for example by opposing the participation of Prince Andrew, his uncle splashed by a sex scandal, in the traditional ceremony of the Order of the Garter in June.
He and Kate “are the future of the monarchy”, underlines Richard Fitzwilliams, “as shown by their appearance on the balcony (of Buckingham Palace)” with the queen for her 70 years of reign.
Fully invested in his role since stepping down as a helicopter-paramedic pilot in 2017, William is reportedly planning to leave London’s Kensington Palace to move into a four-bedroom cottage with his family. on the grounds of Windsor Castle where Elizabeth II now resides.
It is a significant transition, which allows her to get closer to the queen and will strengthen the small hard core of the royal family around her.
– “Contemporary” monarchy –
If he bends unceremoniously to his obligations, William also works to provide a relatively normal life for his three children aged 4 to 8, he who experienced a childhood marked by the divorce of his parents and then by the death of his mother Diana in a car accident in 1997, when he was 15 years old.
He appears as a modern man, helping, for example, the two oldest to do their homework during confinement.
This tall blonde with a partially bald head also wants to be down to earth, like Diana.
In June, he was seen in London selling The Big Issue, Britain’s homeless magazine, a cause close to his heart, such as the environment or mental health.
He was “formatted” by a “traditional” queen, during Sunday lunches with her in Windsor, when he was studying at the elitist college of Eton, notes Marc Roche, author of several books on the monarchy.
But “in William’s strengths, there is, given his generation, perhaps the influence of his mother, a great sensitivity to diversity and ecology”.
Discreet about his moods, the prince had come to the defense of the royal family after a shock interview with his brother Harry and his wife Meghan on American television, assuring that she was not “racist” as she had. been charged.
However, he recognizes the need to modernize this millennial institution to enable it to continue after Elizabeth II, while the idea of a republic is gaining ground among young people.
An awareness all the more significant, after a tour in March with Kate in the Caribbean, where the monarchy had been criticized for its colonialist hints.
“One of the things William cares about is the image of the monarchy and how it can move forward”, he wants to make it a “relevant” and “contemporary” institution, according to Richard Fitzwilliams.