The Prince of Wales on stage inside the ground of Windsor Castle during the Coronation Concert on May 7, 2023

A version of this story appeared in the June 23 edition of CNN’s Royal News, a weekly dispatch bringing you the inside track on Britain’s royal family. Sign up here.

London CNN  — 

He’s heir to the British throne, is married to Catherine, Princess of Wales and is the father of a crowd-pleasing trio. But how much do you really know about the man who now holds the title of Prince of Wales?

Nine months after being elevated to the role, the royal – who celebrated his 41st birthday on Wednesday – sat down with the UK’s Sunday Times for a rare interview, opening up about what motivates him and the evolving direction of his royal duties. It was the first time since becoming heir to the throne that William had talked to the press, his first sit-down with a newspaper, and he didn’t shy away from some of the harder questions thrown at him.

The crux of the interview was his efforts to combat homelessness in the United Kingdom – an issue to which he’s long devoted himself, and one that was perhaps rooted in his childhood by his late mother.

William’s take is that there is a lot of misunderstanding and judgment over how an individual can end up sleeping rough. In fairly plain-spoken remarks, he makes it clear that he doesn’t think the current approach of managing the issue works and that focus should be on prevention.

“It’s not insurmountable, this challenge. If anyone does become homeless (we can say), ‘OK, here’s the way back, here’s the pathway’. We can visualise that and we can show people that there is a way to do it,” he says.

Some may argue it’s easy for a person of privilege to spout ideas and criticisms. But over the years, William has committed to helping tackle the homeless crisis in whatever way he can.

William sits with residents Gary and Marc during a visit to London homeless charity The Passage on February 23, 2023.

We’ve seen first-hand the numerous times he has used his platform in a genuine and meaningful way to raise awareness about the challenges faced by homeless people. In 2009, he even spent a night sleeping rough on London’s streets to experience the realities for himself. He’s supported various charities and often tries to volunteer (even if it’s not always possible to go under the radar).

In the Sunday Times piece, William teased an upcoming major project multiple times. Without getting into the specifics, he said, “it’s bringing all wonderful people and pieces together of the puzzle” and “from that, we can then get other councils in other parts of the country to copy. It’s about momentum.”

He said he wasn’t trying to interfere with government policy, arguing “my plan is an additive to what is already being done.” There was even a suggestion that royal land could be used for affordable accommodation in the future – a criticism the family has often faced given the vast amount of land they own, including numerous properties. When asked if there were any plans for housing using his Duchy of Cornwall land, the heir showed an openness to the idea but wouldn’t be drawn on a timeframe.

“Absolutely. Social housing. You’ll see that when it’s ready. I’m no policy expert, but I push it where I can,” William said.

When you speak to people surrounding the Waleses these days, they often point out that the couple’s more recent campaigns are heavily focused on making a lasting impact, and it’s likely William’s upcoming project will have that in mind, too. What we’re seeing is the future King and Queen evolving royal duties beyond simply ensuring they are visible, in order for causes to resonate with the public.

William and Kate carry takeout pizza boxes as they visit Dowlais Rugby Club in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales on April 27.

One takeaway from William’s rare newspaper interview is how confident he is in the direction of his work. It’s clear that he has mapped out a vision for making the Prince of Wales role his own after inheriting it from his father, and he’s eager to get going, now that the ceremonial events, like last weekend’s Trooping the Color and this week’s annual Order of the Garter ceremony are in the rear-view mirror.

He also didn’t sidestep more potentially awkward topics, such as his family. Instead, he showed he was well aware that the perception of the Windsors had taken a hit in recent years.

“We’re all very busy and I think it’s hard sometimes to see what the family bring and what we do,” he said in the interview. “But the amount of causes, the interests, the dinners, the meetings, the visits, whatever it is, that we do day in, day out, throughout the year, we’ve always been involved in that. It’s part of what we do. It’s trying to spotlight other causes, other people, other interests, and help people where we can. We’ll continue to do that.”

His forthright remarks will go down well with royal-watchers, but for many in Britain, who continue to battle a cost of living crisis, they’ll want to see action as well as words. Nonetheless, it was a strong start for the future King to remind people that the monarchy is more than pomp and pageantry.