Then & Now: How Prince William Changed Through The Years

It would be easy to assume that people like Prince William or anyone in the royal family have had easy, charmed lives. And while they certainly have been afforded certain privileges other people could only dream about, that doesn't mean their lives have been smooth sailing. 


Consider Prince William; from the time he was a young boy all the way until he became a father himself, there have been intense pressures, media scrutiny, and personal tragedies that have followed him around everywhere he went. Still, the royal has managed to make the best out of it and has come such a long way over the years, in more ways than one.

Yes, Prince William has really evolved as he's gotten older, both personally and professionally. From a young prince just living his best life to a grown man with a family of his own, Prince William has undergone quite the transformation. So, read on to see just how much he's changed since he was first born.

Prince William was the first-born child of the people's princess

Obviously, Prince William's mother was Princess Diana. And while being born into the royal family would always mean Prince William was a bit of a celebrity, he was likely a little more beloved because of who his mother was. Yes, Princess Diana was known as the "people's princess" because the public absolutely loved her and felt connected to her. So, when she had her first child, people everywhere were thrilled.


Prince William was actually born at the exact same hospital where he and his wife would eventually welcome their children together as well. The royal was born at the beloved-by-royals Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in London on June 21, 1982; according to Express, his full name — William Arthur Philip Louis — wasn't announced until a week later, on June 28, 1982. 

Additionally, Prince William was born to King Charles and Princess Diana of Wales, making Prince William the first child born to a prince and princess of Wales since 1905. So, to say his birth was pretty historic would be quite the understatement. 

Prince William had a charmed childhood

Though Prince William might not have had the kind of childhood most people can relate to, he did have quite a charmed upbringing. After all, he was only two years old when his younger brother, Prince Harry, was born on September 15, 1984, at the same hospital where he was born. Fortunately, it seems as though the two young boys had quite a fun time together. Former palace chef Darren McGrady answered some fan questions on his YouTube channel and explained that Prince William and Prince Harry had a good time eating as a family. "At Kensington Palace the food was always served on the sideboard buffet-style, so the boys could go back for more and more and more," he explained. "But it was always the desserts that they went back for!"


But lest you worry that Prince William grew up too spoiled, fear not. According to Britannica, Princess Diana wanted her children to "have an understanding of people's emotions, their insecurities, people's distress, and their hopes and dreams." To that end, she made it a point to take the boys on public transportation, and to visit orphanages, hospitals, and homeless shelters. Basically, Prince William's childhood was as normal as you would expect a prince's life to be.

Prince William underwent surgery for a head injury

You may not have noticed it, but Prince William has a very faint scar on his forehead. This is because the Prince sustained a head injury when he was just 8 years old. As AP News reported at the time, William fractured his skull after being hit in the head with a golf club at boarding school. As one spokeswoman from the school clarified, the injury was definitely an accident. 


"No one was being nasty or unkind to Prince William," she said. "He is a very much liked boy here at the school.″ He required a 70-minute operation that involved 24 stitches and an overnight stay in the hospital. Apparently, his mother, Princess Diana, spent the night by his side. 

As an adult, William has learned to embrace his scar. In fact, he even jokingly calls it his "Harry Potter" scar (via Get Reading).

He coped with his parents' divorce

King Charles and Princess Diana separated in 1992, and finalized their divorce in 1996 (via History). Obviously, for young Prince William, who would have been only 10 when his parents first separated, it wasn't an easy time. In fact, former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond said that Prince William especially had to deal with a lot when his mother and father were going through their separation. "It was all the wrong way round for William," Bond shared, according to Express. "He was having to comfort his mother when she should have been looking after him — he was just a little boy."


Obviously, that impacted Prince William greatly. British historian Robert Lacey told Page Six that King Charles and Princess Diana's divorce even affected Prince William later in life. "When he meets Kate Middleton at university, he actually makes the poor young woman wait nine years to effectively audition her for the job as wife to the head of state," Lacey declared. "He took the lesson of duty." 

