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Over here, on the outside looking in from our monarchy-free republic, we always thought it was really admirable (and, yes, really hot) how Prince William and Prince Harry—heirs to the British throne—trained as helicopter pilots and, in Harry's case, served in a combat zone and, in Will's, turned that skill into a job as a rescue worker.
It would seem that they didn't need to do anything, let alone choose life-risking professions. So... pretty good, right?
But apparently no bone is too small to pick when it comes to the United Kingdom's royals, and all of a sudden William is under proverbial fire for only spending 20 hours a week working as an air ambulance pilot. Couple that with recent criticism that he's become a "reluctant royal" and you've got a full-fledged yet well-mannered hullabaloo.
Maybe we're still suffering the lingering effects of a virulent case of royal-baby fever, but our first thought was... What?!
Isn't he always at the ready, dressed in his serious suit and tie, to honor, commemorate, praise, raise funds for, or otherwise take part in whatever ceremony a royal's presence is required at? Why, just this month he attended the funeral for adventurer Henry Worsley, marked the First Anniversary of the Diplomatic Academy at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and attended the Search and Rescue Force Disbandment Parade at Royal Air Force Valley.
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Hmm, three engagements in February. Maybe that is a light schedule, combined with "only" 20 hours of search-and-rescue duties a week.
But here's why Prince William is actually doing exactly as he should be, and why his critics will just have to get over the fact that the Duke of Cambridge has other things to do besides live up to an old-fashioned ideal.
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Just as his wife, Kate Middleton, has managed to further break the monarchic mold (the shift in the paradigm beginning with William's mum, Princess Diana) when it comes to mothering her children further from the limelight than royal babies past, William has been making his own, subtler moves that frankly fit with the evolution of the family man in general.
First of all, he's not one to shirk his duties. When an engagement arises, he either doesn't commit in the first place or he goes—except for, like, that one time he had to cancel in 2012, ducking out on the British Military Tournament in Earls' Court to be with Kate, who was pregnant with Prince George and suffering from the extreme nausea that ultimately plagued her during both pregnancies.
But that's exactly our point. William is just a different kind of husband and father than past princes, doing more what the times dictate than making sure the Court Circular is jam-packed with his whereabouts.
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Frankly, the 33-year-old is way more of a hands-on dad, he and Kate famously not employing more than one nanny and instead taking on more domestic tasks themselves and utilizing the babysitting services of the duchess' parents when possible.
It's also unlikely that William's lighter-than some royal itinerary hasn't already been approved by a higher power—aka Grandma—because the royal family no longer has the burden of being Britain's sole go-to source for national intrigue. Just as much as anywhere, Britain enjoys a 24/7 celebrity culture and the young royals, rather than jockeying for attention and relevance, seem pretty willing to take the opportunity to slip a little further under the radar than past generations have been able to.
That is combined, however, with the Internet; an increasingly ubiquitous, 24/7 tabloid press; and unconscionably shameless paparazzi who have gone so far as to hide in the trunk of a car in order to snap shots of Prince George at a playground.
"It is hoped that those who pay paparazzi photographers for their images of children will be able to better understand the distressing activity around a two-year old boy that their money is fueling," William's press secretary wrote in an open letter to the media last summer. "We also feel that the readers who enjoy the publications that fuel this market for the unauthorized photos deserve to understand the tactics deployed to obtain these photos."
Wouldn't you be a little wary of cameras, too? That being said, as the letter continued, "They have enjoyed sharing an increasing number of photos of their children and look forward to continuing to take them to more public events as they get older."
They are on Instagram, after all! (And they dutifully included pics of Prince George's first day of nursery school, just as any proud parents would.)
Sure, the whole family still has plenty of obligations—on their time, behavior and overall life and fashion choices—but scrutinizing the royals is more of a lark now than anything else. (When it comes to decorum, that is. We readily excuse ourselves from discussing any overarching controversy about royal finances and government funds.)
And William does work, after all. Whether it's 20 hours a week or 80 (which would take its toll in other ways), he still engages in a most honorable pursuit in what can almost be considered his spare time considering the way some are clamoring for him to make more official appearances.
"Like all our pilots who fly on behalf of EAAA The Duke of Cambridge is a highly experienced and skilled professional," the East Anglian Air Ambulance defended its prominent employee in a statement Tuesday. "Our pilots work in collaboration with the clinical crew by landing as close to the scene as possible and by expediting a fast and efficient onward journey where necessary by airlifting patients to the most appropriate hospital. Each member of our four person crew takes a full and active role in the work of the charity. The Duke of Cambridge is an active, respected and integral team member."
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And that's to defend him against those who accuse him of working too little—an interesting counterpart to those who think he works too much, to the detriment of taking on more "royal patronages." (Moreover, those who pilot aircraft are required to rest during their time off as part of the job description.)
Considering the papers are still packed full of stories about the royals and new pictures of George and Charlotte are a global event, it's not as though William and Kate have gone into hiding.
But perhaps those who would criticize William for being a quieter sort are actually just pining for a different time that, by all indication, is not coming back. The royals need to evolve with the times as much as any people in positions of power (actual or figurehead) should.
And considering there are some who don't see the point and would go so far as to dissolve the monarchy, it would be best for everyone who still appreciates William, Kate and the rest of the fam for the larger-than-life entity that they are to maintain a united front.
Because not having any royals to obsess would be a lot worse than having a prince who prefers to multitask.