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Friday, 18 August, 2000, 14:25 GMT 15:25 UK
William: The student Prince
William graphic
By Chris Jones of the news profiles unit

The handsome young Prince's blond locks could be turning to grey before he ascends the throne but, long before that, he is likely to become the foundation stone of the monarchy's public standing among its subjects.

His decision to study at Scotland's oldest university, St Andrews, was an easy one to make for an 18-year-old aware that he can never live among the people, but intent on sharing at least some of their experiences.

Prince Wiliam wearing a Union Jack waistcoat
Flying the flag: Prince William made his mark at Eton
A generation ago, a committee of advisers had decided his father would attend Trinity College, Cambridge, even though Charles's subsequent A-level grades would not have earned him admission to the hallowed halls.

But William had determined to go to Cambridge only if his grades merited a place, and he knew that was unlikely.

But he still needed to satisfy St Andrews' requirements.

And so, far away in the jungle of Belize, where he is on exercises with the Welsh Guards in the first stage of his gap year, the Prince will have felt the odd twinge of nervousness like thousands of others before his housemaster at Eton telephoned him with the glad tidings.

And when the Prince arrives in the wide open spaces of Fife to start his four-year History of Art MA (Honours) course in the autumn of next year, he will be content in the knowledge that his three passes, an A.B and C, have earned him his place.

Almost from the day he was born, tradition has not been ignored, but qualified.

Prince William at the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales
He has weathered the trauma of his mother's death
William Arthur Philip Louis Windsor was initially breastfed by a mother intent on bonding with her child. At Diana's insistence, the baby Prince went with her to Australia, where Brisbane subjected them to a sweltering 100 degrees in the shade.

Unlike previous heirs to the throne, who were taught at home by private tutors in their early years, William's formal education began, at the age of three, at Mrs Mynor's Nursery School in Notting Hill Gate, West London.

Aged eight, the Prince was sent to Ludgrove Preparatory School in Wokingham, Berkshire, where his bodyguard could not prevent an accident with a golf club that fractured William's skull. But Princess Diana insisted he should spend the weekends at home.

At 13, he passed the Common Entrance exam and went to Eton, where he gained 12 GCSEs, excelled at a variety of sports, was secretary of the renowned Agricultural Club and received the Sword of Honour, the College's highest award for a first-year army cadet.

So much for the CV. But how is William equipped to deal with the pressures that will arise in a life subjected to intense scrutiny?

He has already endured, with dignity, some of the toughest experiences any life could encounter - the break-up of his parents' marriage and the sudden death of his mother in 1997.

Prince William with his arm around Prince Charles
William is close to his father
While he has apparently inherited his mother's milk of human kindness, his relationship with his father is also an affectionate one, notwithstanding William's frequent assertions of his independence.

The pin-up Prince, with his love for club-life and designer-label clothes, may appear to be the essence of cool, lusted after by millions of teenage girls.

But he also acknowledges Royal traditions, and is thought likely to serve part of his King's apprenticeship in a military uniform.

The publishing director of Burke's Peerage, Harold Brooks-Baker, says despite William's star quality, the Queen could not abdicate, even if she wanted to, which means if Charles lives longer than his mother, he will be King.

But he says William remains "the best bet for the Royal Family, even if the public have to wait more than 20 years to see him crowned".

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