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The BBC's Jennie Bond
"William will set a new trend"
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The BBC's Robin Aitken
"Prince William has become a premier league celebrity"
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Friday, 16 June, 2000, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
The princely pin-up
Prince William graphic
If you could isolate the essence of Prince William's incredible popularity then it's a fair bet his relatives would be first in line to buy it.

Earlier this week a poll for The Guardian showed that support for the Royal Family had hit rock bottom. The survey, carried out by ICM, found only 44% of the public believe Britain would be worse off without the monarchy.

Dogged by a litany of bankrupt marriages, shamed by adulterous affairs, thrown on the defensive over their constitutional role and infected by internecine bickering, our love of the royals seems to be waning.

William aged 10
The boy prince, William aged 10

Not so for Prince William. As he prepares to celebrate his coming of age, it's almost impossible to hear a bad word said against the man who is second in line to the throne.

In fact 48% of those responding to The Guardian poll thought the crown should skip Charles altogether and pass to William on the Queen's death.

Of course, youth has a great deal to do with his popularity but there are many other factors.

Girls' favourite

To his legions of teenage female fans, William is quite a dish. During his first royal engagement abroad, in 1998, the tall and handsome prince was flanked by excited young girls pleading for his hand in marriage.

William with baseball jacket
In Canada, teenage girls swooned

Recently Tatler magazine voted him a woman's hottest date for 2000.

John Hindmarch of the teen pop magazine Smash Hits, is blunt and to the point about William's appeal: "He's a good looking boy who also happens to be heir to the throne."

Looks are one thing, but according to press reports, he also has the attitude.

"As a student Prince Charles was regarded as rather square, with no interest at all in fashion or trendy London clubs. His son is rather different," opined Judy Wade in Hello! magazine

A keen follower of fashion, he is often seen sporting Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger labels.

Wills, as he is fondly known by his family, may have been born into wealth and fame, but he is also a hard worker. So far he has breezed through his studies, picking up 10 GCSEs - three with an A grade.

His imminent A level exams mean he is unlikely to celebrate his 18th birthday too hard.

At Eton he has also indulged his love of sport - he is captain of the water polo team - and art, as well as learning how to cook, as part of his general studies course.

Respect for traditions

But William's modern veneer conceals a deep respect for the traditions of the Royal Family. He has carried on the family's military links, serving in the Cadet Corps at Eaton. As a first year cadet he won the prized Sword of Honour.

William and car
Towards adulthood: William after a driving test
His interest in countryside issues was reflected in his stint as secretary of the Agriculture Society at school.

Despite the great public interest, not a lot is known about the private life of the prince. Since he started at Eton, the press has largely obeyed a voluntary agreement to leave him alone.

After the death of William's mother, Diana , Princess of Wales, those calls were vigorously reiterated. The result is that peoples' perceptions of the prince are largely down to conjecture, supposition and hype.

William and Charles
At Klosters in April, the prince lightened up in front of the press

What is well established is that William has not been a fan of the press. Shier and more introspective than Harry, he has been known to loathe their presence.

But earlier this year, at Klosters ski resort in Switzerland, William appeared more at ease as he, his father and brother lined up for the cameras.

Although it looks like the Press Complaints Council will ask the media to extend its "gentlemen's agreement" for the foreseeable future, as William now embarks on adulthood we are certain to get a better idea of who the prince really is.

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15 Jun 00 | UK
Blooded but not bowed
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