The Transformation Of Prince William From 2 To 40 Years Old

On June 21, 1982, a prince was born — and what a life he has lived since then! The prince in question is none other than His Royal Highness Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, more commonly known as Prince William, who has received the royal treatment since he was only an infant (like he is here, at 2 years old). Born to Princess Diana and the then-Prince Charles (now King Charles III), a young William simultaneously grew up "normal" while also being raised to one day take over the British throne.  

Of course, even though one is born into royalty, that doesn't mean they know everything about royal life immediately, and William has spent much of his life learning about what it takes to be king. From the moment he was born, he was thrust into responsibility, as he was just third in line to the throne, behind Queen Elizabeth II and his father. And his responsibilities only grew in September 2022, when he became Prince of Wales (and the heir apparent to the British throne), after his grandmother's death. 

From childhood to adulthood, through good times and tragedy, William has embraced his royal life and duties, making him fit to rule someday. But what has shaped him into the man he is today? Let's take a trip down memory lane and relive some of Prince William's most crucial moments throughout his life.

Growing up royal

When you're born into the most famous royal family in the world, your childhood is probably going to look a little different than most. Because Prince William is a direct heir to the throne, his childhood was especially filled with royal training and public appearances, though he took pretty well to it.

Unlike King Charles III, who was left at home when Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip would go on commonwealth tours, William was along for the ride with his father and Princess Diana — he even went with them on a tour to New Zealand when he was less than a year old (per Hello!). By 1984, two years after William's birth, Prince Harry was born and joined the family on tours and royal duties at a young age as well.

Because Diana was determined to raise her sons as normally as possible, she opted to send them to Wetherby School in Kensington, as opposed to bringing in a governess to teach them in the palace, reported History Extra. Per the same publication, William also recalled how "informal" his mother was in a documentary that commemorated her death: "She understood that there was a real life outside of palace walls." This "real life" took place in the form of vacations, days out, and also trips to visit sick people, which Diana considered to be an important glimpse into life outside of the royal bubble.

A 1991 head injury left Prince William with a scar

You may have noticed that Prince William has a scar on his forehead just above his eyebrow. This mark is the result of a childhood injury with an interesting origin story. 

During an interview for CBBC's "Newsround," William opened up about how he earned the Harry Potter-esque scar during a game of golf in 1991. "Yeah, we were on a putting green and the next thing you know there was a seven-iron and it came out of nowhere and it hit me in the head," he said, revealing that a golf club caused the injury (via the Daily Mail).

AP News reported that the injury was so severe that William had to undergo surgery due to a skull fracture, so it seems that his golfing buddy hit him pretty hard. However, a spokesperson from William's school shared that there was no ill intent involved. ″No one was being nasty or unkind to Prince William," they said, per AP News. "He is a very much liked boy here at the school.″ The outlet also reported that both of the then-8-year-old's parents were by his side as he recovered from the injury.

Princess Diana's death deeply affected Prince William's life

On August 31, 1997, an immense tragedy rocked the royal family: Princess Diana died in a car accident (per History). Though she and the then-Prince Charles had officially divorced the year before, her death came as a shock to people across the world, as many publicly mourned Diana, who had famously been dubbed "the people's princess." While the public mourned Diana, there were two people who arguably mourned her more so than anyone else: Prince William and Prince Harry. At the time of Diana's death, William was only 15 years old and Harry was only 12. Though the young princes had to put on brave faces for their mother's funeral, there was plenty of mourning that went on behind the scenes.

In the HBO documentary "Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy," William and Harry opened up about losing their mother at such young ages. In particular, William expressed how hard it was to cope with her being gone. "It's like an earthquake has just run through the house and through your life and everything," William explained in the doc, via Town & Country. "Your mind is completely split."

Despite such a loss, William also used his late mother's strength to get through his grief: "Slowly, you try and rebuild your life, and you try and understand what's happened, and I kept saying to myself that, you know, my mother would not want me to be upset."

