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What kind of Prince of Wales will William be?

Prince William's interest in homelessness is not new, but the way in which the heir to the throne now approaches the issue may also offer hints of what kind of Prince of Wales he may be through the reign of his father, King Charles.

Heir to throne launches program with a focus on localism that aims to prevent homelessness

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Prince William's goal is plain enough, laid out as it was in his first newspaper interview as Prince of Wales.

"I want to end homelessness in Britain," declared the headline in the Sunday Times, over an article that appeared on June 17, just before the heir to the throne turned 41.

"We can do it," William told the paper. "It's not insurmountable, this challenge. If anyone does become homeless [we can say], 'OK, here's the way back, here's the pathway.' We can visualize that and we can show people that there is a way to do it."

William's interest in and exposure to the issue is not new — his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, took him to a homeless shelter to see another side of life when he was just 11.

But the way in which William now approaches an issue that has long been a focus for him may also offer hints of what kind of Prince of Wales he may be through the reign of his father, King Charles.

On Monday, William and the Royal Foundation he leads with his wife, Catherine, Princess of Wales, launched Homewards.

A person uses a lathe as other people watch.

The five-year program will, according to the foundation's website, "support local partners to form locally led coalitions of committed individuals, organizations and businesses who will work together to create and deliver a tailored plan to prevent homelessness in their areas — based on local needs and local expertise."

In support of that launch, William went on a tour, visiting six communities around the U.K. in two days.

"I think you got a sense of him being more active than certainly when he was … Duke of Cambridge," said Craig Prescott, a constitutional expert at Bangor University in Wales.

That approach suggests an heir to the throne who "just seems to be going up a gear," said Prescott.

As Duke of Cambridge, William had an interest in homelessness, along with other concerns such as mental health. But Prescott sees him going about it in a slightly more modern way, along with a recognition of regional differences throughout the country.

That focus also caught the eye of Judith Rowbotham, a social and cultural scholar and visiting research professor at the University of Plymouth in southwestern England.

Two people holding basketballs talk and laugh with one another.

"One of the imaginative things about the Homewards project is the focus on localism," she said in an interview.

"In many ways the King — for all his focus on Wales, Scotland, on the individual parts of the United Kingdom — when he was Prince of Wales and now that he's King, he was a product of an age that saw things happening much more on a grand and national scale."

But now, said Rowbotham, particularly since the pandemic, there is a sense of the need to return to a degree of localism, and the idea that "the issues, priorities, problems and resources of a city like Aberdeen, Glasgow, Sheffield are very different" from what might be needed or the experience in London. And London couldn't do what all of those cities do, she said.

William comes from a "much more localized background than his father ever had," said Rowbotham, noting William's time living in areas outside London, such as Wales and Norfolk — something she thinks has helped him to see the value in realizing that one place can be remarkably different from another.

William's initiative has not been universally welcomed. Republic, a U.K. group that campaigns for an elected head of state to replace the monarchy, says the initiative is a public relations stunt aimed at protecting the royals from criticism and detracts from the real causes of homelessness.

"William is cynically wading into a politically contentious issue — in doing so he is distracting attention from the real problem," Republic CEO Graham Smith said in a news release earlier this week.

A man talks to a cattle handlers standing in a row.

But the degree to which William might be entering the political arena is open to debate.

"Just because the Prince of Wales is doing it doesn't necessarily make it 'capital P' political," said Prescott.

He sees the upper echelons of the Royal Family now working in a different pattern than was the order of the day in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when she and Prince Philip were at the core, with Charles, as Prince of Wales, further to the side.

Now, nearly 10 months into the new reign, Prescott sees King Charles and Queen Camilla, along with William and Catherine, as the inner core of working members of the family.

But Charles also appears to be giving William space to pursue his priorities. Prescott noted that as William was out and about this week, launching the homelessness initiative, the King and Queen were keeping a relatively low profile.

"To some extent it was like it used to be," but there is also the sense of "just allowing Prince William to have this particular moment," Prescott said.

"I think it shows you in very broad terms that they're working together very closely."

 A man touches a crown on another man's head.

Prescott thinks William is under "quite a lot of scrutiny already," particularly given the fact that in royal terms, his time as King isn't that far away.

"Charles had more freedom to manoeuvre for considerably longer," said Prescott.

"It's really only in the last 10 years that he was, you know, really viewed as this sort of the shadow King."

While Charles's popularity has increased from its lowest point, William is generally more popular than his father, Prescott noted.

"The emergence of [William as] that shadow King might happen sooner rather than later, so there's some interesting dynamics that are floating around, which are new and different to what we had in the previous reign."

As their Spotify deal ends, what's next for Harry and Meghan?

Two people look off slightly to the right.

When Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, stepped back from the upper echelons of the Royal Family and ultimately settled in California, they were primed for finding a path to financial independence.

Multimillion-dollar deals were signed with the likes of Netflix and Spotify, in anticipation of creating entertainment and content that would be a magnet for audiences and reap massive returns.

At the time, however, there were also questions: Just what would that content be? And there were words of caution from those who had toiled in the trenches of entertainment and building brands: it could be a long road ahead.

"Producing content takes a lot of hard work, diligence and a great team," British PR expert Mark Borkowski said in an interview.

For Harry and Meghan, however, their road has turned decidedly bumpy as of late, with a barrage of negative headlines in the U.S. media. Word also emerged of a mutual agreement between the couple and Spotify to end their deal to produce podcasts.

"Spotify's choice to sever ties with Meghan and Harry may result in a significant financial setback for the couple," Borkowski wrote in an online blog. "This decision also casts doubts on their dwindling aspirations of attaining the status they crave."

