The Tragic Truth About Prince William

Correction 10/5/22: An earlier version of this article misstated the year King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort, announced their plans to marry. This occurred in 2005, not 1995.

Prince William's life literally seems like it is taken from the pages of a storybook. Not only is he a handsome prince who is beloved all over the world, but he also has a beautiful wife in Kate Middleton and a beautiful family. Royal life isn't always easy, though, especially when you are second in line to the throne.

The future king of England has led a charmed life, but also a tragic one. Unable to live a normal life, Prince William's future was planned for him before he was even born. The pressure of growing up knowing he would one day be expected to take the throne would have already made his life complicated enough, but Prince William has also had to deal with other heartbreaks and disappointments, such as his parents' tumultuous marriage and subsequent divorce, and the death of his beloved mother, Princess Diana. Here's a closer look at just how tragic Prince William's life has truly been.

Prince William was separated from his family at boarding school

Like most young royals, Prince William was sent off to boarding school at a young age. The experience was reportedly a difficult one for him at the beginning. As noted in the book Prince William: A Biography, the future king was sent to Ludgrove School when he was just 8 years old. While his mother, Princess Diana, was reluctant to send him away, his father, Prince Charles, wanted to continue the family tradition of sending children to boarding school.

Prince William was reportedly quite lonely after first going away to school and missed his family — Princess Diana is said to have been in tears when she dropped him off at school. While he was said to be homesick as he adjusted to his new life at school, Prince William eventually grew accustomed to being away from home, although it'd seem he still missed his family as evidenced by the fact that his mother regularly wrote to him, reportedly addressing her letters to "My Darling Wombat."

Prince William fractured his skull as a child

Not long after Prince William went off to boarding school, he sustained a serious injury after accidentally being hit with a golf club as he played with his new schoolmates. The Associated Press reported that the 8-year-old suffered from a skull fracture, which required a 70-minute surgery. Princess Diana stayed with her son throughout the ordeal, even spending the night at the hospital following his surgery. Prince Charles was reported to have gone to his son after the accident, although he reportedly left the hospital to attend the opera.

Fortunately, the surgery went smoothly. While Prince William didn't suffer any permanent injury, the accident did leave him with a scar. Years later, the prince would joke about it to the press, calling it his "Harry Potter scar." He explained to the BBC that "it glows sometimes and some people notice it," although people often don't notice that he has a scar at all.

Prince William didn't want to be the heir to the throne

Prince William was not raised with the knowledge that he would one day be the king of England. Royal biography Andrew Morton wrote in William and Catherine: Their Lives, Their Wedding (via Express) that, before starting school, Prince William "genuinely had no idea that he was any different from anyone else."

Prince William's schoolmates teased him about being the heir to the throne, and it was reportedly his brother, Prince Harry, who broke the news to him that he wouldn't be able to decide his future career. "When William said once that he would like to be a policeman and look after his mother, Harry told him emphatically: 'You can't, you have to be King,'" wrote Morton.

Years later, it came out that Prince William struggled with the responsibilities placed on his shoulders. Broadcaster Jeremy Paxman revealed in the 2019 documentary Paxman on the Queen's Children (via Express) that Princess Diana revealed to him that Prince William often said he didn't want to be king — although Prince Harry seemed keen to take on the responsibility for his brother.

Prince William felt betrayed when his mother admitted to having an affair

The media was sent into a frenzy in November 1995, when Princess Diana gave a now-infamous BBC interview. In the revealing tell-all, she spoke not only of her husband's infidelity with Camilla Parker Bowles, but she also admitted to an affair of her own. His mother confessing to an affair with James Hewitt, an army officer, was especially hard on Prince William.

Historian Robert Lacey wrote in Battle of Brothers (via Newsweek) that Prince William watched the interview at school. His mother's "candid admission" reportedly "tipped the teenager over the edge," leaving him feeling betrayed. Prince Charles had opened up on television the previous year about his own affair, and for his mother to then come out and speak about her infidelity left Prince William in tears. He was so angered by the interview that when his mother called him after it aired, he refused to speak to her.

Princess Diana's spiritual healer, Simone Simmons, told Lacey that "all hell broke loose" after the interview aired. Prince William was not just "furious" that his mother had mentioned her affair, but also "that she had spoken badly of his father."

Prince William was devastated his parents' divorce

Things came to a head the month after Princess Diana's tell-all interview aired in 1995. The relationship between Princess Diana and Prince Charles had become so strained that, in December 1995, Queen Elizabeth II wrote letters to her son and daughter-in-law ordering them to get a divorce. They had been separated for three years at that point, as noted by the Los Angeles Times.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana's 1996 divorce was a bitter one, and it took a toll on Prince William. The book Prince William: A Biography noted that, while Prince William was accustomed to the strained relationship between his parents, their eventual divorce nevertheless left him "traumatized."