His father's affair strained their relationship at first

The highly publicized affair involving then-Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles shocked the world, but more importantly, the scandal affected Prince William and Prince Harry's relationship with their father. In 2021, a source told People that Charles and his sons had never been close. "There has always been this complicated relationship with their dad," they said. "It's not a straightforward father-son relationship. He is their father and their boss, and they are beholden to him to fund their offices and lives." This source did not blame the affair for the strained relationship, but an article from The Telegraph revealed it was a source of tension amongst the family.

Royal author Penny Junor told the outlet: "Diana shared an awful lot of her misery with William. He knew that Camilla was the woman who caused her to be so unhappy — yet equally he knew that Camilla was the woman who made his father happy, so it was extremely difficult for him."

William had to watch his father begin a new life with Bowles after his mother's tragic death, so it is perhaps no surprise that he was reportedly initially upset with his father. However, William and Charles were able to repair their relationship over time, becoming closer as William got ready to take over his father's offices and titles. The relationship between Harry and Charles, though, has only worsened over time, exacerbated by his marriage to Meghan Markle.

Students gave Prince William a hard time at Eton College

As a teen, Prince William attended England's exclusive Eton College. The prestigious institution has a number of notable alumni, including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, actor Tom Hiddleston, and Prince Harry, among many others. Eton College is an important part of England's history, as it was founded by King Henry VI in 1440 and was originally intended to provide "70 poor boys" with a high-quality education, according to its website. The school's historical significance was likely a motivating factor in the royal family's decision to enroll both William and Harry. While Eton College provided William with a top-notch education, it turns out that his peers sometimes gave him a hard time.

During an appearance on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen," actor Eddie Redmayne revealed that he attended Eton College with William, and the prince was targeted during rugby games. "I always felt a bit sorry for him because basically any school you played, all they wanted to do was tackle Prince William in order that they could say 'I tackled Prince William,'" Redmayne told Cohen. "So if you were standing next to Prince William like I was, it was actually quite easy and quite fun." 

Despite being bothered by his starstruck peers, William seemed to enjoy his time at Eton College. Photos show that the prince spent time cooking and studying in on-campus housing.

He attended the Royal Military Academy

Prince William's time at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst was part of his duties as a British male royal heir, according to USA Today. He attended the military school after graduating from Scotland's St. Andrews University. William reflected on his days as a student when visiting the Royal Military Academy for the annual Sovereign's Day Parade in 2018. 

During his stop at the academy, William issued awards and gave a speech. There may have been some surprise among students when they discovered that the prince could relate to their experiences. "It is almost 12 years ago to the day that I stood where you are," William said during his speech (via USA Today). "I remember the deep sense of pride that came from passing out of one of the finest military academies in the world as well as wanting a short speech delivered so I could march off the parade square that little bit quicker!"

Humor aside, William went on to stress the importance of the academy. "The friendships forged will last a lifetime and you will have been fortunate enough to have shared experiences with people from many different backgrounds, countries, cultures, and religions," he told students. It appears that the Royal Military Academy really stuck with William because his wife, Kate Middleton, shared that he told her all about his time there.

He served in the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy

In 2009, Prince William served in both the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy as part of his royal duties. He became a search-and-rescue pilot and participated in a total of 156 search and rescue operations after earning the title of Flight Lieutenant Wales, per Newsweek. In a statement shared to the royal family's website in September 2010 (via Express), William stated: "I am really delighted to have completed the training course with my fellow students. The course has been challenging, but I have enjoyed it immensely. I absolutely love flying, so it will be an honour to serve operationally with the Search and Rescue Force, helping to provide such a vital emergency service." This was just after William had completed his training, and he went on to serve in the military for over seven years.

William later used the skills he learned in training to take on a role as a helicopter pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance. He stepped down from this position in 2017 and later opened up about the life-changing job in an editorial piece he wrote for the Eastern Daily Press. "I have watched as incredibly skilled doctors and paramedics have saved people's lives," the prince penned. "These experiences have instilled in me a profound respect for the men and women who serve in our emergency services, which I hope to continue to champion even as I leave the profession."

