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Prince William: A future king 'clinging onto a sense of normality'

By Mairi Mackay, CNN
  • Prince William's university tutor describes him as a "regular" guy
  • Despite his position, William wants to be treated normally, says royal writer Katie Nicholl
  • His grandmother, The Queen, has an estimated fortune of $450 million
  • William has, in the past, been accused of abusing his position and leading a party lifestyle

Editor's note: "CNN Presents: The Women Who Would Be Queen," a special documentary on Kate Middleton, Prince William's wife-to-be and his mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales airs at the following times: Saturday 23 April: 1100, 1900, 1200, Saturday 30 April: 1300, 2000, Sunday 1 May: 0900 (all times GMT)

London, England (CNN) -- The thing that struck Charles Warren about Prince William, second-in-line to the British throne, when he first met him was how "regular" he was.

"William, in almost every regard, was just a regular student," says Warren, a geography lecturer at the University of St. Andrews and William's tutor from 2001 to 2004.

"William has always struck me as a very personable, level-headed young man, which is very remarkable, given the background he's had," he added.

Warren was among a small group of students and teachers, including William, who went on a geography field trip to a remote part of Norway in June 2004.

"We were at the end of a very long dead-end road in the middle of absolutely nowhere," remembered Warren. "Tiny community in a campsite, completely away from the world's media."

"You could tell he was completely relaxed," he added. "He was completely himself. He let his hair down.

William has always struck me as a very personable, level-headed young man.
--Charles Warren, William's tutor at University of St Andrews

"He told all kinds of wonderful stories about, you know, behind the scenes in the royal family, and things that almost went wrong."

"(He) didn't appear to be carrying any of the cares of the world, at all, in the way that he sometimes appears (to) ... when the world's media, the massed ranks of the media are looking at him."

Born in London in 1982 to Prince Charles, first in line to the British throne, and Diana, Princess of Wales, William was never going to be far away from the media glare.

Yet, in spite of this, William wants to be treated as normally as possible, according to Katie Nicholl, Royal Correspondent of British newspaper the Daily Mail and author of "The Making of a Royal Romance."

"He doesn't want to be addressed His Royal Highness, or Prince William, just William," she said. "He tries not to wear a suit when he doesn't have to. He doesn't want staff -- these are all measures put in place and implemented by him."

Nicholl says William is very much his mother's son in this respect. "Diana wanted to be addressed as Diana, not Princess of Wales," she added.

Diana -- and Charles -- also wanted William and his younger brother, Harry, to have as normal an upbringing as possible and to be "educated at a school where they could be mixed in with other children," Nicholl said.

William's first school was Mrs. Mynor's Nursery School in multiracial Notting Hill in West London. Ken Wharfe, Diana's former bodyguard, remembers William's first day well.

"Even at that age, four or five, just as old as William was, he was very concerned about his mother's relationship with the photographers.

"Diana's relationship with her children was quite unique," added Wharfe. "It was a very, very close relationship for a host of reasons."

Prince William through the years

Not least that her marriage to Charles was not working. By the time William was 14 and at exclusive boarding school Eton College, Charles and Diana's marriage had broken down irrevocably and they divorced. The next year, Diana was killed in a car crash in a Paris underpass.

"Losing his mother, something so difficult to come to terms with, meant he grew up very quickly," Nicholl said, adding that William is often described as having a very wise, old head on his young shoulders.

Now working as an RAF search and rescue pilot in Wales, William is reluctant to be given any special dispensation on the job, according to Nicholl. His colleagues refer to him as Flight Lieutenant Wales and he is currently working a 30-36 month tour of duty just like any other pilot.

In 2008, however, William controversially used an RAF Chinook helicopter to fly to his cousin Peter Phillips' bachelor party, stopping off to pick up Harry on the way. At the time, the British Ministry of Defence defended the £9,000 ($15,000) flight as a legitimate training exercise.

If he wants to, he can fly his Chinook helicopter and land in his girlfirend's back garden.
--Katie Nicholl, Royal Correspondent, Daily Mail
Prince William's life in pictures

"He was born into enormous privilege," conceded Nicholl. William's grandmother, The Queen's fortune was estimated at $450 million in the 2010 Forbes Rich List.

"Money, palaces, luxury," Nicholl added. "And if he wants to, he can fly his Chinook helicopter and land in his girlfriend's back garden, or at the stag do (bachelor party) of his friend. He can because of who he is."

Prince William has also, in the past, been accused of leading a party lifestyle. In 2007, during his much-publicized break-up with bride-to-be Kate Middleton, who he met at the University of St Andrews in 2001, William was photographed leaving London bars looking disheveled.

Stories about the prince carousing at London's upscale nightspots, notably Mahiki, and his enjoyment of expensive cocktails, circulated in British newspapers.

When William and Kate got back together after a few months in 2007, the stories of his partying melted away and since the announcement of their engagement in November 2010, the couple have been seen carrying out more official engagements.

After the couple are married, they will live on rural Anglesey for a few years, where William will finish his tour as a pilot.

They'll probably pop out for the odd dinner, William might go out for a beer with his RAF buddies -- maybe the couple will start a family.

"He's a boy born into extraordinary circumstances," said Nicholl. "It's his way of clinging onto a sense of normality before he takes on the top job."