Prince William’s Plans for the Future of the Royal Family Leave Veteran Royal Correspondent “Worried About the Future of the Monarchy”

William has an apparent “model for the future” of the Firm—and it may not be what royal followers want to hear.

Prince William closeup
(Image credit: Getty)

It is no secret—and hasn’t been for some time—that King Charles was in favor of what has been called a “slimmed-down monarchy” for his reign: a much smaller group of working royals during his time as King, as compared to the number of working royals when his mother, Queen Elizabeth, was on the throne.

King Charles at Trooping the Colour 2024

The King, seen here at Trooping the Colour, has long been a proponent of the "slimmed-down monarchy."

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Well, by choice or by force, the King has gotten his wish—with the resignation of Prince Andrew because of his association with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and his own accusation of sexual assault, and because of the step back of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the “slimmed-down monarchy” is even more slim than previously anticipated. With the health scares of 2024—meaning that, for much of this year, the King himself and the Princess of Wales were out of commission, as both were diagnosed with cancer earlier this year—the monarchy has never felt more bare bones, and the once-full Buckingham Palace balconies of Her late Majesty’s reign have been replaced with the sparsely populated balconies of King Charles, as evidenced during occasions like Trooping the Colour earlier this month.

King Charles at Trooping the Colour 2024

The Buckingham Palace balcony appearances of today (like the one above, seen at Trooping the Colour earlier this month) are much more sparsely populated than those of yesteryear.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While the “slimmed-down monarchy” concept is thought to be a desire of Charles, it has remained largely unknown what his successor, Prince William, will do when it is his time to take the throne. After a garden party last month where he invited cousins Princess Beatrice, Princess Eugenie, Peter Phillips, and Zara Tindall to join him for a very rainy occasion, speculation mounted that, like Queen Elizabeth before him, William might employ the help of his cousins as he carried out his duties as monarch one day. But, not so, The Daily Mail’s Richard Eden wrote—and the veteran royal reporter was left worried about William’s plans for the future.

Eden wrote that “the junior royals were asked not to join the more senior members of ‘The Firm’ on the balcony” for Trooping the Colour, a decision Eden disagreed with. Eden wrote that the Buckingham Palace balcony had been “left with the wide empty spaces” that would previously have been filled with the “smiling faces of younger royals”; Eden wrote that “It would be a mistake for William to continue with his plans for a radically slimmed-down monarchy,” especially in light of Harry and Meghan’s departure, he continued. “Instead, he should ask his cousins, such as Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, Lady Louise Windsor, and the Earl of Wessex, to share the burden with him when the time comes,” he added.

After all, Eden said, “Queen Elizabeth, who asked her own cousins to help her carry out engagements, showed that the monarchy is stronger when it’s a team effort.”

Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie

Unfortunately for us, it doesn't seem as though William is keen to employ the help of cousins like Beatrice and Eugenie, seen here.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In speaking to a friend of William's, Eden found that this, apparently, is not in the Prince of Wales’ future plans: “What he told me left me worried about the future of the monarchy,” Eden wrote. “The friend said William was in ‘full agreement’ with his father about the need for a ‘slimmed-down monarchy.’ He told me, "When the older members of the family retire, His Royal Highness won’t be inviting anyone else to become working royals.’” Then, the bombshell—“It remains to be seen if he will even want his two younger children to be working royals,” referring, of course, to Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

Eden continued that, “At 59, the Duchess of Edinburgh [Sophie] is the only other member of ‘The Firm’ under the age of 60,” he wrote. “This means that, by the time William ascends the throne, he and Catherine may be the only full-time royals.” But, apparently, “That is what William wants,” the source told Eden. “He sees the small European monarchies as the model for the future.”

According to Tatler, “The Prince of Wales has long believed that ‘the royal family has to modernize and develop as it goes along, and it has to stay relevant,’ as he once said in an interview,” the outlet writes. “He seeks his own way of being relatable, of benefitting everybody, in the context of an ancient institution undergoing significant challenge and upheaval, as the head of a nation divided by hard times, conflicts abroad, and social and political uncertainty.” The publication added that “As parents, William and Kate aspire to raise their children ‘as good people with the idea of service and duty to others as very important,’ William said in an interview with the BBC in 2016. ‘Within our family unit, we are a normal family.’” This line of thinking may, indeed, coalesce with the idea that, while he wants to emphasize the importance of “service and duty to others” to Charlotte and Louis (as well as, obviously, Prince George, who is heir to the throne), that doesn’t mean that that “service and duty to others” has to play out specifically within the confines of the monarchy. 

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

George's future is set in stone, but Charlotte and Louis may not be working royals in the future, Eden wrote.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

William just turned a year older last Friday, and “So much is on William’s shoulders as he turns 42,” royal author Christopher Andersen said, per OK. “It really is rather staggering.” He added that “William also realizes that he is the only one who has to reassure the children that this is just a rough patch, and their mother [the Princess of Wales, who is receiving treatment for cancer] will get through it—not to mention their grandfather, who the children know is also suffering from cancer,” Andersen said. “William could not have been a more devoted husband than he has been to Kate. That’s ever more evident in the way that he has stepped up to reassure the children and, at the same time, take up some of his father’s duties while Kate is undergoing chemotherapy.”

But William—as he likely will do in the future with his own apparent “slimmed-down monarchy”—has stepped up to face the bumps in the road of 2024 head on, royal biographer and The Crown historian Robert Lacey said, per E! News. “The double illness has placed enormous pressure on William, both as a parent and inheritor of the family business,” he said. “It has brought all kinds of challenges. He [has handled] it with calmness and lack of drama.” 

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.