He attended Eton College

Like his brother Prince Harry, Prince William attended Eton College as a teenager. According to Times Series, his five years boarding at Eton proved to be welcome respite, as his parents were in the middle of a difficult divorce. In fact, according to royal biographer Penny Junor, William watched his mother's infamous BBC Panorama interview in his headmaster's office at Eton. "He was deeply upset, as any child, watching one parent assassinate the integrity of the other, let alone talk about their infidelity, would be," she told The Times (via Mirror).


William also took part in rugby at the school. In fact, actor Eddie Redmayne allegedly played with him. Apparently, William ended up being a sort of decoy. "All the people from the other schools would want to tackle him bec­ause they could go home and tell their families they tackled Prince William," Redmayne told The Sun. "So we were sort of running around with no one on us."

Prince William tragically lost his mother

Just one year after her divorce from King Charles was finalized, Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997. According to History, Princess Diana had just had dinner with her new love interest, Egyptian filmmaker Dodi Al-Fayed, when they had to flee the restaurant because of paparazzi. As they drove through the streets of Paris, their car crashed, killing Al-Fayed and sending Princess Diana to the hospital where she later died of her injuries.


When Prince William learned of his mother's passing, when he was just 15 years old, he was actually at Balmoral Castle. "Still in shock, I found sanctuary in the service at Crathie Kirk that very morning," William recalled, according to Insider. "And in the dark days of grief that followed, I found comfort and solace in the Scottish outdoors. As a result, the connection I feel to Scotland will forever run deep." 

Losing his mother was obviously devastating to Prince William and likely affected him in more ways than one.

Prince William took a gap year

Before heading off to university, Prince William decided to take a gap year. He initially wanted to go to South America, but according to the book "William and Harry," his father, King Charles III, didn't allow it. 


"Charles sighed in exasperation and noted how determined and extremely stubborn his elder son could be," author Katie Nicholl wrote in the book. "To [William's] anger, Charles had vetoed the suggestion. 'It's not fair,' William complained. 'Everyone else is allowed to go backpacking, why can't I?'"

In the end, William spent his gap year in Belize in the Carribbean. According to Nicholl's book, the experience wasn't exactly a comfortable or easy one. "He was taught how to kill and prepare his food," Nicholl wrote. "An exercise code-named Native Trail began with instructors slaughtering a pig, hanging it from a pole and butchering it." As for his bed, it was nothing more than an outdoor hammock (via Express).


He studied geography in college

Prince William attended the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. When he began his studies, he initially selected art history as his major. However, according to some reports, he didn't do so well with the subject. In fact, as the Scottish Daily Express reported, he allegedly kept falling asleep in class. So, he switched to geography. He eventually graduated with a second-class honors degree, which, in American terms, translates to about a 3-3.5 GPA.


While the Prince didn't exactly get outstanding marks, he was pretty successful in his degree — which is impressive considering how much pressure he was under. In one interview, he explained that he was often approached by people on the street for his autograph while he was in school. "As much as I've loved St. Andrews and I've loved being here at university, I am ready now to get out and do different stuff," he said. 

One thing that William seems to have gotten from his time at university is a chance to live a more "normal" life. "I do all my own shopping," he said in a BBC interview at the time. "I go out, get takeaway, rent videos, go to the cinema, just basically anything I want to really. There are obviously certain talks I can't go to if people come up here, [but] that's really the only restriction."


Here's how Prince William met Kate Middleton

During his time at St. Andrews, Prince William met his future wife, Catherine Middleton, now Princess of Wales. The Prince and Catherine first struck up a friendship in 2001 while they were both residents of the residence building St Salvator's Hall (via Hello! Magazine). According to some reports, it was this friendship that eventually led to the romantic attraction. In the documentary "William & Kate: Too Good to Be True," royal correspondent Simon Vigar said, "When they were at university at St Andrew's I have it on good authority that one of the few girls not chasing William or trying to catch his eye was Catherine." And, as William said in an interview, "We ended up being friends for a while and that just sort of was a good foundation."


