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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 June, 2003, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
William chose Welsh birthday trip
Prince Charles and Prince William
Prince William is to visit Wales to celebrate his 21st birthday
Prince William asked for his only official engagement to mark his 21st birthday to be in Wales, it has emerged.

William and his father Prince Charles will be visiting north and south Wales on Thursday, ahead of his birthday on Saturday.

"Prince William wanted to do an engagement in Wales - he expressed it as one of the things he wanted to do," said a spokeswoman for St James's Palace.

But one royal expert fears the event could be seen as a "futile gesture" as William prepares to one day succeed his father as Prince of Wales.

Bob Houston, editor of Royalty magazine, said that, even though the Wales trip was significant, some people would see it as just a public relations exercise.

"There are many in Wales who will think it is a gesture - for many it is a futile gesture," he said.

It is all part of a long-term plan to prepare him for the role of king
Royal biographer Brian Hoey

"But it shows that Charles sees the Prince of Wales title as very important."

He believes that, if William wants to know how to be Prince of Wales, he should learn from Charles' mistakes.

"If anyone should know about preparing for being Prince of Wales is his father - who has been in the job for a time."

Ten-year plan

Royal biographer Brian Hoey said that William's choice of birthday location showed he was "streetwise".

"He specifically requested it would take place in Wales," he said.

Mr Hoey reiterated his belief that William will study Welsh after finishing his art history course at St Andrews University in Scotland.

"The palace won't confirm it yet, but it will probably be for six months - in all probability he will go to Aberystwyth, as his father did."

Mr Hoey said that the Welsh course was part of a well-established schedule for the prince.

Prince William
Prince William has hinted he will play a role in Welsh life

"They have laid down the plan for the next 10 years - such as which branches of military service he will go into.

"It is all part of a long-term plan to prepare him for the role of king."

Mr Hoey said that Prince William already received regular briefings to prepare him for his future jobs.

"Every so often, the Queen and the Prince of Wales send him position papers, everything he might need to know on the state of the world," he said.

But Ingrid Seward, editor of Majesty magazine, said she thought it was too early for William to be groomed to become Prince of Wales.

"Obviously he has to have an interest in what is going on in Wales," she said.

"But I would be very surprised if a 20-year-old had a deep interest in Welsh politics."

She added that she would not be surprised if William already knew "a few choice words" in Welsh.

A two-part series charting Prince William's life starts on BBC1 at 2100 BST on Wednesday, 18 June.

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