Prince William wants to tear up the royal rule book – and his future depends on it


Judith Woods

Sun, 21 August 2022 at 9:00 pm

The Windsors pose for a photograph at the Commonwealth Games earlier this month - Chris Jackson/AFP
The Windsors pose for a photograph at the Commonwealth Games earlier this month – Chris Jackson/AFP

It was something of a relief 10 minutes into The Real Windsors: A Very Modern Prince? (Channel 4) when historian Dominic Sandbrook confirmed that yes, we’re right, Prince William is boring. Not only that – but it’s entirely right and proper for any future king to be solid, stolid and stable. But, as this thought-provoking programme pointed out, the times are a-changing and after hundreds of years of unassailable immutability, the monarchy has no choice but to move with them. But how far – and how fast? “This is always the palace approach; what shall we do next? Oh what did we do last time? How shall we handle this tour? Oh, what did the Queen do?” says The Telegraph’s royal expert and contributor Camilla Tominey.

It’s the sort of inflexibility that can make for catastrophic optics, pace the toe-curling footage of the Cambridges on their Jubilee visit to the Caribbean when they cos-played colonialism. Social media went berserk. I had no idea until this programme that it was the Jamaican military who insisted the parade be a mirror-image “tribute” to the Queen’s trip in her coronation year. Nobody in the prince’s household flagged up the risks of harking back to a very different era. Later, William and Kate obligingly shook hands with smiling children through a wire fence that looked disturbingly like a cage.

As this fascinating documentary emphasised, the future success indeed the very existence of the The Firm rests on the functionaries behind the scenes advising, orchestrating and, when required, fiercely protecting the brand that is the House of Windsor. It is at times of transition that the need is greatest; once they came of age William and Harry had become tabloid fodder as they partied in public.

In 2005, ex-Irish Guard Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton was appointed their private secretary-cum-mentor. Here he talked for the first time about his role, as did their later mentor, former ambassador to Washington, Sir David Manning. The Duke of Cambridge has intimated that he wants to tear up the royal rulebook – but first he and his team must set about compiling a new one. I for one will watch with interest.

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