It was a trauma that would affect him for years, according to Sarah Bradford, Viscountess Bangor. In the 2017 ITV documentary Kate: The Making of a Modern Royal, she observed that his wife helped him heal. "I think that he was quite seriously affected by the bad relationship of his parents, and I think that Kate has strengthened him," she said.

Prince William was left crushed by his mother's death

The greatest tragedy of Prince William's life has been the untimely death of his mother, Princess Diana. He was just 15 years old when she passed away in a car crash in 1997. In the BBC documentary Diana, 7 Days (via ABC News), Prince William recalled feeling "completely numb, disorientated, [and] dizzy" after learning of his mother's death. He added that the trauma stuck with him. "You feel very, very confused," he said. "And you keep asking yourself, 'Why me?' All the time, 'Why? What have I done? Why? Why has this happened to us?'"

Prince William never really got over his mother's death. In the BBC documentary Football, Prince William and Our Mental Health (via BBC News), he revealed that becoming a parent made his "emotions" from that horrifying time "come back in leaps and bounds."

The royal has felt his mother's absence keenly throughout his life, telling GQ that he wishes she were still here to give her advice and to meet his wife and children.

Prince William was reportedly not thrilled about his father's marriage to Camilla Parker Bowles

In 2005, Prince Charles announced that he was marrying Camilla Parker Bowles. While Prince William was reported at the time to be happy for his father, Robert Jobson wrote in the 2006 book William's Princess that things were a little more complicated. "Sure enough, privately, their mood was more one of 'acceptance' than undiluted joy," wrote Jobson (via Express).

Prince Charles and Camilla went public as a couple in 1999. Royal biography Penny Junor wrote in her book The Firm (via Express) that the reason Prince Charles waited so long to propose was out of concern for his sons. Charles and Camilla reportedly wanted to wait for William and Harry to grow up before giving them a stepmother. While she wrote that the princes liked Camilla enough, "accepting Camilla as a fixture in their father's life" was reportedly not the easiest transition.

Junor cited Prince William and Prince Harry's loyalty to their mother for their mixed feelings towards Camilla, writing that they were happy for their father but also knew "that Camilla was the cause of [Princess Diana's] terrifying unhappiness."

Prince William hated growing up in the public eye

As a royal and as the second in line to the throne, Prince William has been in the public eye his entire life. This hasn't always been easy on him, especially in his youth. Royal biographer Katie Nicholl wrote in Kate: The Future King that, in school, the prince was "painfully shy and acutely aware of his unwanted celebrity," doing his best "to avoid the attention he attracted."

However, Robert Jobson wrote in William's Princess that Prince William's reputation for shyness had more to do with his desire to avoid too much attention rather than actually being bashful. According to Jobson (via Express), Prince William "just did not like being photographed and felt that if he kept his head down people wouldn't recognize him."

The attention from the public was especially difficult following Princess Diana's death. In a 2007 interview with NBC News, Prince William recalled feeling as if "people were watching" him constantly, saying it "was quite hard." He added that he eventually learned to "just shut... out" the media.

Prince William wasn't able to have a normal college experience

While college is often regarded as a period of self-discovery and a time to adjust to adulthood, Prince William wasn't able to have a normal college experience. Joann F. Price noted in Prince William: A Biography that the prince "was given a say in which university he would attend," but that Prince Charles particularly wanted him to attend the University of St. Andrews. 

Before Prince William headed off there to begin his studies in art history in 2001, his grandmother set down some strict instructions for him, "including that there would be no smoking, only moderate drinking, and definitely no drugs." Queen Elizabeth also forbade him to kiss a date in public. Notably Prince William was required to be followed around by his personal police protection, and he was not even allowed to discuss his family with classmates.

Although Prince William was able to blend in reasonably well on campus, and "everyone was protective of the prince in their midst," he still drew a lot of attention, and the media "swarmed the campus." The prince also had to be on constant guard "against those who might sell stories to the tabloids" about him.

Prince William suffered quite a few breakups before marrying Kate Middleton

Prince William seems to have found his fairytale happily-ever-after with Kate Middleton, who's had a stunning transformation, but his road to love wasn't exactly the smoothest. Before he and Kate settled down, Prince William had his love life dragged through the press. As noted by the Evening Standard, Prince William was linked to more than half a dozen women before marrying Kate, including Davina Duckworth-Chad, a family friend who was spotted with Prince William before he headed off to college. Prince William was also linked to Isabella Calthorpe, whose half sister, Cressida Bonas, was involved with Prince Harry.

