WILLS AT 21: MOVING TRIBUTE TO PARENTS
Jun 21 2003
By Jane Kerr Royal Reporter
PRINCE William yesterday paid an emotional tribute to his mum...and also leapt to his father's defence.
Speaking on the eve of his 21st birthday he said he had learned a lot from Princess Diana's life while demanding critics of Prince Charles "give him a break".
Wills said: "My mother used her position very well to help other people, as does my father. And I hope to do the same."
And of Charles he added: "He does so many amazing things.
"I only wish people would see that more because he's had a very hard time and yet he's stuck it out and he's still very positive.
"And he's very happy and protective towards Harry and me."
Speaking publicly for the first time about his mum since her death, Wills told how he wanted to carry on her work with under-privileged people.
The prince, looking remarkably like Diana in his official 21st birthday photo, said his outlook on life was shaped by Diana's concern for the sick and poor.
She was so determined her children should experience life outside the privileged confines of the palace walls that she took them to see a friend with Aids in hospital and to shelters for the homeless.
William said: "I was influenced a lot by my visits to hostels with my mother when I was younger.
"I learned a lot from it, more so now than I did at the time.
"It's made me aware and I think homelessness is one of those topics that people kind of gloss over and don't really focus on.
"It is an important issue that needs to be understood and highlighted."
He seems to be taking his role seriously. This week William visited a drop-in centre for the homeless in Newport, South Wales.
While the prince says he wants to be like Diana, he is under no illusion about the price of fame. He accepts that watching his mother struggle at times in the public glare has had a long-term affect on him.
William admitted if he fancies a girl, he will chat her up. But he said his girlfriends must be protected from the media spotlight.
And, echoing Diana's views on the future of the monarchy, he insisted the royal family must be relevant to ordinary people's lives to survive.
After the princess's death in 1997, many of her admirers - and even her family - said they were concerned her children's lives would be simply immersed in tradition and duty.
But William insisted he never stopped being exposed to the difficulties facing other young people since his mother died.
Before starting university he worked on a West Country farm. William described the graft as "very hard". He added: "It was the toughness of it.
"Admittedly, I was exhausted after only a week as a dairy farm hand, and the guy I was working with did it every day of his life.
"There's hardly any social life because of the hours you work which makes it an even tougher job.
"There were so many genuine people. They didn't care who I was and made me do the jobs I should be doing, like mucking out and driving tractors in the fields.
"They made me see what actually goes on and they trusted me as well."
William revealed Charles's concern for rural issues and the environment had rubbed off on him. He said: "I'm his biggest fan in that sense."
And he shares his father's fears for the future of the countryside. He said: "To me, one of the worrying things is the lack of affordable housing for the younger generation.
"If younger people leave, there is no future for the countryside.
"All the inherited skills you get passed down from farmers, for example, will be lost.
"But I know this is a problem beyond the countryside for young people who are just starting out."
Wills also spoke of his closeness to 18-year-old Harry.
He said: "I have a very good relationship with my brother.
"We've grown up together and we have to go through a lot of things together. We've grown up around the same things and the same people, and we'll always have that common bond.
"We ring each other quite a lot. He usually rings me up to tell me some incredibly amusing story and the things he gets up to. He is a very nice guy and very caring."
William said he had always wanted to help out at the Highgrove Home Farm in the summer holidays but had not yet got round to it.
He added with a grin: "The early mornings are putting me off."
The prince revealed his fondness for walking in the country. He said: "I love it. My father is a great walker, he does a lot of it.
"You can go off, ponder and think about things. It's your own time."