Vigar went on, "It wasn't until the infamous fashion show that William noticed Catherine." As the famous story goes, Catherine took part in the fashion show in a see-through dress and William suddenly saw her in a whole new light. "Urban myth suggests he said to his friend, 'wow, Kate's hot,'" said royal expert Rebecca English (via Express).

Their relationship had a few bumps. In 2007, the couple broke up for a short period. As William explained in his engagement interview, "We were both very young. We were both finding ourselves and such and being different characters and such." By March of 2008, however, the pair were officially back together (via Cosmopolitan).

How did Prince William feel about his father remarrying?

With all that Prince William had been through in his youth, after his parents' divorce and his mother's death, it would make sense that he would have a hard time adjusting to any more changes. So how did he react when his father remarried in 2005? And how did he feel that King Charles married the woman who was known to be having an affair with him while he was still married to Princess Diana, Camilla Parker-Bowles? Needless to say, that was pretty big news at the time.


Penny Junor, author of "The Firm," wrote that things behind the scenes were pretty complicated. "The official line was that both boys were 'delighted' at their father's happiness," Junor wrote, via Express. But, Junor added that the official line was greatly exaggerated. "Sure enough, privately, their mood was more one of 'acceptance' than undiluted joy at the prospect of having Camilla as their stepmother," Junor continued. Additionally, body language experts explained that Prince William showed signs of unease during King Charles' wedding to Camilla. Apparently things weren't all peachy behind the scenes, and Prince William may not have been all that thrilled that his dad remarried.

Prince William entered the military after college

As Prince William is a member of the royal family, it wasn't shocking that his education didn't end when he graduated college, as he went on to learn about his country's military. According to Britannica, though Prince William graduated from St. Andrews in 2005, he continued with his education by entering the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. And though his time in the Academy obviously came to an end, Prince William remembers it quite fondly.


In 2018, Prince William attended the annual Sovereign's Day Parade and gave a speech filled with nostalgia for his time at the Academy. "It is almost 12 years ago to the day that I stood where you are," he revealed, according to USA Today. "I remember the deep sense of pride that came from passing out of one of the finest military academies in the world." 

But for as much pride as his time in the Academy brought him, William also joked that he was glad when it was over. "I also remember the acute sense of relief that I would no longer be getting thrashed at Sennybridge (a military training area in Wales), or having to dig trenches for five days in Thetford!" he added.

He joined the Royal Air Force

After graduating from university, Prince William joined the British Army as is royal tradition. He first became an ambulance helicopter pilot for the RAF's Search and Rescue team. Apparently, William loved flying helicopters. "The moment I started the helicopter training, I realized that it was better than anything," he said in an episode of the Apple Fitness+ series, "Time to Walk." "It was one of those things that I just instantly took to and thought, 'This is really cool.' I really enjoy it" (via People). 


However, the job wasn't always easy as it involved seeing people in a very bad condition. "I started to realize that, actually, you're taking home people's trauma, people's sadness, and it's affecting you," he said. "I was lucky enough that I had someone to talk to at work in the Air Ambulance because mental health where I was working was very important."

According to Hello! Magazine, William donated his entire salary to charity.

He had a historic wedding

On April 29, 2011, Prince William tied the knot with Kate Middleton, now Princess Catherine, in one of the most historic wedding ceremonies to date (via Brides). The nuptials were grand, exquisite, and perfectly lovely. There were celebrity guests and gorgeous flowers, and Catherine wore a custom dress from Alexander McQueen designer Sarah Burton that went on to inspire dozens of wedding looks for future brides. Basically, it was a huge day for Prince William, and during his engagement interview, it was clear he was excited to marry the love of his life.


When asked how he felt about having such a public engagement and eventually such a public wedding, Prince William was honest. "Massively excited, quite happy when the interview's over, (laughter) but no we are hugely excited and we are looking forward to spending the rest of our times, the rest of our lives together and seeing what the future holds," he gushed to ABC News. Clearly, marrying Catherine was a sweet time for Prince William.

