In a candid new interview Prince William has described his touchingly close relationship with the Queen, how she helped him negotiate his wedding-day nerves and how she can be royally amused by Prince Philip and parade-ground mistakes.
In a wide-ranging conversation with Alan Titchmarsh the Prince describes the sleepless night he had before his wedding and how the Queen, with whom he spoke regularly in the build-up, told him to tear up the official guest list compiled for the big day.
“There was very much a subdued moment when I was handed a list with 777 names on – not one person I knew or Catherine knew,” he tells Titchmarsh. “I went to her and said, “Listen, I’ve got this list, not one person I know – what do I do?’ and she went, ‘Get rid of it. Start from your friends and then we’ll add those we need to in due course. It’s your day.’”
He describes how the crowds camped out on the Mall kept him awake the night before the wedding. “They were singing and cheering all night long, so the excitement of that, the nervousness of me and everyone singing – I slept for about half an hour.”
The interview reveals the deep affection William clearly feels for the Queen – three times he refers to her as an “extremely caring grandmother” – if not her corgis, which, he says, are “barking all the time… I don’t know how she copes with it, but her private life with her dogs and her riding and her walking, it’s very important to her – she has got to switch off. She enjoys it. I would just question the noise!”
William also reveals the close bond that exists between the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh: “He makes her laugh because some of the things he says and does and the way he looks at life is obviously slightly different than her, so together they’re a great couple.”
Also, how occasional royal blunders have them both in stitches. “One of the things I know that over the years they’ve loved is when things go wrong – they absolutely adore it because obviously everything always has to be right, but when things go wrong around them they’re the first people to laugh. The Queen has seen so many parades or performances, when there’s a small slip-up it tickles their humour.”
William says he’s grown closer to the Queen as he’s learned more about her duties as monarch. “We’re definitely a lot closer than we used to be. I think being a small boy it’s very daunting seeing the Queen around and not really quite knowing what to talk about or what to ask her. I think over the years that’s got a lot better. I’ve grown up – hopefully – a little bit and tried to understand a bit more about her role and my own role.”
Of his own future role as king he says she’s a hard act to follow. “There’s not much wriggle room left for me to try and find my own path but I will do. It’s just a matter of learning what’s gone before me. She’s an incredible role model. I would like to take all of her experiences, all of her knowledge and put it in a small box and to be able to constantly refer to it.”
Titchmarsh, who also spoke to other members of the royal family for the documentary, told RT that William will have to wait to be crowned king. “The idea that the succession might miss out Prince Charles altogether, and go straight to William, just because he’s a young man who’s married a glamorous young woman… I mean, come on, this isn’t Hollywood. This is the United Kingdom, not Tinseltown; our history stretches back a bit further.”
He also claims the Prince of Wales suffered unfairly after the death of Diana in 1997. “The strength of public reaction to Diana’s death was surprising, and I think it all swung too far in her favour and away from the Prince of Wales. Since then, though, people have seen how he has raised his sons, and how they have both turned into cracking young men.”
Titchmarsh, who describes his own stance towards the monarchy as “interested supporter, rather than probing journalist”, says it’s time to see the royals as flesh-and-blood, rather than figureheads.
“Of course, the members of the royal family are human and make mistakes, but look at the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince William, the Princess Royal – they have a complete dedication to their job, to enthusing people and making them feel special. Talk to people who have just met the Queen, and they are on cloud nine. In effect, the royal family is in the happiness business.”
Elizabeth: Queen, Wife, Mother is on ITV1, Friday at 9.00pm
This article was first published in the Radio Times (26 May – 1 June)