When Prince William Arthur Philip Louis was born in 1982, the young prince attracted world-wide attention as second-in-line to the English throne. He later captured hearts as a young man mourning the death of his mother, Princess Diana. And today, he impresses by being a diligent philanthropist, husband, father, and future king.
While many know of the Duke of Cambridge, William has been known to keep to himself. According to Marie Claire, he and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, take serious measures to maintain their family’s privacy; but these protections often mean that the future king’s life, and even his personality, remain a bit of a mystery.
From the sweet name his mother used to call him to the odd scar he got from a peculiar head injury to the unexpected way he kept a low profile in college, these strange facts about the famous royal might surprise you! Read on for a peek into Prince William’s private life and some of his oddest moments.
Prince William’s mother, Princess Diana, called him "Wombat"
Most know Queen Elizabeth‘s grandchild as Prince William, or the Duke of Cambridge, or the future king of England. But it may be surprising to learn that this prince has a more casual nickname, which he got from his mother.
According to an NBC News interview in which Matt Lauer spoke with William and his brother, Prince Harry, the late Princess Diana affectionately called her oldest son "Wombat" — and the name apparently stuck. "It began when I was two," William recalled in the chat. "I’ve been rightfully told because I can’t remember back that far. But when we went to Australia with our parents, and the wombat, you know, that’s the local animal." He added that the reason for the nickname might or might not be that he looks like the animal.
In the interview, Harry playfully added that the nickname actually came about due his older brother’s supposed laziness, saying, "He was still crawling at six."
Prince William met Cindy Crawford when he was a teenager
Long before Prince William met Kate Middleton, the young prince had his eye on another lady: Cindy Crawford, who’s undergone a stunning transformation. According to Vogue, a 13-year-old William told his mother that he had a crush on Crawford, so Princess Diana invited the American model to the palace, where William could meet her. So, Crawford made a trip to Kensington Palace where young William got to meet his celebrity crush, and Crawford got to meet royalty!
While William must have been excited to meet his celebrity crush, Crawford later admitted in an a YouTube series called No Filter with Naomi that she was nervous about the meeting. "I was so intimidated meeting Princess Diana and being at Kensington Palace and how just completely down to earth she was," Crawford said." And, you know, because there’s so much protocol and I guess not being English I don’t understand some of it."
Prince William is the president of British Academy of Film and Television Arts
Prince William may be second in line to be king (behind his father, Prince Charles) but he’s already president — president of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, that is. According to the BAFTA website, William has been president of the organization since February 2010. It seems he takes pride in his role in the organization, as both William and Kate Middleton have been known to attend the awards ceremony, according to Forbes.
In February 2020, the Duke of Cambridge even made headlines with his BAFTA speech, in which he not only called for more diversity in the British Film industry, but also came prepared to poke fun at how often his family has been portrayed on film and television. "I am particularly proud to stand here tonight having served as BAFTA’s President for the last 10 years," he said on stage. "However, I must admit, I don’t know whether I should be proud, or slightly alarmed, about the number of winners over the last decade who have portrayed members of my own family."
Prince William sustained a head injury playing golf
Prince William has made a career of helping the critically injured. He was a pilot with the Royal Air Force Search and Rescue Force for seven and a half years, as noted by CNN, and in 2014 he even took a role as a pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, via BBC. But the future king once sustained an injury himself, and it happened in a surprising place: the golf course.
When William was just 9 years old, he was hit in the head by a flying object. "I got hit by a golf club when I was playing golf with a friend of mine," William recalled (via the BBC)."We were on a putting green, and the next thing you know, there was a seven iron and it came out of nowhere and hit me in the head." William added that he had to get an operation after the injury, which left him with a scar on his forehead. He calls this scar his "Harry Potter scar" because he says that sometimes it glows.
Prince William loves surfing and would like to live by the beach
Prince William is expected to live in Buckingham Palace when he becomes king, but he once suggested that he wouldn’t mind living by the water, as People reported. In 2016, William and Kate Middleton stopped by Towan Beach to support an organization called Wave Project, which uses surfing to reduce anxiety and improve wellbeing in children. While there, William gushed about life by the water. "We should have brought our wetsuits — I’m very jealous," he revealed. "Living by the beach is just perfect."
