His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis of Wales was the first heir presumptive to be born in hospital (St Mary's Hospital in West London) and his father, the Prince of Wales, was at his mother's side throughout. The little prince's christening, on 4th August 1982 in Buckingham Palace's imposing music room, was hardly an everyday event. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runcie, conducted the ceremony and baby Wales wore the traditional christening gown of Honiton lace that had first been worn by Queen Victoria's eldest daughter. His godparents were King Constantine of Greece, Sir Laurens van der Post, Princess Alexandra, the Duchess of Westminster, Lord Romsey and Lady Susan Hussey.
The Prince and Princess of Wales broke with royal tradition by taking their baby son with them on their official tour of Australia and New Zealand in March 1983. Charles and Diana were determined their children wouldn't be consigned to the nursery, as previous Royal children had been. Another royal first came with the Waleses' decision to send their son to Mrs Mynor's Nursery School, which was within walking distance of Kensington Palace (William's home for the first sixteen years of his life). From there William moved to nearby Wetherby pre-preparatory school. In the past, the children of senior royalty had spent their early years being tutored at home, meaning they were often unaccustomed to socialising with other children.
Diana was particularly keen her sons should not miss out on normal childhood treats, such as visits to Disney World, the cinema, go-karting circuits and MacDonalds. She also ensured her sons got an insight into less privileged lives via her charity work, taking both boys to visit AIDS patients and shelters for the homeless.
In 1990 the eight-year-old Prince started at Ludgrove School in Wokingham, where he first showed his flair for sport and outdoor pursuits, becoming captain of the rugby and hockey teams. The following year he undertook his first public engagement, arriving with his parents at Llandaff Cathedral in Wales with a daffodil pinned to his lapel, to celebrate St David's Day.
Towards the end of 1992, while William was still at Ludgrove, his parents took the decision to separate. This followed a series of public disclosures about their disintegrating relationship. The next few years saw further revelations from both of William's parents, which must have been very hard for a sensitive teenage boy. But, despite their rift, both parents were devoted to their sons and continued to make joint decisions in their best interests.
The autumn of 1995 saw one of the more significant departures from royal precedent when William started his senior school education at Eton, rather than Gordonstoun, where Prince Philip, Prince Charles and his brothers had all been educated. William continued to excel at sport, becoming "Keeper", or head, of swimming, taking up water polo and captaining his house football team. In the holidays, he acquired his father's fondness for blood sports and polo.
His years at Eton were interrupted in tragic fashion by the news of his mother's death. Diana Princess of Wales was killed in a car crash in Paris in the early hours of August 31st 1997. The young princes conducted themselves with extraordinary dignity at the funeral, walking behind the horse-drawn gun carriage carrying Diana's coffin, alongside their father, Prince Philip and Diana's brother Earl Spencer.
Prince William left Eton in the summer of 2000 with three good A Levels (A in geography, B for history of art and C in biology) and took a gap year as he pondered his university options. He joined the Welsh Guards on survival exercises in the humid jungle of Belize before visiting Southern Chile, where he volunteered for a Raleigh International project, teaching schoolchildren and working on construction projects. There was a somewhat less arduous trip to Mauritius, where he helped with the Royal Geographical Society's marine conservation project and a three-month safari in Africa, where he learned about conservation.
In September 2001 Prince William enrolled as an undergraduate at the University of St Andrew's in Fife. He elected to read History of Art and to live alongside his fellow students, in St Salvator's Hall. They went on to s hare a house together in their second year. Their intimacy deepened and in March 2004 the couple were photographed together on the ski slopes of Klosters; Clarence House did not deny a royal romance. On the same holiday, however, William had a candid and informal talk with a royal reporter in a bar and said firmly, ""I'm only 22 for God's sake. I am too young to marry at my age. I don't want to get married until I'm at least 28, or maybe 30."
On 23rd June he graduated from St Andrew's with a 2:1 (upper second) in geography in the presence of the Queen and Prince Charles - the best degree ever gained by an heir to the British throne. Post university, William's life was far more rigorously mapped out than his girlfriend's. The Prince undertook his first official overseas tour, to New Zealand, and carried out work experience at a leading City bank during the summer. In September William became patron of a charity for the first time, choosing Centrepoint, the charity for the homeless that his mother had also supported.
A month later the Prince passed his Regular Commissions Board (a rigorous assessment process) to gain entry to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.
Throughout the arduous 44-week course the Prince was known as Officer Cadet Wales and his fellow trainee officers described him warmly as "a normal guy". At t he end of 2006 Prince William passed out of Sandhurst in front of the Queen and an audience that included Prince Charles, Kate Middleton and her parents. William received his commission as a second lieutenant in the Household Cavalry (Blues and Royals) and went on to do four months' training in an armoured reconnaissance unit at Bovington Camp in Dorset.
He went on to train with both the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, winning a commission as a sub-lieutenant in the former and a flying officer in the latter. William's military commitments meant he was less focussed on his girlfriend, leading to strains in the relationship. In April 2007 it was reported that the 24-year-old Prince has split from Kate Middleton. In July 2007 William and his brother Harry staged a concert to mark the tenth anniversary of Princess Diana's death.
William had other pressing concerns at the time, including Harry's and his ambitious plan to stage a concert to mark the tenth anniversary of their mother's death, which ws held on 1 July. Kate Middleton's presence in the Royal Box was noted, even though she kept a decorous distance from William. Within months Kate was back in the royal fold.
In January 2008 William started an intensive four-month pilot training course with the Royal Air Force at Cranwell. Prince Charles presented his son with his RAF wings in April 2008 and on June 17 William received an even more distinguished honour when the Queen installed her grandson as a Royal Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter at Windsor Chapel. Prince William transferred his commission from the army to the RAF in Janary 2009 and was promoted to Flight Lieutenant. He then began training to become a Search and Rescue helicopter pilot, graduating from the flying school at RAF Shawbury in 2010 before moving to RAF Valley on Anglesea, where he was assigned to No. 22 Squadron for further training on Sea Kings, graduating in September as beginning service as a co-pilot.
The Prince moved to a cottage near the base, where he was joined by Kate Middleton. William was the first British heir presumptive to live openly with a girlfriend, just as he is the first to marry a woman who is not of aristocratic lineage - making good his declaration, at the start of his student days, that he was open to people "of all backgrounds".
Charles' and Diana's desire that their firstborn should have some sense of normality, despite his royal heritage, has paid rich dividends. William is a thoroughly modern prince, whose diligence, modesty and ability to communicate warmly with everyone who crosses his path are undisputed.
For up-to-date biographical information on the Duke of Cambridge, please see our Royal Portaits.
Prince William supports, amongst others, Centrepoint, The Tusk Trust, The Football Association, The Welsh Rugby Union (Vice-Patron), The Royal Marsden Hospital, Mountain Rescue (England and Wales), English School's Swimming Association (ESSA)
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