Prince William gets his new leading lady, Kate Middleton

While many people can't imagine Prince William without his wife, Kate Middleton, by his side, the royal couple were once merely strangers who attended the same university. As any royal fan knows, the two would date for years before becoming engaged and eventually marrying in one of the most iconic weddings of all time.

According to Town & Country, William and Kate both attended the University of St. Andrews after enrolling in 2001, and the two began dating and were even roommates at one point. After a brief breakup in 2007, the couple got back together, and by 2010, they announced their engagement. "We had a little private time away together with some friends, and I just decided it was the right time really," William explained in the couple's engagement interview.

By 2011, William and Kate married in a grand, extravagant, and very public wedding at Westminster Abbey. After their marriage, Queen Elizabeth granted them the titles of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, thus solidifying their status as one of the most famous couples in the world.

Having kids was 'life-changing' for Prince William

After Prince William and Kate Middleton wed in 2011, fans of the royal family eagerly anticipated when the couple might start a family. On July 22, 2013, William and Kate's first child, Prince George, was born to celebrations across the world. In 2015, Princess Charlotte joined them, and in 2018, the couple rounded out their family with Prince Louis.

As any parent knows, having children is a life-changing event, and it definitely affected William. During a discussion for the BBC documentary "Football, Prince William and our Mental Health," William got candid about fatherhood and how much his kids have changed his life (via Town & Country). "Having children is the biggest life-changing moment, it really is," he explained. He also talked about how the emotions surrounding his mother's death came up when his kids were born. "I think when you've been through something traumatic in life ... the emotions come back, in leaps and bounds," he said.

Fortunately, William and Kate have adapted to parenthood together, making it easier on them both. "Me and Catherine particularly, we support each other and we go through those moments together and we kind of evolve and learn together," the prince explained of raising his three young children.

Prince William helped launch a mental health awareness campaign

Prince William, Kate Middleton, and Prince Harry joined forces to launch Heads Together in 2016. The campaign aims to normalize conversations about mental health and raises money to bring new mental health resources to life, according to the campaign's website. The U.K.-based organization has created tools like the Mentally Healthy Schools, which is a website that provides teachers with resources to help them support their students' mental health in the classroom. William, Kate, and Harry's involvement in this campaign was groundbreaking, because the royal family has a history of maintaining secrecy surrounding their personal struggles.

William was especially dedicated to Heads Together and even opened up about his own mental health struggles at the Davos World Economic Forum (per The New York Times). "When I started feeling issues myself, it was from my air ambulance work," he said. "I was dealing with a lot of trauma on a day in, day out basis, stuff that your body is not programmed to deal with, there's just no way it is. For some reason, we're all embarrassed by emotions — British people, particularly — we're very embarrassed by revealing our emotions." William also shared that celebrities didn't want to get involved with Heads Together because of the stigma around mental health. However, people were more receptive to the campaign once they understood its potential.

He's spent years working on environmental and wildlife preservation

Mental health awareness is just one of the many causes Prince William is passionate about. He has also been vocal about his environmental and wildlife work over the years. Along with Kate Middleton, William launched The Earthshot Prize, an organization that awards innovators who develop climate change solutions. According to the Royal Foundation's website, The Earthshot Prize was inspired by President John F. Kennedy's Moonshot, which was part of his plan to put the first man on the moon.

William seems to be just as passionate about animals as he is about the planet, because he's also spoken about wildlife conservation. In August 2022, the prince shared a statement about wildlife poacher Moazu Kromah, who had been sentenced to 63 months in prison for "trafficking related to endangered animals," per Vanity Fair. "This is a significant victory and a landmark case," William said in a statement shared by the Royal Foundation. "For over a decade, its complexity has been skilfully met by a global alliance of international law enforcement agencies, governments, NGOs and private sector organisations, including a number of brilliant United for Wildlife partners." 

Although the prince has been praised for his efforts, some of his past comments regarding wildlife preservation in Africa have sparked controversy. For example, his speech during the 2017 Tusk Trust Ball led many to accuse him of pushing population control.