As it turns out, the prince loves the water and has even learned to surf. According to the BBC, William has been boogie boarding for several years, and in 2004, was spotted trying his hand at surfing near St. Andrews in Scotland, where he attended school. In 2011, William even opted to go surfing for his stag do, according to ABC News.
It may be hard to picture the future king of England hanging ten but it seems William loves being in the water. "There’s no noise. It’s just you breathing. You’re in a different world with the fish," William once said.
Prince William once said Brits "need to relax"
It seems Prince William lives a glamorous life of luxury, meeting beautiful celebrities and attending lavish events, but things haven’t always been easy for this future king. In fact, the royal has gone through some hard times, especially after the death of his mother, Princess Diana. "There’s nothing like it in the world," William said of his mother’s passing (via Town & Country). "There really isn’t. It’s like an earthquake has just run through the house and through your life and everything." He added that it felt like his mind was split in two, and that it took him a while to process what had happened.
That’s why William has been known to speak out about mental illness. Once, in a BBC TV documentary he even said that while Brits can have a "stiff upper lip thing," they’ve got to change the way they react to hard times. "We’ve got to relax a little bit and be able to talk about our emotions because we’re not robots," he explained (via Twitter).
Prince William was the first future king to be born in a hospital
While Prince William’s brother, Prince Harry, has been known to be the rebel of the two royal brothers, it seems William was the first of the two to go against royal protocol. Back in 1982, Princess Diana gave birth to William in the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital, even though hospital births were uncommon for British royalty, as noted by Reader’s Digest. The royal family historically preferred to have home births: Queen Elizabeth II was born at her grandparents’ home in 1926, and all of the queen’s children were born in Buckingham Palace (via Town & Country).
Still, Diana’s sister-in-law, Princess Anne, broke tradition in 1977 when she had her first child in the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital (via Hello! magazine). Following in her footsteps, Diana also went to the hospital to deliver William, setting a new trend. Later on, William’s children would be delivered in the very same hospital as well. Meghan Markle also followed the new tradition of giving birth in a hospital, reports NBC, so it seems like William truly set a trend!
Prince William was reportedly happy when he and Kate Middleton split
Prince William married his longtime sweetheart, Kate Middleton, in a lavish royal wedding at Westminster Abbey on April 29th, 2011 — but the lavish royal wedding almost didn’t happen. The reason? William and Kate broke up once in 2004, and then again in 2007, as noted by Marie Claire.
It seemed the prince was happy to go his separate way after the second split. After the fateful break-up, William reportedly spent $9,000 at a nightclub where he yelled "I’m free," according to ABC News.
Still, William apparently had second thoughts because just ten and a half weeks later, William and Kate were spotted kissing at a party in Dorset; three years later, they were engaged. "We had a little private time away together with some friends, and I just decided it was the right time, really," William said of his proposal in an interview with Sky News. "We’d been talking about marriage for a while, so it wasn’t a massively big surprise, but I took her up somewhere nice in Kenya." Luckily, it all worked out for these two!
Prince William had a sneaky trick to stay incognito in college
With constant news coverage, film and TV representations, and lots of gossip, the royals are always in the spotlight. Prince William, in particular, has been in the public eye since he was a newborn, so it’s understandable that he’d like to get a little privacy every once in a while. Luckily, he had a system in place to help him fly under the radar while he attended University.
According to Hello! magazine, William’s friends at the University of St. Andrews would use the code name "Steve" when referring to the prince, when they didn’t want others to know who they were talking about. It was a sneaky way to avoid attention and may have helped the prince keep a low profile.
But the Duke of Cambridge isn’t the only royal to use a fake name; it appears William’s younger brother, Prince Harry, borrowed the idea from his sibling. According to Marie Claire, Harry used the name "Spike Wells" for an online profile. Harry’s alleged profile was active until as late as 2012, when he was photographed in Las Vegas partying, and the profile disappeared.