The royal became a father three times over

After Prince William married Princess Catherine, the two went on to live quite the fairytale life — and that fairytale continued when they started their own family together. Their oldest child, Prince George, was born on July 22, 2013. Then came Princess Charlotte, who was born on May 2, 2015. Finally, Prince Louis was born on April 27, 2018. To make everything even sweeter, all three children were born in the same hospital that Prince William himself was born in.


Becoming a father seemed to have had a great impact on Prince William, as he revealed in the BBC documentary, "Football, Prince William and Our Mental Health" (via Town & Country). "Having children is the biggest life-changing moment, it really is," he gushed. "I think when you've been through something traumatic in life ... my mother dying when I was younger, the emotions come back, in leaps and bounds." 

For Prince William, having children was both a blessing and a challenge, and it was something that really helped him deal with his mother's death as well.

Prince William said goodbye to his grandfather

As we all know, Prince William's father is King Charles, but William has more family than that. His grandmother was Queen Elizabeth, and his grandfather was Prince Philip. But sadly William had to say goodbye to his grandfather in April 2021, after a statement from the Palace announced the sad news of Philip's death. "It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband," the Palace said (via the BBC). 


Prince Philip definitely lived a long and full life, as he died at the age of 99. Still, it couldn't have been easy for Prince William to lose his grandfather. "My grandfather was an extraordinary man and part of an extraordinary generation," he shared in a statement after Philip died (per Town & Country). "Catherine and I will continue to do what he would have wanted and will support the queen in the years ahead. I will miss my grandpa, but I know he would want us to get on with the job." 

Prince William was probably prepared for his grandfather to die, but it was still a huge moment in his life.

Prince William's relationship with his younger brother suffered

Prince William and his younger brother, Prince Harry, grew up pretty close by all accounts. They were only two years apart and seemed to be good friends as well as brothers. But after Prince Harry branched out more from the royal family and when he married Meghan Markle, their relationship suffered.


All the way back in March 2019, reports surfaced that Prince William and Prince Harry had unfortunately had a falling-out. "They are two grown men in their 30s, starting their own families, different wives, they are moving to different parts of the country, different duties," royal filmmaker Nick Bullen told Fox News

But that was before Harry and Meghan's famous interview with Oprah Winfrey, when Harry revealed he and his brother really weren't getting along. "The relationship is spaced at the moment," he admitted. The interview also suggested that the royal family had racist tendencies towards Meghan. After the interview aired, Prince William denied that the royal family was racist, but also said he hadn't yet spoken directly to his brother about it all. Clearly, their brotherly relationship is more strained now than ever before.


He mourned the loss of his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth

In 2022, Queen Elizabeth II died of old age (via BBC). Naturally, for Prince William, the death of his grandmother led to a period of mourning. In a touching statement, William said, "On Thursday, the world lost an extraordinary leader, whose commitment to the country, the Realms and the Commonwealth was absolute ... I, however, have lost a grandmother. And while I will grieve her loss, I also feel incredibly grateful. I have had the benefit of The Queen's wisdom and reassurance into my fifth decade." He went on to describe how she was always there for him and his family (via Hello! Magazine).


While speaking to mourners outside of Windsor Castle, William shared that he and his wife had noticed five rainbows over Balmoral after her death. Added Princess Catherine, "Her Majesty was looking down on us" (via Hello! Magazine). 

In another appearance, William said that he found himself getting "choked up" after seeing the Paddington Bear tributes to his grandmother (via Hello! Magazine).

Prince William became first in line to the throne

After the late queen's death, Prince William's father ascended the throne and became King Charles III. This meant that William, as his first child, assumed his previous title as the Prince of Wales — and is now first in the line of succession to the throne. In other words, upon his father's death, he will become the next king. His wife, Princess Catherine, will become Queen Consort.


However, as William explained to the BBC in 2016, he isn't particularly anxious to sit on the throne. "I certainly don't lie awake waiting or hoping for it, because it sadly means that my family have moved on and I don't want that," he explained. And what kind of king will he be? William intends to bring some modernity to the monarchy. "I think the royal family has to modernize and develop as it goes along and it has to stay relevant and that's the challenge for me," he said.