Much of what has come content-wise from Harry and Meghan so far has been focused on their connection with the Royal Family, and their grievances.

WATCH | Final installments of Prince Harry and Meghan Netflix docuseries explore family turmoil:

Final Harry & Meghan docuseries episodes focus on Royal Family turmoil

7 months ago

Duration 2:04

The final three installments of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Netflix docuseries explores family turmoil that followed the couple's break from the Royal Family, including the strain it put on Harry’s relationship with his brother, Prince William.

Harry and Meghan have also established their Archewell Foundation, which focuses on issues like mental health, racial justice and efforts to combat disinformation and misinformation.

But those interests and their involvement in them aren't what's grabbing the public spotlight these days.

Interest in the couple in the U.K. appears to be diminishing, Prescott said.

"They need to work out what it is they're meant to be about, because if you think about people in the public eye generally … they are usually known for something that they're good at," he said.

"When you say what is Prince Harry known for, what is Meghan really known for, it's like, well, being members of the Royal Family … not a lot else.

"Even though they left in 2020, three years later we're still in the 'and then what' question."

A person holds copies of a book in their hands.

At this point, Borkowski wrote, Harry and Meghan are faced with an identity crisis, and the only way out is surrounding themselves with a robust PR team and prominent individuals who can help rebuild their image.

"If they don't get things right, then … this slow unwinding of everything they've done to date … I think it'll be a feeding frenzy for the critics and the people who've never believed in their brand," Borkowski said.

All eyes on Louis

A child gives a salute while standing in front of other people.

Cheeky. Cute. Hilarious. Silly.

The descriptions go on and on for the facial expressions Prince Louis offers up when the young royal is on hand for high-profile family occasions.

And no matter the moment — his great-grandmother's Platinum Jubilee last year, his grandfather's coronation or Trooping the Colour to mark King Charles's official birthday — the media verdict is the same: the youngest child of Prince William and Catherine "steals the show."

That might be rather hyperbolic, but there's no doubt Louis, 5, is drawing attention (even appearing on a flag at the Glastonbury music festival in western England last weekend).

Still, it's hardly the first time a younger royal has caught the eye of the camera.

"Margaret was very much the cheeky princess," Rowbotham said of Queen Elizabeth's younger sister.

Charles's younger brother Prince Andrew was "the equivalent in his day," she said.

"And Harry was, of course, growing up with William. You saw Harry pulling faces … in the way that you see Prince Louis doing the same now.

A child held by an adult sticks out his tongue as another children look on and other people stand around them.

"It's something that … makes for good and amusing photographs on those occasions."

Rowbotham said we see Louis's elder brother, George, and elder sister, Charlotte, largely behaving themselves.

"Louis is fairly untrammelled and … he very clearly does have a character."

The interesting thing, Rowbotham said, is the way in which their mother, a decent photographer, has gone some way to undermine the ability of the paparazzi to take and sell photos of the royal children.

Photos Catherine has taken have routinely been released on the children's birthdays.

A child holds their hands over their ears as they stand beside an adult.

"You actually get better shots from the things that their mother produces," said Rowbotham, noting those photos come out for free, "whereas you'd have to pay an arm and a leg," for paparazzi shots.

"So unless … any of the children are caught off guard in a particularly newsworthy, sensationalist way, it's a very clever strategy by the Princess of Wales to cut the level of press intrusion into the children's lives growing up," said Rowbotham.

"They're visible to an extent, filtered through that lens."

Talking to the King

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had one of his periodic conversations with King Charles this week.

"The prime minister and His Majesty King Charles III discussed relevant Canadian and global developments, climate change and the ongoing wildfire situation in Canada," a spokesperson for the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement via email.

That chat on Tuesday came the day before another prominent Canadian was at Buckingham Palace in London.

Astronaut Chris Hadfield was on hand for the launch of a program to develop sustainability in space.

"A fine day assisting King Charles to launch a new, excellent project on globally sustainable spaceflight, the Astra Carta," Hadfield said in a tweet.

Royally quotable

"This is such an inspirational place."

— Catherine, Princess of Wales, as she officially opened a family-friendly residential centre designed to provide a safe environment for women and their children as they go through the courts.

One person smiles and reaches out to touch another person on the shoulder as they sit on a sofa talking.

Royal reads

  1. The royal household's official spending rose by five per cent last year, to 107.5 million pounds, while its funding from taxpayers remained at 86.3 million pounds, annual accounts have revealed. The annual Sovereign Grant report also indicated thermostats in palaces have been turned down in a bid to help reduce energy use and emissions. [BBC]

  2. Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, has urged people to make sure they have checks for cancer after disclosing she has undergone surgery herself for the disease. [CBC]

  3. A statue of Queen Elizabeth toppled in Winnipeg on Canada Day two years ago was defaced with spray paint a day after it was put back up, sparking conversation on what to do with the monument next. [CBC]

  4. After nearly eight hours of cross-examination in his phone-hacking case against a British tabloid newspaper group, Prince Harry described the experience: "It's a lot." The case ended on Friday, with the prince asking the court to award him 320,000 pounds in damages — potentially one of the biggest ever phone-hacking settlements. [CBC, The Guardian] [CBC]

  5. Charles received official birthday wishes during his first Trooping the Colour ceremony as monarch, riding Noble, a horse given to him by the RCMP. [ITV]

  6. Princess Eugenie has given birth to her second son and named him Ernest. [ITV]

  7. A 400-year-old prayerbook owned by a Catholic priest who helped save the life of Charles II, son of the executed King Charles I, has gone on public display at the house where he sought refuge after being defeated by Oliver Cromwell's forces. [The Guardian]

Three people wearing military uniforms ride horses in a parade with people watching from behind barricades.

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