Homelessness and long-term unemployment aren’t problems we generally associate with the royals, who’ve been born into a job for life and enjoy all the security, grand palaces and state dinners that come with privilege.
That might explain the surprise of London’s commuters on Wednesday, when Prince William popped up on the city’s streets, selling copies of the Big Issue magazine.
The publication covers homelessness and housing, and is sold by rough sleepers and other people below the breadline as a way of making a weekly income.
“My brother in law was in London today and saw a celebrity, so he took a photo at a distance,” retired police officer Matthew Gardner wrote on LinkedIn. “The celebrity saw the ‘covert surveillance’ effort and crossed the road to investigate further.”
He added that William whipped out a card machine when his relative told the prince he had no change to hand.
“What an honor to have a private moment with our future King who was humble and working quietly in the background, helping the most needy,” Gardner said.
The pictures posted by Gardner and other Londoners quickly went viral, and became the best possible PR the royals could have hoped for since … well, the weekend’s triumphant jubilee celebrations.
The contrast between these two events gave the images added potency. On Sunday, we saw Prince William on the balcony of Buckingham Palace next to his grandmother, waving regally to a sea of subjects. And the next week, he was incognito on the streets, selling magazines for loose change.
When CNN contacted Kensington Palace to ask about William’s stint as a Big Issue seller, staff declined to add anything. This wasn’t a story they were pushing. Was that part of a strategy? Guerrilla palace PR? Or, was he simply caught out while volunteering?
Prince William posed for pictures after he was spotted selling a homeless charity magazine in central London on June 8. (Vitalijus Zuikauskas via Storyful)
Either way, the importance of the cause to William was perhaps rooted in childhood. His mother, Diana, took him and brother Harry to homeless shelters after dark when they were young.
It was an issue close to the princess’ heart and one to which William has also committed as part of her legacy. In 2009, he spent a night sleeping rough on London’s streets to experience the realities of homelessness for himself.
These experiences would have provided valuable insight into the problem of homelessness, which has been rising in recent years. More than 274,000 people are homeless in England, including 126,000 children, according to research published by charity Shelter in December last year. Some 2,700 people are sleeping rough on any given night, the charity says, while many families are in unsuitable temporary accommodation.
“We’re flooded with calls from families and people of all ages who are homeless or on the verge of losing their home,” Polly Neate, chief executive of Shelter, said when the data was released.
The cost-of-living crisis hitting British families at the moment could worsen the situation. And by spending time in the “real world” after a weekend of pomp and ceremony at Buckingham Palace, William showed he can remain in touch with the people who will one day look to him as their monarch.
William’s undercover volunteering will have provided good PR, but that may not have been the intention. For the second in line to the throne, the experience was probably about making himself a better future King.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
Prince Harry’s libel case in court
Prince Harry’s libel case against a newspaper publisher, which relates to a story about his legal battle with the UK’s Home Office over personal protection, was heard in a London court on Tuesday.
Harry is suing Associated Newspapers Ltd., the publisher of the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, over stories written by the outlets. Harry is separately engaged in legal proceedings with the Home Office, seeking the right to pay for police protection while he’s in Britain. The prince has frequently criticized media coverage of himself and his wife, Meghan, and has previously sued publishers for claims made in their stories.
Queen’s tea with Paddington Bear gets rave reviews
Even at 96, the Queen can still spring a surprise. A highlight from the weekend’s jubilee celebrations was the comedy skit the monarch recorded with the much-loved children’s character Paddington Bear — and the daughter of the creature’s creator said her “whole family are still buzzing” from the reaction.
Karen Jankel, whose father, Michael Bond, wrote the books that made Paddington a household name, told PA Media: “It really, really was such an honor” to have the character included in the festivities. The sketch saw the Queen have afternoon tea with Paddington, even producing a marmalade sandwich from her handbag.
‘Sugar high’ behind Prince Louis’ cheeky facial expressions
In a weekend of celebrations for his great-grandmother, it was 4-year-old Prince Louis who stole the show during the jubilee pageant. William and Kate’s younger son displayed some elaborate facial expressions during the pomp and pageantry, which ensured he quickly went viral.
And now we know what prompted the sassy youngster’s exuberance: “There were a lot of sweets out back there, so (William and Kate’s children) had complete sugar highs,” explained former England rugby star Mike Tindall, who is married to the Queen’s granddaughter Zara Tindall and sat behind Louis during an event. “As any parent knows, you just do what needs to be done” to get young children to behave during lengthy events, Tindall said on his podcast “The Good, The Bad and The Rugby.”
DID YOU KNOW?
Prince Charles hands David Attenborough his second knighthood
Environmentalist David Attenborough headlined a bumper investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle on Wednesday, picking up his second knighthood from fellow conservationist Prince Charles.
The prestigious Knight Grand Cross was bestowed upon the 96-year-old broadcaster, and he was pictured beaming in the grounds of the castle after the event.
Best known for making nature documentaries such as “The Blue Planet,” Attenborough is considered a national treasure in the UK. In 2019, he set up the Earthshot Prize with Prince William, which aims to inspire innovative solutions to the most pressing environmental challenges facing the planet.
As part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations, Attenborough delivered a message about climate change and the planet, which was projected onto the front of Buckingham Palace.
William also spoke during that segment of the Platinum Party concert, telling the crowd about “visionary environmentalists” around the world, and praising his father and late grandfather, Prince Philip, for their work on protecting the natural world.
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex have shared a picture of their daughter, Lilibet, celebrating her first birthday in Windsor amid the weekend’s jubilee festivities.
Lilibet Diana Mountbatten-Windsor is shown in this photo on her first birthday.
The eighth in line to the throne turned 1 on Saturday, during the family’s trip to London for the Queen’s celebrations.
Lilibet was named after the nickname given to the Queen by relatives and close friends when she was a small child.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“What a fantastic weekend of celebrations. Seeing people across the nation coming together with family, friends and loved ones has been extremely special … We all had an incredible time, especially Louis.”
– Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge
William and Kate reflected on the jubilee weekend and gave a nod to the antics of their youngest child.