World·Royal Fascinator

His parents are keen to protect his privacy. But Prince George's public profile is on the rise

While Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales, are diligently trying to protect the privacy of their three children, the profile of their eldest child, Prince George, appears to be on the rise, particularly in the past few months.

Second in line for the throne has become more visible in recent months

A young person smiles while sitting on steps beside a stone wall.
Prince George sits on stairs at Windsor Castle in Windsor, England, in a photo released to mark his 10th birthday on July 22. (Millie Pilkington/Kensington Palace/The Associated Press)

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For much of the past decade, the opportunities to see Prince George have been relatively few and far between.

While his first media appearance came in the glare of photographers gathered outside the London hospital where he was born on July 22, 2013, glimpses of the eldest child of Prince William and Catherine, Princess of Wales, have since been carefully controlled.

Photos — some taken by his mother, some by other photographers — have routinely been released for his birthday, just as took place again last weekend, when he turned 10. Beyond those pictures, however, there haven't been many chances to see the boy who is second in line to the throne.

Still, there is a sense that as much as William and Catherine are keen to protect the privacy of their three children, George's profile is on the rise.

"While William and Catherine are fiercely protective of their children's privacy, George is assuming a greater public role in recent months," Toronto-based royal author and historian Carolyn Harris said via email.

A baby wrapped in a blanket wiggles their fingers.
Prince George keeps his eyes shut tight during his first public appearance on July 23, 2013, the day after his birth at St. Mary's Hospital in London. (John Stillwell/Reuters)

Fate may have its hand in how often we've seen him since late last summer.

"I think the unexpected death of [Queen Elizabeth] accelerated things considerably," Judith Rowbotham, a social and cultural scholar and visiting research professor at the University of Plymouth in southwestern England, said in an interview.

"It meant that for both personal as well as public reasons, all three children — but above all George — needed to be visible at the funeral."

Two children walk in front of a fence.
Prince George, left, and Princess Charlotte leave Westminster Abbey in London on Sept. 19, 2022, after the state funeral of their great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth. (Hannah McKay/AFP/ Getty Images)

Eight months after that funeral, George was in the spotlight again, as a page to his grandfather, King Charles, at his coronation in Westminster Abbey.

There has long been a sense that George's parents intended to be deeply involved in raising their children. 

"William, Catherine and their three children are a close family who spend a great deal of time together," said Harris, author of Raising Royalty: 1,000 Years of Royal Parenting.

George has gone on royal tours with his parents, including to Canada in 2016.

William and Catherine also often reduce their schedule of royal duties during school holidays to spend time with their children, Harris said. 

Some differences have emerged between George's upbringing and that of his father and grandfather.

"While Charles and William enjoyed a close relationship with their respective parents, they were sent to boarding school at a younger age than George," Harris said. 

Adults hold children at a garden party.
Prince William, second from right; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, second from left; Prince George, centre; and Princess Charlotte, left, watch as a man inflates balloons at a children's party at Government House in Victoria on Sept. 29, 2016. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

"Charles was often separated from his parents for months at a time while they undertook extended Commonwealth tours. Both Charles and William attended boarding school from the age of eight, while George, at 10, remains a day student and is able to spend more time with his parents."

There has also been media attention and speculation on what comes next for George, with reports that he and his parents were spotted at Eton College, the elite private school his father attended not far from Windsor Castle.

Another recent report suggested George won't be expected to serve in the military before becoming King.

That spawned some discussion about the extent to which George might be breaking with tradition; his father and grandfather had stints in the military, but other monarchs further back in history did not. 

A man walks with a boy.
Prince George, second from left, and King Charles, right are seen before his coronation at Westminster Abbey on May 6. (Jamie Lorriman/The Associated Press)

While there was no official announcement on this, Rowbotham saw it as a deliberate move to leak the story and get the idea that George will have a choice into the public domain.

"He's not going to have any pressure put on him. If he wants to [serve in the military], he can. If he doesn't want to, then fair enough," she said. "I think it was very shrewd to get it out of the way now, rather than eight years on, when he's looking at university."

Rowbotham, who considers that George is being "very carefully and very cleverly raised," sees it as significant that this signal has been sent now, coming in the aftermath of the Queen's death, the ascent of Charles and other issues swirling for the monarchy, such as the possibility of more Caribbean countries moving toward republican status. 

"It's an important part, I think, of trying to indicate that the monarchy is not old-fashioned, traditional, inflexible," Rowbotham said.

Still, it would come as little surprise if George did opt for time in the armed forces.