Prince William would be a police officer if he wasn’t in line to be king
Prince William was born to be king, but if he weren’t second in line to the throne, where would he be? In the book, Diana: Her True Story — In Her Own Words, royal biographer Andrew Morton wrote that a young William told his mother about what he’d like to do when he gets older. "When I grow up I want to be a policeman and look after you Mummy," William proclaimed. However, the prince was fated to inherit a different role, as a young Prince Harry was sure to remind him, saying, "Oh no you can’t, you’ve got to be king" (via The Sun).
Of course, William is still destined to take over the throne, and while it’s not clear if the royal feels he’s missed out on another career path, it seems he’s already poised and prepared to inherit the family business.
Prince William proposed with a ring he got from his brother
Prince William made headlines when he proposed to Kate Middleton with his mother’s stunning sapphire engagement ring, but some might be surprised to learn that the future king didn’t actually inherit the ring from his late mother. Instead, he was gifted the ring by his younger brother, Prince Harry. The Amazon Prime documentary, The Diana Story, reports that after Princess Diana’s death, her sons were both allowed to choose jewelry from her collection (via Marie Claire). The Sun added that, in a special letter, Diana wrote, "I would like you to allocate all my jewelry to the share to be held by my sons, so that their wives may, in due course, have it or use it."
Harry selected the sapphire engagement ring, but later decided to give it to his older brother when he was preparing to propose to Kate. As Paul Burrell, Diana’s former butler explained in the documentary, "Harry gave up his precious treasure. His one thing he kept from his mother, he gave to his brother. That’s selfless, kind and exactly who Diana was."
Prince William’s Royal Airforce friends played pranks on him
It may be hard to imagine playing pranks on the future king of England, but it turns out that some of William’s old friends from his days in the Royal Air Force did just that. According to Hello! Magazine, William’s former RAF colleagues often played friendly jokes on William, with one notable prank involving Kate Middleton. "We spent a few pounds on Kate and William memorabilia and strategically secreted it around the place, so he might find his own face on a cushion or see it on a cup when you give him a cup of tea," one workmate revealed.
Hopefully William enjoyed the prank and had a good sense of humor about the memorabilia. Still, it must be surreal for anyone, royalty or not, to have so much merchandise with their face on it, and so much weirder to have it all over their workplace!
Prince William had an unusual education for a future king
During his gap year, Prince William joined the Welsh Guards on exercise in Belize, went to Kenya, traveled to the Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues, and volunteered in Patagonia, South America. He then started his first year at St. Andrews University, as noted by the International Business Times. By 23, the Los Angeles Times reported the prince had earned a Scottish master’s degree, which is the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in the United States.
While one might assume every member of the British royal family would prioritize getting a top-rate education, it turns out that the Duke of Cambridge is one of very few British royals in recent history to get a degree, according Hello! magazine. The only other royals to earn a university degree are Princess Beatrice, who studied at the University of London; Princess Eugenie, who went to Newcastle University; and William’s father, Prince Charles, who went to Cambridge and made history when he became the first British heir to the throne to earn a university degree.
Prince William is left handed, and that affects his polo playing
Prince William is very active; from surfing to flying planes, it seems he can do just about anything. However, he has one unique trait that made one of his favorite sports, polo, much more difficult: William is left-handed, and in polo, players aren’t allowed to use their left hands. William reportedly had to learn how to play right-handed, but has proved to be a good player nonetheless, reports The Telegraph.
Fortunately, it seems William isn’t troubled by his right-handed polo playing. In fact, he sees his left-handedness as an advantage. According to Hello! magazine, William once joked that "left-handers have better brains" than right-handers.
It’s a good thing that William likes being a leftie, because as the Daily Mail reports, it seems that he’s passed the trait on to his oldest son, Prince George. The young prince, who’s third in line to the throne, has been seen favoring his left hand. According to a source who knows the royal, William is thrilled to see his son taking after him. Hopefully George will grow up to play polo as well as his father, too!