February 21, 2024

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Prince William “expects to be given more influence and control” over the monarchy as his father King Charles ages, friends of the prince have told The Daily Beast. But other sources say such expectations are likely to lead to conflict between father and son, as Charles is “allergic to anyone telling him what to do, and William is not exactly famed for his subtlety.”

In an intriguing insight into the dynamics of the sometimes strained relationship between William and his father, however, a source also told The Daily Beast that, ultimately, William would “respect” his father’s superior “rank”—unlike his brother Prince Harry who “would not do as (he) was told.”

Concerns over how the two men’s vastly differing styles might clash have long vexed palace insiders.

The two courts are very much separate entities with little regular day-to-day interaction other than exchanging diary dates. While Charles runs a traditional, buttoned-up operation, William and Kate Middleton encourage the use of first names, and strive for a more informal but still professional feel. As one former Palace employee who went between both courts in their role told The Daily Beast: “William and Kate would do things like give you two weeks off if your father died, while Charles’ office has a more workaholic vibe.” A courtier in Charles’ office once joked to The Daily Beast they didn’t have time to use the bathroom.

Over the course of this year, since Charles’ coronation, William and his father have done their best to present a united front.

But cracks and differences of opinion have nonetheless come to light: As recently as November, for example, it looked like William was flexing on his father when he told a reporter that when it comes to charitable causes he wants to “go a step further” than his family previously has and avoid spreading himself too “thin” and finding himself with “loads of causes that you sort of turn up and keep an eye on.”

As an example, William cited his involvement in the “homelessness sector,” saying: “Rather than just being patron, I want to do more, I want to actually build the homes, I want to provide them with the mental support, all the employment and the education they might need.”

It was a pretty sharp rebuke of his father’s way of doing things. The comments fed a perception of steadily increasing tension between the courts of the new king and the heir apparent.

The rumors of stresses and strains between William and the king were given significant airtime in the new Omid Scobie book Endgame which, citing Kensington Palace sources, said that after the Harry and Prince Andrew debacles tainted the royal brand, William wants to “ensure his own image is no longer impacted by ‘poor decisions’ made by [his father].”

Scobie said that William sees his father’s reign as “transitional” and quoted a source as saying: “There was rarely a moment where [Charles] stepped on his mother’s toes … but it’s different with William. He’s eager to establish himself as his own man … He’s not giving his father the same space Charles did with the late Queen Elizabeth. There’s no time for that.”

Critics of Scobie would point out, of course, that Charles certainly did tread on his mother’s toes, most critically, perhaps, by organizing a palace coup in 2017 which saw the queen’s longstanding private secretary Christopher Geidt fired. Charles’ influence at the top table was vastly increased by the appointment of pro-Charles figure Edward Young in his place. After Charles ascended the throne, he showed his gratitude and made Young, memorably nicknamed “the bee” in Harry’s memoir Spare, Permanent Lord in Waiting.

Scobie says that the rival courts are now “hives of competing agendas and different ideas about how to modernize…behind closed doors, the King and the Prince of Wales are embracing very different approaches.”

This is true, but friends of the king reject the suggestion that William is breaking precedent or behaving badly by having a strong, independent court. One said: “Charles absolutely wants William to plough his own furrow, he is encouraged to do so, just as he was.”

However a former Buckingham Palace staffer told The Daily Beast: “I am sure they will butt heads as Charles is allergic to anyone telling him what to do, and William is not exactly famed for his subtlety. But I think it is broadly seen as a productive rivalry, rather than a destructive one, because William respects his father’s ‘rank’ as head of The Firm. Ultimately the monarchy is a hierarchical structure based on military principles, and when push comes to shove, you have to obey orders from your superiors. That’s what William and Kate understand, and Harry and Meghan could never accept. They would not do as they were told.”

“William and Catherine have three children under the age of 11, so that is very much their focus right now. William neither expects nor wants Charles to ever abdicate.”

— Friend of Prince William

Given that Charles turned 75 recently, it is perhaps not entirely surprising that there have been regular suggestions by outsiders that he will or should stand down when he reaches his 80th birthday.

But a friend of William’s said: “William and Catherine have three children under the age of 11, so that is very much their focus right now. William neither expects nor wants Charles to ever abdicate.”

The trouble is, the public may not feel the same way. After Princess Diana told Martin Bashir that William should take the throne instead of her husband, a huge chunk of the public held fast to that vain hope, despite endless explicit statements from the palace that Charles would be the next king.

The signs are, however, that Charles actually ascending to the top job has bestowed some popularity magic on him: One year into his reign, 60% of Britons had a favorable view of King Charles, according to a YouGov poll, a very sharp increase from the 35% who had a favorable view of him before the queen’s death.

This, of course, is what Charles’ supporters always said would happen; that when he became king, the public would accept him and support him.

Unfortunately for Charles, William and Kate consistently get stellar poll ratings in the mid-70s—and Charles is of course well known for his jealous streak.

This is another reputational legacy of the Bashir interview, where Princess Diana discussed Charles getting angry over the attention she was shown on a foreign tour. More recently in Harry’s memoir Spare, Harry wrote: “Pa and Camilla didn’t like Willy and Kate drawing attention away from them or their causes. They’d openly scolded Willy about it many times.”

Harry recalled a visit by Kate to a tennis club on the same day as Charles had an engagement, saying: “Pa’s press officer berated Willy’s team,” and ordered that Kate not be photographed holding a tennis racquet. Harry wrote: “Such a winning, fetching photo would undoubtedly wipe Pa and Camilla off the front pages. And that, in the end, couldn’t be tolerated.”

The inclusion of a scene in which a teenage William berates his father for being jealous of him in The Crown may be fictional, but it shows just how pervasive the narrative of ‘Charles The Jealous’ is.

Indeed, one royal friend recently told The Daily Beast that William needs “to be careful not to wake the green-eyed monster,” referring to the king’s well-documented jealous streak.

“The question now is: how bad or good this relationship could get over the next two decades?”

Of course, the William-Charles relationship is complicated by being the archetypal father-son conflict narrative: Charles will literally be replaced by his son when he succumbs to death.

The question now is: how bad or good this relationship could get over the next two decades? There is a clue, here, in the handling of the royal racism controversy which saw Charles and Kate named by Omid Scobie.

Whether or not one agrees with the royal policy of saying nothing and letting it all blow over, there is little dispute that the royals have certainly been on the same page with the strategy. Whatever private disagreements they may have had, these have not surfaced: the message has been unity, amply demonstrated by a photo call of all four at the Diplomatic Reception in London where they did everything but link arms.

The king’s and Prince William’s offices did not comment to The Daily Beast about reports of tension between the two courts, but another friend of William and Kate said: “Of course William expects to be given more influence and control as the years go by. That’s how it works. It’s total rubbish to suggest that means they are at each other’s throats.”

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