Two children and two adults stand inside a large military aircraft.
Prince George, left, Prince William and Princess Charlotte, right, visit the Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford on July 14 in Fairford, central England. (Chris Jackson/AFP/Getty Images)

"While Prince George may not be required to undertake military service, he will likely choose to do so, as so many members of the Royal Family have close links to the military and/or the navy," Harris said.

Harris expects George will likely have a "great deal of freedom" in his studies and early career.

But pressures may mount from other sources.

"There are fewer working members of the Royal Family than in the past and George may be encouraged by the wider Royal Family to assume patronages and undertake royal duties from a young age," said Harris.

A child sits beside an adult who is pointing something out to them.
Prince William, right, chats with Prince George in the royal box ahead of the Wimbledon men's singles final at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London on July 10. (Matthew Childs/Reuters)

As much as there has been the recent flurry of chatter over George's military prospects, Rowbotham finds it interesting that his upbringing isn't otherwise being used to send signals to a wider community. Beyond that, there isn't a lot more to note about George at this point. 

"We know he's good at sport," said Rowbotham. "We know he enjoys art. What else he's good at, time alone will tell."

Meeting the King

You know how it goes — you meet someone but don't remember something you'd been hoping to say.

That's what happened for Chief Stacey Laforme, of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation, when he met King Charles in Edinburgh earlier this month.

"I know he has an affinity for protecting Mother Earth. I know he has an environmental track record. And so I wanted to tell him something I started telling people here in Canada, which I thought would be beneficial, but I forgot," Laforme said in an interview.

"It was [that] instead of thinking of climate change as a problem to be solved, think instead of Mother Earth as a soul to be saved. If we can do that, we can change everything. And I think somebody like him who's interested in that would have appreciated that perspective, right?"

Laforme was part of a delegation from the Mississauga Nation in southern Ontario that met Charles during a very damp and rainy garden party at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. At Charles's instigation, members of the delegation spoke with the monarch for the first 15 minutes or so of the two-hour event, with conversation touching on treaty, the wildfires in Canada and other issues.

"All in all, I'd say it was a very good visit based on relationship-building and historic alliances, and I look forward to building more relations and bridging more gaps and coming together on common ground," Laforme said.

A person holding an umbrella and top hat speaks with other people wearing Indigenous dress.
King Charles, left, greets guests from the Mississauga First Nation during a garden party at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh on July 4. (Jonathan Brady)

It was the first time a delegation from the Mississauga Nation had met with the monarch since Nahneebahwequa (Catherine Sutton) met with Queen Victoria in 1860. 

"From a historical point of view, I thought it was quite significant at the start of the reign of Charles III" and reinforced his previously stated high priority on reconciliation, said Nathan Tidridge, a friend of the Mississauga Nation who organized the trip.

Tidridge, who is also first vice-president of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada, says "time will tell" what comes from the meeting between the delegation and King Charles.

"We're kind of in uncharted territory here where there's this kind of reassertion of rights and evolutions in the Crown's role that are going on," he said.

"I think we're in a really unique time, where the Queen was this kind of a symbol of stability, a beacon of … stability, that steady hand. And I think we're going to be in the same territory with William [when he is King] because William is very much his grandmother's grandson. But Charles has always been an active participant in the world and his passions really do align with the passions of the world."

Laforme said it's difficult to put into words what he hopes could come of the relationship with the Crown, but he sees potential for many opportunities.

A person talks to another person holding moccasins near a riverbank.
Prince Charles, then Prince of Wales, takes part in a discussion with local experts on the impact of climate change in Northern Canada and the importance of Indigenous-led initiatives during a visit in Yellowknife on May 19, 2022. (Jacob King/Getty Images)

"I would like to see an ambassador [of the Mississauga Nation] in the U.K. It makes perfect sense for us who are treaty holders to have a nation-to-nation relationship with the Crown," he said.

Laforme said he's "very aware" there would be impediments to ambassadorships or things of that nature. 

"But I do think that education and understanding, for not only the Crown and for the people of the U.K., is vastly important because they do not really, if I understand correctly, have the understanding of the rich history, the culture of the Indigenous people and the relationship with the Crown — the good and the bad and the ugly that occurred over time.

"And I think they should have that and , you know, I would like to do my best to also … engage with them and start telling them the story of some of the history that's part of them as well."

During the meeting with the King, there was some talk of future visits; Tidridge said Charles spoke of looking forward to travelling to Canada next year.

But whether Indigenous issues would be a significant focus of any trip remains unknown.

"The question now becomes … will the Canadian government allow that to happen? Right, because … a trip to Canada can only happen under the invitation of the Canadian government and they are in control" of the agenda, said Tidridge.

Members of the delegation have one more get-together on their agenda. Next Tuesday, Ontario Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell will hold a dinner for them in Toronto.

"She's going to host us for a meeting and a discussion on our trip," said Laforme.

