Prince William Is “Determined” That His Kids Will Have a Different Childhood Experience Than He Did—One “More Modern and More Ideal”

Royal kids though they are, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis are, after all, still kids.

Prince William
(Image credit: Getty Images)

During a recent visit to Wales, Prince William shared a rare comment about what he’s long referred to as his “Harry Potter scar”—a scar on his forehead from getting hit in the head with a golf club in 1991. Per People, William was being shown a golf tee made from seaweed by Pierre Paslier of Notpla while on a royal engagement, and, as Paslier put it, “He was looking at the prototype, and I asked him if he likes golfing. He injured himself famously as a kid and pointed to his head and said, ‘No golf for me.’ No golfing for him!”

Prince William in Wales

William visiting Wales earlier this month.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

On BBC’s Newsround, William said of the so-called “Harry Potter scar” that “I call it that because it glows sometimes and some people notice it—other times they don’t notice it at all,” he said. “I got hit by a golf club when I was playing golf with a friend of mine. 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.”

The story was widely publicized when it happened in 1991 because William’s father, then Prince Charles, prioritized work over staying in the hospital with his young son; Princess Diana, William’s mother, stayed by his side. Let royal biographer and editor-in-chief of Majesty magazine Ingrid Seward explain: “William was also acutely aware of the lack of his own father’s presence in his life, especially when things went wrong,” she wrote, per The Sun. “In 1991, he was accidentally hit over the head with a golf club when he was at school, and Diana was having lunch in her favorite restaurant, San Lorenzo. The call came through that William had been bashed on the head, and they thought he might die—so it was very serious. Both Charles and Diana rushed down to Ludgrove [where William was at school at the time]. William was taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital, and then to Great Ormond Street Hospital, and Diana went with him. But ever a man of duty, Charles prioritized his engagements. William is determined to do things differently.” 

Indeed, William has proven—especially recently, as his wife, the Princess of Wales, battles cancer—that his family is and always will be his top priority. He takes his three children Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis to school at Lambrook every morning, basically without fail. The three kids made their first-ever social media statement on Sunday, wishing their “Papa” a happy Father’s Day as they posed alongside their dad, backs to the camera, looking at a beach in Norfolk in a photo taken by their mother, Kate. Body language expert Judi James told The Mirror that it’s clear that William is determined for his kids to have a different life than he did, even though they, too, were born the children of the heir to the throne. On Father’s Day this past Sunday, William also posted a tribute to his own father, now King Charles, on social media.

“The contrast between William’s choice of pose to illustrate his own view of fatherhood and the pose he chose to celebrate his own father’s role in his life could hardly be stronger, suggesting that, although he appreciates the kind of upbringing he had, he is determined to forge something different for his own children,” James said. 

She added that William has taken experiences from his past to create a more “modern” family unit, and said that “William continually shows how he uses lessons from his past to forge the kind of family unit he sees as more modern and more ideal,” James said. “His understanding of duty and loyalty seems strong, but he is clearly also determined to create a more casual and playful life for his own children than he or his father were allowed to enjoy.”

William and his younger brother Prince Harry has both previously opened up about their difficult childhoods, not only growing up with the eyes of the entire world upon them, but also having to adhere to royal protocol, deal with their parents’ messy divorce (and, let’s be honest, often messy marriage)—so pervasive in culture that, while the boys were in boarding school at Ludgrove, they were banned from watching television because their parents were, well, everywhere. Then, of course, the death of their beloved mother, Diana, when William was 15 and Harry, just 12—and, deep in grief, walking behind her casket on the day of her funeral, the world entirely privy to their mourning. 

Princess Diana, Prince William, and Prince Harry

William is committed to his kids having a different upbringing than he and Harry did, with more of Diana's way of parenting infused than the stiff, formal style of parenting exhibited by many members of the royal family.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“There was the point where our parents split and we never saw our mother enough or we never saw our father enough,” Harry said in the 2017 ITV documentary Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy. “There was a lot of traveling and a lot of fights on the backseat with my brother, which I would win. There was all that to contend with. I don’t pretend we’re the only people to have to deal with that, but it was an interesting way of growing up.”

Back to this past Sunday’s Father’s Day photo with George, Charlotte, and Louis—James told The Mirror that the foursome having their backs to the camera is significant: “Photographed from the back view, they avoid actually communicating with the camera,” she said. “It suggests this is an intimate and loving moment caught rather than a ‘show pony’ one posed to please the viewer.” 

In a separate interview with The Sun, James further expounded that, in the photo, “William is very much the protector here, stretching both arms out to encircle his children in a ‘winged’ gesture, as though hiding them under his wings,” she said. She added that the photo is symbolic, and for George, Charlotte, and Louis “seems to signal the beginning of the end of childhood and the freedom enjoyed before the move into royal adulthood.” 

Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis at Trooping the Colour

George, Charlotte, and Louis joined their parents this weekend at Trooping the Colour.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The photo is also symbolic in the shift between royal fatherhood of the past and William’s way of doing it: “The casual and tactile theme of this pose shows a detachment from previous generations of royal dads,” James told The Sun. “While Charles and even [Prince] Philip [Charles’ father] were always shown playing with their boys wearing formal suits and with a hands-off approach or one hand even pushed into a pocket, William’s ‘winged’ embrace shows a desire to be casual, informal, and very much hands-on as a dad.”

Speaking to The Mirror about raising royal kids—as he was once a royal kid himself—royal biographer Robert Hardman said of William “We know they are a very tight family unit, and he wants to be there for them,” he said. “So much of what they do with those kids is about normalizing life and not making them feel like they are in a special gilded cage.” 

Prince William, Princess Diana, and Prince Charles in 1991

William alongside his parents in Wales in 1991 at his first royal engagement; he was eight years old.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

George—the heir to the throne himself someday—will turn 11 years old next month. William was just a tender eight years old in March 1991 when he carried out his first royal engagement in the U.K., accompanying Charles and Diana to Wales on St. David’s Day, complete in a mini-suit. While George accompanies his parents to some events, like, for example, Trooping the Colour this past weekend (along with Charlotte and Louis), his life as a young royal will look far different than William’s—and that is very much by design, royal expert Richard Kay said, per OK

“William has curated George’s appearances in a completely different way from the way his mother and father curated his,” Kay said. “William and Harry, particularly William, were thrust from a very young age center stage. William has taken a different view. He wants to protect [his children] for as long as possible, [and] give them some semblance of a normal childhood.”

It’s royal fatherhood 2.0—and it seems to be incredibly effective. 

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

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.