Prince William’s Race to Define His Legacy Has Already Begun


Prince William’s quest to define his legacy before taking on the crown is already underway as King Charles III marks the first anniversary of his reign, according to a new episode of Newsweek‘s The Royal Report podcast.

The first year of Charles’ reign will come to a close on September 8. It will be followed by William’s first anniversary of being elevated to the senior royal title of Prince of Wales.

Though Charles’ reign to date may have been mostly uneventful in terms of changes made to the monarchy or style of rule, Newsweek‘s chief royal correspondent, Jack Royston, told Royal Report listeners that this was, on the whole, to be expected.

Prince William photographed in London, June 26, 2023. The prince will mark his one-year anniversary as Prince of Wales in September.
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

“There is no real expectation of Britain that the reigning monarch comes into power and kind of achieves a huge amount in their first year. It’s not at all like being president,” he said, noting that the time when monarchs effect their greatest change typically comes before they take the throne, where they are allowed more freedom to stray into more socially contentious issues.

“For royals, the era where you define your legacy comes really before you’re crowned,” he said.

“So for Charles, he can look back on his whole era as Prince of Wales, when he campaigned on the environment when it wasn’t popular, when he set up one of his most successful charities, The Prince’s Trust, which works to tackle youth unemployment to give young people from difficult backgrounds chances and to make themselves an industry, and he’ll look back on that as his legacy.

“If things go slowly for the first few years at the palace, I don’t think he’ll have a huge problem with that.”

The story could not be more different for Prince William, who, Royston explained, as first in line now faces a race to carve his own niche and effect change that will form his legacy as monarch.

“This is also a key era for Prince William,” he said. “He has his Earthshot Prize, which he will hope will be his legacy, his kind of equivalent of the Princess Trust.”

William founded the Earthshot Prize in 2020 as a charitable fund, awarding grants to scale up eco-initiatives that seek to repair the planet from the effects of climate change and man-made environmental issues.

The charity has become the prince’s primary working output, hosting an annual awards ceremony and distributing five grants of £1 million ($1.2 million) each year to fund and support entrepreneurs working in the environmental field.

“He’s going to take this year’s ceremony to Singapore in November,” Royston noted. “So that’s a big date coming up for him. And he will really want to make sure that this project counts for him and that when he becomes king—however many years time that proves to be—he’s going to want to enter the job with a legacy already in the bag.”

“This is really, I think, a make-or-break project for him in that respect.”

James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek’s royal reporter based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek’s The Royals Facebook page.

Do you have a question about King Charles III, William and Kate, Meghan and Harry or their family that you would like our experienced royal correspondents to answer? Email [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.


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