Prince William has answered criticism of his commitment to royal duties, saying he is willing to take on more responsibility when the time comes. He was speaking in a BBC interview in which he paid tribute to the Queen on the eve of her 90th birthday.
She had been a “guiding example” of what a good monarch should be, he said. Meanwhile, a picture of the Queen, the Prince of Wales, Prince William and Prince George, for stamps to mark the monarch’s birthday, has been released.
The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, met staff and viewed an exhibition at Windsor’s Royal Mail delivery office in the first of a series of events to mark her birthday on Thursday. Her visit marked the 500th anniversary of the postal service and she was welcomed with singing from the Royal Mail choir.
The royals then headed to Alexandra Gardens in the town for a ceremony to officially open a new bandstand and met pupils from the six schools involved in its decoration. The children also sang Happy Birthday. “The actual Queen?” Those were the words on the lips of many Windsor tourists on learning that the Queen had two engagements in the town today.
Many were excited. Two of the visitors had watched hours of coverage from their home in the US and said it would be “great” to see her in person. And they soon joined the crowds jostling to see Britain’s longest-reigning monarch. Getting a good view became a serious business, especially for parents whose children could not see. “When the Queen gets here I’ll lift you up. Is that a deal?” one mum told her toddler – more than an hour before the scheduled arrival.
But in the end everyone seemed satisfied with a brief glimpse. In the words of one teenage girl as the royal car passed almost within touching distance: “Oh my God I can’t believe it. She’s so close.” In an interview with BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell, Prince William said: “I think the Queen’s duty and her service, her tolerance, her commitment to others – I think that’s all been incredibly important to me and it’s been a real guiding example of just what a good monarch could be.
“And it’s been incredibly insightful for me growing up, watching her leadership in that role. “I think it’s important to grow into a role with the right characteristics and the right qualities, and I think she’s exemplified that in everything she’s done.” ‘Develop into duty’ The prince’s own commitment to royal duty has been questioned in some quarters in recent months – there have been headlines in some newspapers which have referred to him as “work-shy William”.
He said he did not ignore such criticisms but did not take them completely to heart. “I take duty very seriously. I take my responsibilities very seriously. But it’s about finding your own way at the right time and if you’re not careful duty can sort of weigh you down an awful lot at a very early age and I think you’ve got to develop into the duty role,” he said.
He said both his father and grandmother fully supported the fact that he was not yet fully engaged with royal duties, but that when the time came to accept more responsibilities he would be the first person to take them on. The recent headlines about William being a “work shy” prince signalled a change in the relationship between the prince and a press pack who, up until now, have rarely criticised him.
In the BBC’s interview, it was interesting to see his response. He accepts that he will be criticised “but it’s not something I take completely to heart”. An indication that negative headlines are likely to be par for the course in his role as a future heir but won’t necessarily influence his decisions.
It was clear that his priority remains trying to live as normal a life as possible for as long as possible, both for the sake of his wife and children but also himself. There was also a rare insight into what kind of monarch he plans to be. When asked about the different approach to public life taken by his father as opposed to the Queen his response was that the latter was “the best role model I could have in front of me”.
Ten stamps have been released to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, including a stamp sheet featuring four generations of the Royal Family. The picture of the Queen, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince George was taken in Buckingham Palace last year. George, making his first appearance on a Royal Mail stamp, had to stand on four foam blocks bound together with tape so his head was at roughly the same height as the seated royals.
Six further stamps have been released for the head of state’s 90th birthday, three focusing on the Queen’s family life and three honouring her official role. On her actual birthday on Thursday, the Queen and Prince Philip will undertake a walkabout in Windsor and unveil a plaque marking The Queen’s Walkway, a 6.3km self-guided walking trail connecting 63 points of significance.
It was designed to recognise the moment the monarch broke the record on 9 September 2015 held by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria by being on the throne for 63 years and seven months. In the evening, the Queen with Prince Philip, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall, will light the principal beacon setting in train a series of more than 900 beacons across the UK and around the world to mark the milestone birthday.
On Friday, US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will join the Queen for lunch at Windsor Castle. Britain’s longest-serving monarch celebrates two birthdays each year, her actual birthday on 21 April and her official birthday on a Saturday in June.
Republic said the Queen’s birthday “does not warrant this kind of coverage” and that the BBC had a “duty to report, not to celebrate the royals”.
Graham Smith, the republican pressure group’s CEO, added that the BBC had “failed completely” to report the birthday in a way that was “fair, balanced and proportionate”.