In a break from centuries of tradition, Prince George will not be expected to join the military before becoming King, multiple outlets report—and there is no bigger proponent of this than George’s father, Prince William, who wants his son to shape his own destiny, The Daily Mail reports.
“The second in line to the throne will be allowed to sidestep the usual stint with the Armed Forces if he wishes,” the outlet writes. “It would be a significant departure for the royal family, as the monarch is Commander-in-Chief of Britain’s forces. George’s father, uncle, grandfather, great-grandmother, and great-grandfather all served with the military, sticking to a centuries-old precedent.”
“The tradition of royals joining the Armed Forces, even for brief periods, lends crucial legitimacy to the monarchy,” writes historian Dominic Sandbrook. But, ahead of George’s tenth birthday this upcoming Saturday, a longtime friend of William’s said “In theory, there is nothing to stop George from pursuing a career as an astronaut, for example, if that’s what he wants, and then becoming King later. The rules are different now. He wouldn’t necessarily have to follow the old formula of going into the military and then royal life.”
This new school of thinking—to be able to shape one’s own destiny rather than just follow a path prescribed for them—extends to George’s younger siblings as well, the friend said: “So, could Charlotte qualify as a doctor, for example? I don’t see why not. It’s less of a fishbowl now than when William and Harry were growing up.”
Historian Hugo Vickers said this is significant because “it shows that times are moving on,” he said. “I’m all for people keeping up with the times, providing they don’t throw tradition out of the window. Maybe the military won’t prove to be the best course for Prince George, although I would hope that he might do something like the Duke of Edinburgh gold award instead, which is non-competitive. For King Charles, his naval service in the 1970s was very helpful. It showed the country that he was gainfully employed, and it was a role where he would not be using his title for commercial gain. Military service allows members of the royal family to have a sense of normal life, grants them a certain amount of freedom, and teaches them all sorts of timekeeping and presentation skills which prove to be important for royal duties. What clearly doesn’t work are those cases where members of the royal family go into commercial ventures. That always goes wrong.”
Just this past Friday, George went to the Royal International Air Tattoo alongside the rest of his family, where he was given the task of partially raising the ramp on a large C-17 transporter aircraft and, The Daily Mail reports, “was delighted to sit in the cockpit and ‘flick some switches.’”
It’s all a part of the Prince and Princess of Wales’ attempt to give George (and his siblings) as normal of an upbringing as possible—“which, it appears, includes the freedom to follow his own interests as he grows up,” The Daily Mail reports. A source close to the Palace said “If any of the Wales’s three children had a particular passion, then their parents would be happy for them to pursue it.”
“Military service is the last tradition that takes royal youngsters outside their sheltered lives of impossible privilege,” Sandbrook writes. But he also acknowledged “Times change, and institutions change with them…who can blame him if he would rather pursue a different vocation?”
Of the decision, General Sir Richard Barrons, former head of Joint Forces Command, said “I think the Armed Forces will think that’s a bit of a shame, but that’s all they are going to think.” And not all are in favor of the decision—“This is a very great change to the way it has always been done, and I think he should be told, ‘Sorry, you can’t choose,’” said royal biographer A.N. Wilson. “It does feel like a bit of a snub to the Armed Forces. There could be another way in which Prince George does a stint in the Army and then goes on to be an artist or a pastry chef or whatever interests him. On a point which may seem trivial, it is also helpful to have a uniform, otherwise we may as well have a President in a suit as our head of state.”
William trained at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and served in the Armed Forces for more than seven years. He was attached to the Blues and Royals regiment of the Household Cavalry and trained as a pilot at the RAF College, becoming a full-time pilot with the search and rescue team at RAF Valley in Anglesey, North Wales, The Daily Mail reports.
Harry also went to Sandhurst and joined the Blues and Royals. He carried out two tours of duty in Afghanistan and was the first member of the royal family to serve in a war zone since his uncle, Prince Andrew, who flew helicopters during the 1982 Falklands conflict. King Charles served in both the Royal Navy and RAF, and his father, Prince Philip, attended Britannia Royal Naval College and served on HMS Valiant and saw action off North Africa. Queen Elizabeth, then Princess Elizabeth, served with the Auxiliary Territorial Service during World War II, a part of the Army that women could join to carry out work that would free up men for front-line duties. She became the first female member of the royal family to serve on active duty and trained as a driver and a mechanic.
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Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.
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