While it certainly seems like Kate was the most serious of his girlfriends over the years, the ups and downs of their relationship were scrutinized by the press. In 2007, when Prince William and Kate were briefly broken up, a source told the Evening Standard that Prince William "always had a roving eye" and that Kate had "always known and accepted" this. Curious about their brief split? Here's why William and Kate broke up in 2007.

Prince William's military career was hard on him

Prince William spent several years in the military, and what he saw during his service impacted the rest of his life. The royal worked as an air ambulance pilot with the East Anglian Air Ambulance, and he has spoken about how difficult the job was. Speaking to senior paramedic Dawn Anderson at an event in 2018 (via ITV), Prince William said of his military service, "You're just seeing all the sad things, all the pain every day." Prince William added that he "took a lot home without realizing it," and that the "despair, sadness, [and] injury" he saw on a daily basis at work took a toll on his mental health.

At the 2018 This Can Happen conference (via People), Prince William said that seeing children involved in car accidents was particularly hard on him. "The relation between the job and the personal life was what really took me over the edge," he said.

Prince William's military experience was part of his motivation in the mental health initiatives he has led over the years. As noted on the royal family's website, Prince William is dedicated to promoting mental well-being and ending the stigma surrounding mental health.

Prince William struggles with anxiety

Prince William has notably been quite open about his mental health. Not only has he talked about the impact his military service had on his mental state, but he has also talked about his anxiety. In the 2020 BBC documentary Football, Prince William, and Our Mental Health (via Vanity Fair), the royal opened up about his public speaking anxiety, saying that he has suffered from stage fright for years and would worry about how the people in the audience were reacting to his words.

Prince William joked about the ingenious way he found of dealing with this anxiety, saying that as his eyesight became poorer as he grew older, he couldn't see the faces in the audience clearly anymore. Since he didn't wear contacts while working, he could only see the speech in front of him and not the people listening to him speak. "It helps because it's just a bit of a blur of faces," he explained of his anxiety-conquering tactic.

A scandal broke out after Prince William was accused of having an affair

While Prince William has been happily married to Kate Middleton for years, for a time, it appeared as if things weren't well with the couple. A scandal erupted in 2019, when outlets reported that Prince William was having an affair with Rose Hanbury, a family friend who was present at his wedding to Kate in 2011, as noted by the Daily Mail.

While there was no evidence for the affair, the gossip nevertheless took a toll on Prince William and his family. A source told Hollywood Life that Kate didn't believe the gossip, but that she and Prince William were "very concerned for Rose" as she was "a married woman with children, and ... not used to this kind of public scrutiny."

In spite of the stress of the situation, Prince William and Kate ignored the rumors, although their attorneys reportedly threatened legal action against outlets spreading the rumor. Months after the rumors began circulating, a source told Us Weekly that it made the couple stronger. "It forced her and William to sit back and examine their relationship, which they realized they should have been doing more often," they said.

Prince William reportedly had a falling-out with his brother

While Prince William and Prince Harry have always seemed to be close, rumors of a rift began to circulate after Prince Harry began seeing Meghan Markle. According to royal historian Robert Lacey, though, the alleged falling out began well before Harry and Meghan got together. "I would say that there were stresses and strains there before and then with the advent of Meghan, that was what provoked the really big break," Lacey, the author of the book Battle of Brothers: William and Harry — The Inside Story of a Family in Tumult told Entertainment Tonight.

Lacey said he spoke to Ken Wolf, who served as the bodyguard to the princes in their younger years. Wolf claimed that "William was always sort of jealous" of his younger brother's "lovable rogue reputation" as well as "the affection that he generated."

While there's no doubt that the brothers care deeply for each other, Lacey speculated that "they're going in different directions." Prince Harry hinted at this himself in the 2019 ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey (via BBC News), in which he said that he loves his brother "dearly" but that they are "on different paths at the moment."

Prince William secretly battled COVID-19

Prince William tested positive for COVID-19 in April 2020, but he kept the diagnosis secret for months. The Sun broke the news in November 2020, revealing that the royal was "struggling to breathe" during his illness. Prince William came down with the virus days after his father, Prince Charles, but didn't reveal his diagnosis to the public so as not to cause alarm. "There were important things going on and I didn't want to worry anyone," he reportedly told someone at an engagement. 

Fortunately, Prince William made a full recovery and even carried out quite a few speaking engagements and other royal obligations via telephone and video calls during his illness, even though a source told the outlet that the prince "was hit pretty hard by the virus." The prince was determined that everything remain "business as usual though," and the world never suspected that he was secretly battling a potentially life-threatening virus.