It’s no surprise that in the wake of Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan‘s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, the popularity of the House of Windsor took a major hit. The hashtag #AbolishTheMonarchy began trending immediately after the tell-all was broadcast on Sunday, Mar. 7 in the States and by Monday afternoon, there were 70,000 tweets calling for the end of the institution. But for those supporters of the monarchy, a new favorite has emerged. According to the results of the latest YouGov poll on the most popular royal in the U.K., the member of the family who’s earned the top honor, rising above even Her Majesty, is one they haven’t seen take the title in quite some time. Read on to find out who it is, and for more on what’s getting in the way of both sides coming to the table in the wake of the tell-all, check out The “Major Issue” Delaying the Royals’ Discussions With Harry, Insiders Say.
Prince William is now the most popular royal in the U.K.
According to the YouGov poll, Prince William edged out his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, to be crowned the most popular of the U.K. royals. The Duke of Cambridge received a 74 percent approval rating, followed by the Queen with a 72 percent rating and Duchess Catherine coming in third at 67 percent.
The seismic events that caused chaos in the Palace–and are playing out on television—have clearly shaped the current rankings. William has been the most visible member of the family since the COVID-19 pandemic struck Britain early last year. The prince has been a ubiquitous presence on Zoom, hosting countless talks with frontline workers and listening to teachers, parents, and caregivers as they share their experiences about the challenges they’ve faced during lockdowns. Sitting side by side with Kate, offering encouragement and praise from their home in Kensington Palace, the Cambridges have become a constant and comforting presence during these difficult times.
With the Queen unable to carry out most of her in-person engagements since deciding to self-isolate at Windsor Castle last March, William and Kate—along with Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall—were the first royals to return to work after some restrictions were lifted. One year later, William has assumed more of a leadership role within the family, which included being the first royal to respond publicly to the allegations of racism in Harry and Meghan’s interview. “We are very much not a racist family,” he told a Sky News reporter, who called out a question to the prince as he was leaving a London school visit with Kate earlier this month. And for more on who’s aligned with Kate since the Oprah interview, check out This Royal Stood by Kate After Harry & Meghan’s Tell-All, Says Insider.
Harry and Meghan’s popularity has dropped.
While the ratings look different among Americans, Harry and Meghan have seen their popularity plummet in the U.K. since their dramatic exit from royal life last year. Harry, who was for many years the second most popular royal, now ranks as eighth on the list with a 40 percent approval rating. Meghan came in at 11th place with a 32 percent approval rating and a sizable 40 percent negative rating.
And to see where things started to go wrong with Meghan and the royals, check out The Royals Made This One “Fateful Mistake” With Meghan, Says Insider.
The fourth most popular royal will likely surprise Americans.
As for the rest of the top 10, Princess Anne, who continues to carry out more official engagements than anyone else in the Royal Family, came in fourth followed by her father, Prince Philip in fifth place. Anne’s daughter, Zara Phillips, ranked sixth while Charles and Camilla ranked seventh and ninth, respectively.
Not surprisingly, Prince Andrew—who stepped away from his official duties last year after his disastrous BBC interview where he attempted to explain his friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and expressed no sympathy for his victims—ranked as the least popular royal with an approval rating of just six percent.
For a deeper look at how Prince William has risen through the ranks in recent years and how he plans to shape the monarchy in the future, read on.
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Once labeled “Workshy Wills” by the tabloids, William’s work as a rescue and air ambulance pilot forever changed him.
Ten years ago, the then-28-year-old newlywed prince was not ready to devote all his time to royal duties. He was committed to his work as a Royal Air Force rescue pilot and then air ambulance pilot, working from dawn to dusk while living with Kate in Anglesey, a tiny island off the coast of Wales. Two years later, the couple moved into Kensington Palace and began working as full-time senior royals.
William told the BBC in 2016 that he witnessed “some very sad, dark moments… on very traumatic jobs involving children” while working as an emergency pilot. The emotional toll was high and after he became a father, he decided to make a shift. “After I had my own children, I think the relation between the job and the personal life was what really took me over the edge, and I started feeling things that I have never felt before,” he explained at 2018 mental health conference.
His marriage to Kate has given him stability, love, and confidence.
Next month, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. The couple, who met at university in 2001, has settled comfortably into married life, balancing royal responsibilities with a growing family that now includes Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis.
Kate’s unwavering love and support, in addition to her ability to appear both regal and accessible, have given William a firm foundation for the future. “The Duke of Cambridge did not grow up part of a happy nuclear family,” a royal source told Best Life. “The scars from seeing his parents’ marriage implode firsthand and having to come to terms with their contentious divorce never fully healed. He wants to give his children the childhood he never had. He can do that with Catherine at his side. She has given him the stability of a strong family life, which clearly has given him more confidence in his role as future King.” And for more on Kate and William’s nearly 20 years together, check out William and Kate’s Most Adorable Couple Moments Through the Years.
William has embraced his destiny as future King.
Among the many shocking revelations that came when Harry and Meghan sat down with Oprah for their televised tell-all, one of the allegations that reportedly angered William the most was Harry saying that he was “trapped” by the institution. “My brother can’t leave that system, but I have,” Harry said.
In an extensive report in The Sunday Times, a friend of both brothers contradicted Harry’s claim, saying that William “has a path set for him and he’s completely accepting of his role. He is very much his grandmother’s grandson in that respect of duty and service.”
The prince is not content to be a “ribbon-cutter royal.”
William has never particularly cared for the purely PR-based activities that are a regular part of royal life. Instead, he chose to be a vocal advocate for mental health, the battle against racism in football, and homelessness. (He took up his mother, Princess Diana’s, patronage of Centrepoint, the U.K.’s leading youth homelessness charity). William has also emerged as a passionate environmental activist with his Earthshot Competition. A friend told The Times, “He values tradition and the need to go around the country, but he realizes he can make a difference beyond traditional royal duties.”
As King, William doesn’t intend to wade into the political fray.
According to The Times report, William admires the way his grandmother has stayed “above politics and is very much away from it.” The prince intends to follow suit. He was furious when the Queen was misled about suspending parliament and ultimately received an apology from Prime Minister Boris Johnson. William is in favor of having more of a behind-the-scenes influence. A friend told The Times that when William is King, there will be “more private, robust challenging of advice.” And for more on the struggle with politics in the Palace, check out Why the Royal Family May Not Stay Politically Neutral in the Future.
William has made peace with Harry’s departure and is moving forward.
At the height of the Sandringham Summit, where the terms of the formal exit agreement between the Sussexes and the Royal Family were hammered out, William reportedly told a friend, according to The Sunday Times, “I put my arm around my brother all our lives and I can’t do it anymore. We’re separate entities.”
In Oct. 2020, British historian Robert Lacey told Best Life even before Harry and Meghan’s Oprah interview that there may not be a reconciliation of the brothers. “I think William does not foresee any great chance for reconciliation,” Lacey said at the time. “William is a pragmatist. We’re seeing that now. He is moving ahead in the absence of Harry.”
Another source more recently told Best Life, “As heartbreaking as it is, William knows it is his duty to put the future of the monarchy first. Throughout his life, he’s had Harry at his side as the only person who could fully understand what lie ahead. That’s over. Harry has moved on and so has he. Hopefully, they find some way back into each other’s lives, but if it happens, that’s a long time off.” And for more on William’s future, check out The One Thing William Must Do to Save the Monarchy, Say Insiders.
Diane Clehane is a New York-based journalist and author of Imagining Diana and Diana: The Secrets of Her Style.