Prince William's dad dancing caused a stir

You might remember when a video of Prince William "dad dancing" in a nightclub went viral in 2017. The hilarious clip captured William with his hands up in the air while dancing to "I Got 5 On It" by Luniz. Social media users couldn't get enough of the video and appeared to enjoy seeing the typically tame royal finally let loose. One Twitter user shared: "Prince William dad dancing in a club is just the funniest thing of 2017 so far." Another wrote: "I don't care what anyone says, Prince William is a dude with exceptional moves. Looks like he was having a blast and good for him."

If you're wondering what the prince was doing in the nightclub in the first place, The Sun reported that he was on a ski trip in Switzerland at the time the video was filmed. Interestingly, the Daily Mail alleged that Kate Middleton stayed behind with the kids while William was instead accompanied by a group of friends — and a mystery woman he was photographed acting familiar with. 

The 2017 night out wasn't the only time we've seen the prince showcase his dance moves, either. He was also spotted dancing at a memorial concert held for his mother in 2007, according to Cosmopolitan. The event included performances by a number of musicians including Lily Allen, P. Diddy, and Pharrell Williams, to name a few, but it was Nelly Furtado who got William moving.

Queen Elizabeth's death changed his life

The death of Queen Elizabeth II changed Prince William's life. He not only had to deal with the immense grief of losing his grandmother, he also had to face the shift in the royal family's line of succession, at which point he became responsible for the duties of the heir apparent, the Prince of Wales, and the Duke of Cornwall. 

William opened up about the life-changing loss in a touching statement. "So much will be said in the days ahead about the meaning of [the queen's] historic reign," the statement read in part, per Today. "I, however, have lost a grandmother. And while I will grieve her loss, I also feel incredibly grateful. I have had the benefit of The Queen's wisdom and reassurance into my fifth decade. My wife has had twenty years of her guidance and support. My three children have got to spend holidays with her and create memories that will last their whole lives."

William's father became King Charles III following the queen's death. According to the BBC, he will not be formally crowned until the coronation, a ceremony that requires a great deal of preparation, so it will not be held anytime soon. Prior to being crowned, Charles released a statement following his mother's death. "My Mother's reign was unequalled in its duration, its dedication and its devotion," he shared in part (via Reuters). "Even as we grieve, we give thanks for this most faithful life."

He became the Prince of Wales

Prince William took on many new titles following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Not only is he now the heir apparent, the first in line to become the next British monarch, he was also named the Prince of Wales by his father, King Charles III, making Kate Middleton the Princess of Wales. 

A statement from Buckingham Palace revealed that the husband and wife are taking steps to live up to their new titles. "The prince and princess look forward to celebrating Wales's proud history and traditions as well as a future that is full of promise," the statement read (via the BBC). "They will seek to live up to the proud contribution that members of the Royal family have made in years past."

William received an impressive inheritance from his father after he took on his new role and that of the Duke of Cornwall. According to CNN Business, the prince received the $1.2 billion Duchy of Cornwall estate, which spans nearly 140,000 acres. This private estate originally belonged to King Edward III and was established in 1337. The duchy's website reveals that revenue from the estate is given to the duke and his family and is also used to fund charity efforts.

Despite obstacles and drama, Prince William is forging on

Prince William has lived quite a life so far, and a very public one, too. From tragic events like the death of his mother to happy events like his marriage to Kate Middleton and the birth of their children, William has gotten through big milestones with calmness and class.

Of course, his life hasn't been drama-free. Ever since his brother, Prince Harry, stepped back from the royal family with his wife, Meghan Markle, William and the rest of the royals have been under harsh speculation, especially after Harry and Meghan's tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey. According to Us Weekly, William feels that Harry is "putting fame over family," especially after the interview, which has left the brothers in a tense relationship. Despite presenting a united front during the mourning period following Queen Elizabeth II's death, the two still remain on tense terms.

Throughout the family drama, William has always put duty first, and it seems that he will continue to do so. As someone set to inherit the throne, William has grown up under a microscope, though he has always appeared polished, poised, and eager to maintain the dignity behind the monarchy. In the next few decades, William will become King of England, and many people who have watched the prince grow up are very interested to see how he will choose to lead.