The murkiness of royal money

A procession with a horse-drawn carriage approaches large gates leading into a forecourt in front of large stone building with rows of windows and a second-storey balcony.
Funding from the Sovereign Grant covers royal expenditures, including the Royal Family's official duties, travel and maintenance of royal residences. (Peter Nicholls/The Associated Press)

On the surface, it seems simple enough. 

The U.K. Treasury offered an update the other day on the Sovereign Grant — the funding that looks after such things as the Royal Family's official duties, travel and maintenance of royal residences. 

According to the report, the grant will be reduced to 12 per cent — down from 25 per cent — of the net profits of the Crown Estate, a land portfolio that includes large areas of central London, along with some of the seabed around the U.K.

The cut comes as the Crown Estate is seeing record profits from offshore wind farm revenue.

Charles had already signalled a desire to see those profits go to the public.

"I think they've seen that there's value to be on the front foot with all these things, instead of reacting," Craig Prescott, a constitutional law expert at Bangor University in Wales, said in an interview.

"And it ties in with a broader strategy, perhaps, where we've seen the King make contributions to food banks … open up some buildings at least for warm homes and Prince William's work on homelessness."

People speak with one another beside a greenhouse.
Prince William visits Newquay Orchard on Nov. 24, 2022, in Newquay, Cornwall. Newquay Orchard is a 2.8-hectare urban green space located on Duchy of Cornwall land, which provides environmental education, employability training and community events. Net income from the Duchy of Cornwall goes to William, the heir to the throne. (Hugh Hastings/Reuters)

All this, however, doesn't exactly translate into a loss of money for the Royal Family.

In 2024, the Sovereign Grant is to stay at 86.3 million pounds. However, the Guardian reported, in 2025, Charles's public funding is projected to rise by 38.5 million pounds, to 124.8 million pounds. The following year, it will increase to 126 million pounds.

"While the percentage of funds allocated to the Royal Family has been reduced, the total funds accessible to the Royal Family have increased because of the value of the investments in the Sovereign Grant's portfolio, especially the offshore wind developments," Carolyn Harris said.

"The Sovereign Grant does not allow for the funds accessible to the Royal Family to be reduced, but changes to the percentage prevent a dramatic increase that is out of keeping with public opinion and the needs of a smaller working Royal Family."

Those needs aren't solely supported by the Sovereign Grant. King Charles, as monarch, owns the Duchy of Lancaster, a portfolio that includes land, property and financial investments. The net income from the Duchy of Cornwall goes to Prince William, the heir to the throne.

"Just what that actually pays for is never quite set out in the same way because the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall are both treated as private estates, whereas the Sovereign Grant is treated as public money," said Prescott. 

Four people smile and talk with one another in a garden.
Prince William visits the Duchy Of Cornwall Nursery to open a restaurant on July 10 in Lostwithiel, United Kingdom. (Hugh Hastings/Getty Images)

"So you have this fundamental confusion or overlap between what's public and what's private, which, of course, is the monarchy in the nutshell."

Some of these questions are really quite difficult questions of constitutional law, Prescott said. 

For example, in order for the monarch to own the Balmoral and Sandringham estates, an act of the British Parliament had to be passed to allow a monarch to own land in their private capacity.

"So you can soon start to get into some very, very tricky territory," said Prescott.

"This could be clarified. I think it's in the monarchy's interest to clarify a lot of these things. But it would require co-operation from Parliament to do it. And … this is very technical stuff that is not a political priority."

Royally quotable

"It looks just like my husband."

— Queen Camilla, as she shares a joke with King Charles over a pie that bore a curious resemblance to him at the Sandringham Flower Show.

Royal reads

  1. Prince Harry's legal war against British tabloids suffered a blow when a court ruled there had been no secret deal between Buckingham Palace and Rupert Murdoch's newspaper group over phone-hacking claims. However, Harry can take some of his lawsuit against News Group Newspapers to trial. [CBC]

  2. Buildings, parks, pubs or businesses cannot be renamed after the late Queen Elizabeth without permission and will be allowed only if they are "dignified and appropriate," the U.K. Cabinet Office said. [The Guardian]

  3. The quirky royal tradition of counting swans on the Thames River began for the first time under the insignia of King Charles. But the historic census revealed a 40 per cent drop in the number of cygnets compared to last year. [BBC]

Two people hold a cygnet and swan alongside a river.
David Barber, the King's swan marker, poses with a cygnet and a swan that are captured to be measured and checked during the annual Swan Upping on the Thames River in Staines, west of London, on July 17. (Henry Nicholls/AFP/Getty Images)

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Janet Davison is a CBC senior writer and editor based in Toronto.

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