Celebrations Fit For A King

On the eve of Prince William's 21st birthday, Britain is getting a taste of the next generation of the royal family: Father and son grilling hamburgers at a food fair in Wales.

It was a typical family moment, but in this case, Father is the Prince of Wales, heir to the throne of England, and the son is Prince William, next in line after his father.

They're a twin act now, Charles and William. In a carefully produced preview of coming attractions, the palace is trying to make them seem relevant in an age when royalty seems outdated.

So they popped with the rock band at a shelter for the homeless. For William, it doesn't seem too awkward. The problem for the palace is that William is far more popular than his father. So William hangs back up a bit, trying not to outshine his dad.

Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of "Majesty" magazine and author of a new book called "William and Harry," says the prince in his first outing was "fantastic."

She adds, "He has a natural ability to relate to people. That's really the main thing you need when you're a member of the royal family."

It's an ability, she says, he has inherited from both his father and his mother, the late Princess Diana. "I think he gets it from both sides," Seward says. "He makes a lot of fuss about not wanting to do this kind of thing, but when he does it, he does it superbly."

Seward notes it was Prince William who asked his father to come along on the visit to Wales. "They have a really close relationship. William is always teasing his father, and joking," she says. "But William just loves being with his dad. He feels more secure around him when he's doing something like this. But obviously doesn't want to upstage him. But it is William's day not Charles'."

At the shelter Prince Charles said, "All I can say is that he makes me feel unbelievably old. To know I have a 21-year-old son. I must say, I am extremely proud."

The innaguration of the Center for the Homeless was a nice touch, a reminder that Princess Diana once took William to see the homeless. In that way, William has some of his mother's magic.

Vivian Perry, a friend of the late princess, says, "He represents her in an uncanny way. In some ways, it is quite heart breaking when you see him do things which are so much her mannerisms."

The father-and-son visit to Wales was part one of the palace public relations campaign for Willam, royals doing their duty, duties that William would rather postpone as long as possible.

What Willuam he really enjoys is family games. If you're a royal, it's polo with his father and brother. And even this was part of the plaace campaign. After a recent game, the young prince explained what it was like to the camera: "I was trying to avoid being hit by so many sticks. People ducking. Sticks everywhere."

A just-released video shows them on their own turf and very much at ease with each other. The palace hopes this little PR exercise will make Britain's some what dysfunctional royal family seem more human.

But Perry is not sure about that. She says, "William is being manipulated. I think he's probably not aware of so - things that are done and said in his name. Lord help them when he finds out."

In reality, the next-in-line to the next-in-line to the throne does not need a lot of spin. Some stars are made; this one was born to stardom.

Prince William has made the list of "People" magazine's hottest bachelors. As for his desire to come to America after turning 21, Seward notes, "Both he and Harry love America. I think he will probably continue to do business studies or something like that there.

"But I don't think that if he wants to do that, the palace will stop him because it will only be for a period of time."

And when asked about the girlfriend situation, Seward says, "I think William does have a girlfriend, but he's not letting any of us know who she is. He thinks there's safety in numbers. He has a lot of girls around him."

Whenever a girl appears with him, such as Jessica Craig, who is a friend of his, this week, there is a media frenzy surrounding the young woman.

"It's very embarrassing," Seward says. "William knows this. So the real girl William has will never know about until he's ready for it."

The royal family is due to celebrate with a party for 300 Saturday at Windsor Castle with the theme of "Out of Africa."

Seward notes, "William is a great, great fan of Africa. He loves the wide open spaces. He's learning the language. It's a good idea for a party. Maybe he'll be a tribesman."

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