Infuriating Prince William claim amid Kate Middleton’s mystery illness

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The royal parenting bar is truly in hell.

In late January, we passed the anniversary of one of the bleakest moments in Windsor history, the death of Prince John, 13, the son of King George V and Queen Mary. (John was the late Queen’s uncle.)

John had severe epilepsy and autism and was viewed as an extreme embarrassment. He was thus dumped in a distant cottage on the Sandringham estate with only a very small staff to care for him. John’s parents, his elder brother Edward VIII later revealed, only visited the prince “once or twice a year”. (Edward also described John as “more of an animal than anything else”.)

When John died at the age of only 13 he was alone. Just think about that. Leaving a disabled child to die alone.

We’ve certainly come a hell of a long way from that dark day, with Prince William currently seeming to be assertively angling for the title of Dad Of The Year.

Get the man a mug, a sash, a plaque, because if there is one line that is being pushed in London it’s that the prince is being nothing short of a world-beating, record-breaking, one-for-the-history-books father while wife Kate the Princess of Wales is convalescing.

The princess is now home after spending two weeks in a London hospital after undergoing abdominal surgery. William, the world has been informed, has cleared his diary to be doting dad par excellence to their three young kids, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

Some parts of the British press have been busy getting themselves in an overwrought flap as they salute the arrival of The Wünder Pa, William.

The Waleses have even assumed a new motto, which is probably being hand-stitched onto a new Bayeux-style tapestry for their rumpus room: “100 per cent family first, day job second”.

The underlying message in all of this is that we, the public, are meant to coo and think, what a top bloke. What a lovely man, putting his three young children before that away day to Stoke-on-Trent to open a new rugger ground or him hosting an investiture to recognise regional charity fundraisers. What a fella.

But all of this feels like something from circa 1962, back when a man would be called a “big Jessie” for knowing how to change a nappy. William isn’t doing anything that, by normal standards, deserves to be called out and hailed as if he’s single-handedly raising the fatherhood bar.

Let’s get some perspective here – the prince is doing what any other father these days would be expected to do. He’s being a parent.

I’m not criticising William, to be clear; good on him, really, but I’m sick to my eye teeth of the way this is being framed and sold.

If this situation was reversed and it was him who had had surgery and was now out for the royal working count, no one would be wasting any platitudes on Kate for bravely doing single mum duty. We wouldn’t be seeing lengthy, gushing pieces about how marvellous she was for putting her kids before the day job.

It’s a double standard that just sticks in my craw.

Remember back in 2020, approximately 17 years ago, when it was revealed that William had secretly had Covid? I cannot recall anyone wasting a second of commentary on Kate having to carry the Wales family can and care for their children solo while William played Candy Crush and sniffled in one of their Norfolk home’s 10 bedrooms.

Likewise the three trips that William made overseas last year – to Poland, New York and Singapore – which left Kate on her own with three young children. Where was her medal? Where were the stories eagerly painting her as some sort of super-ma?

At play in this current rash of William the Great stories is the downplaying of the back-up the prince and princess have at home.

William, biographer Hardman has told People, “doesn’t want to leave it all to the nanny.”

A close family friend also told the magazine the Waleses don’t have “a huge private staff,” and “as a result, William is really hands-on.”

Still, the Waleses have had nanny Maria Teresa Turrion Borrallo since 2014 along with, at the very least, a housekeeper. When George comes home with muddy rugger shorts and Prince Louis’ art smock is smeared in paint, it’s not William who is up at 11pm preening the offending items and wondering what he should pack for little lunch.

In addition to which, there are Ma and Pa Middleton just down the road, with George, Charlotte and Louis, according to The Sun, having spent the Sunday past “with their doting grandparents … in the comfort of the Middleton family home”.

William is clearly trying to break from the royal tradition of being a rubbish parent. Consider the example that King Charles set.

In 1991, eight-year-old William was hit in the head by a golf club during “play time” on his prep school’s putting green (normal stuff) and was rushed to London to have surgery on his fractured skull. His mother Diana, the late Princess of Wales spent the night with her son.

Where was Charles? He visited the young prince before going to the opera. C’mon – you expect him to pass up box seats to Wagner? Really now. It was WAGNER.

Given all of this, William is making a comparatively commendable fist of fatherhood. However, by contemporary standards, he’s just doing what needs to be done, which is really, bare bones time, what parenting is all about.

Hardman writes in Charles III that to William, “raising the next King but one” is “not far off the most important job he has”.

It’s handy that the prince’s personal views on this matter tally with the shifting societal sands. Imagine if William didn’t care a jot about story time or refused to be seen dead waiting in the pick-up line at 3pm – he would be nailed to a pillory, so to speak.

And, it is comforting to know that supercilious abandonment and casual neglect are no longer the name of the royal parenting game.

But I can’t escape the feeling that someone inside Kensington Palace is of the view that you shouldn’t let a good crisis go to waste and is turning lemons into lemonade. Kate’s illness has turned out to be an opportunity to really sell the idea of William of Bath Time.

Good on him but fathers being energetically applauded for what mothers do without anyone ever batting an eyelid is just some anachronistic bullsh*t.

George, Charlotte and Louis will hopefully grow up to be the most emotionally and psychologically healthy HRHs since King Canute had a crack at holding back the tide. (Now there was a man who could have used some therapy and an occasional hug.)

For that the Prince and Princess of Wales deserve credit but let’s not lose sight of the fact that ‘Man doing better at job than predecessors’ hardly warrants anyone barrelling about the place yelling ‘stop the presses!’.

Daniela Elser is a writer, editor and a royal commentator with more than 15 years’ experience working with a number of Australia’s leading media titles.

Read related topics:Kate MiddletonPrince William