Kate Middleton, Prince William

Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images

2016 is turning out to be a pretty bad year for the world's most celebrated couple.

Over the past few weeks Prince William and Kate Middleton have found themselves embroiled in their first royal scandal, thanks to a number of revelations about the lavish life they lead. First we learned that William did fewer public appearances last year than his 94-year-old grandfather. And then it emerged he only works half the hours of a regular job (in his role as an air ambulance helicopter pilot). His public appearance today is only one of a handful of official engagements this year.

The release of new pictures showing William and Kate on a skiing holiday in the French Alps hasn't helped. While here at E!, we were busy gushing over 10-month-old Princess Charlotte's baby teeth, and Prince George's cute red nose, the powerful British press instead asked whether William is getting "too big for his snow boots" and if he's been "sloping off" fulfilling his royal duties. There's been a definite change in tone and the criticism is starting to snowball (ahem…). One newspaper was so outraged about the unannounced vacation they cropped William out of the cute family picture released to the public.

Kate Middleton, Prince William

Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images

The new bitterness comes after decades of the press playing nice with William. Since the death of Princess Diana in 1997 (a tragedy blamed largely on the photographers chasing her on that fateful night), the royal family and the media came to an agreement to give her young sons privacy in exchange for pre-arranged photo opportunities. And everything seemed to be going swimmingly until William got engaged to Kate. That love match changed everything and demand for snaps of the betrothed couple sky-rocketed. After the birth of Prince George, and then Princess Charlotte, it came to a head. Last summer Kensington Palace was forced to make a public plea begging for privacy. They claimed the race to get pictures was causing a danger to the young family (even citing a photographer who had hidden in a car trunk to get a shot).

But now it's not the paparazzi that are causing the biggest headache for William and Kate. Instead, it's the commentators who have helped support their royal lifestyle and popularity for centuries.

Kate Middleton, Prince William

Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty Images

To be fair William has never been a huge fan of the press. As a young boy he had to witness his mother being constantly hounded by snappers following her every move. Through his young eyes it would have been a frightening experience to bear witness to (little would he have known the complicated dance which existed between Diana and her media friends and enemies).

And so now it's William and Kate who are on the receiving end. ‘Throne-Idle' and ‘Work-shy' are just some of the public insults being hurled. And the antagonism is building. Questions are being asked about whether William really wants to be Royal, with criticism over his choice to live a ‘Gentleman Country Lifestyle', spent shooting and hunting at Anmer Hall, rather than residing at Kensington Palace (the lesser used London home, which underwent millions of dollars of renovations at the British tax payers expense).

Prince George

The Duchess of Cambridge

It's a bold move to criticize the family. Rebellious media run the risk of being banned from covering official royal engagements. Playing nice can grant you access and maybe even a coveted spot on a royal press tour (William and Kate and a select group of media are about to embark on a grueling trip to India and Bhutan). Becoming a naysayer can mean the gates to Kensington Palace are firmly slammed in your face.

So, before I defend William and Kate, I want to point out, I have nothing to win or lose. E! does not go on Royal tours with them, we are not invited for tea and scones at KP (I have never tasted Kate's home-made jam). Being based in Los Angeles means I am a world away and have to rely on phone calls and sources.

Prince William

Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

When William chose to marry a normal girl (rather than an aristocrat), it was a fairytale and we were hooked. He picked a mate that would inject some normality into his world of ribbon cutting and formal dinners with elaborate place settings. Kate gave him a life that was just a little bit more modern, slightly more relatable, and undeniably more ordinary. We fell in love with the new version of a royal family. The stuffy, out of touch monarchy was forgotten. And we built them up because of it. But now, it seems, that's exactly why he's being attacked.

William might do fewer public appearances than other family members, but he's the first royal in direct line to the throne to have a civilian job (he gives his salary to charity). There's a reason he chose to be an air ambulance helicopter pilot, and to base the family outside of the capital, it was so he could be a present dad to two young kids. He's the child of divorced parents who ended up hating one another. The last thing William wants is for his kids to be victims of a mom and dad living separate lives. Add in the extra responsibility of bringing up two future heirs and that's a lot to handle. It seems to me he sees himself as a dad and husband first, and a royal second. And I can't blame him for that.

He's attempting to do what his father, and his grandmother struggled with …and that's to find a balance between his personal and public life. I'm sure sometimes he will get it wrong. Right now, aside from the work hours and "sparse" public appearances, his biggest crime seems to be that he didn't inform the public he was going away on a private vacation with his family (in the past the royal family have held photo shoots on the first day of vacation). But we live in different times now, days of heightened terror alerts. If I was him, I wouldn't tell anyone either.

Looking back at pictures of William's first day of school, he looks terrified. He's accompanied on the milestone day by a large swarm of photographers. He was just three years old, and you can see fear and bewilderment in his eyes as he stares back at a wall of camera lenses. No wonder, when it came to George's first day at Westacre Montessori School, only Kate was allowed to take photographs. The end result was no different. We, as the public, still got the picture but without what must have been a traumatic experience for a toddler. Only William can know what that must have felt like.

Ultimately, he is like all of us; trying to balance myriad responsibilities. He wants to do a good job and be a present father and husband, sensibilities he can also pass on to George and Charlotte (who will one day carry the same load). He knows better than anyone what it's like to live inside the ultimate fishbowl and his kids are sentenced to the same fate.

The Queen is about to turn 90 and that will inevitably lead to William taking on increased responsibility. Couple that with George and Charlotte growing up, and it's certain he will be more visible. William has a lifetime ahead of royal duties (which will never ever, EVER end…. he's stuck with this for life), so right now if he's choosing to be a present dad, over the golden shackles he has been born into, then I don't blame him.

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share

We and our partners use cookies on this site to improve our service, perform analytics, personalize advertising, measure advertising performance, and remember website preferences. By using the site, you consent to these cookies. For more information on cookies including how to manage your consent visit our Cookie Policy.