Turning 40 is a milestone moment for anyone, but for Prince William, it is particularly important. As he enters a new decade, William knows that he will likely become the next Prince of Wales in his 40s. His wife, Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, will become the first Princess of Wales since his late mother, Diana. With an aging monarch—his grandmother the Queen is 96, and an heir apparent in his 70s (his father Prince Charles turns 74 in November) William is not only inching closer to the throne, the future of the monarchy rests heavily on his shoulders.
The prominence of the Cambridges at the recent Platinum Jubilee celebrations was both telling and deliberate. While Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall—who were central to the celebrations, supporting and standing in for Her Majesty—will be the next King and Queen of the United Kingdom, the long-term future of the House of Windsor lies with William and the Cambridge dynasty.
It is a prospect that once weighed heavily on Prince William. When he was a gap year student, he traveled to Chile where, according to someone he was with, he was painfully aware of the burden of his birthright. “We were all sitting round a campfire excitedly discussing our futures,” the friend I spoke with explained. “William said ‘you’re all so lucky. I’ll have to be king one day.’ It seemed like a lot for him to bear.”
Now, that moment is not so far in the future and while there is no chance that William will “leapfrog” his father the Prince of Wales, who will succeed Queen Elizabeth, William is preparing for his future reign by laying down the foundations now. His promise to tackle the issue of homelessness, a cause inspired by his mother’s work and very much at the heart of this milestone birthday, is a good indicator of the type of king he will one day be. He wants to smash stigmas and make a difference where he can.
As one person who met William while he was recently selling Big Issue magazine remarked, he is “the people’s prince.” Those who know him believe he will be a modern-day monarch, who wants the Royal Family to be relevant and meaningful to everyday people in a fast-changing world.
In the past, William has admitted to not giving the idea of being king much thought. But recent events, including his brother Prince Harry’s decision to stand down as a working royal, the turmoil caused by the COVID pandemic and the Queen’s ill spate of health have had a direct impact on William. He has had to step up to the plate. And in doing so, he has proved to be a solid and dependable statesman.