It was my first visit to Jordan, as it was for Prince William. I was there to cover his official visit to the Middle East and he was being hosted on this leg of the trip by Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II. Both are destined to be king, both have English grandmothers and both attended the prestigious Royal Sandhurst Military Academy in England. They also share a love of football, as demonstrated by a picture posted by The Crown Prince on his Instagram feed where we see them enjoying a World Cup Match together.
Then, exactly the same picture from William's Instagram account but with an additional wide-shot showing Prince Hussein's 'man-cave’ - as the British tabloid press dubbed it - complete with mega-widescreen TV and baseball mitt seat.
I’m not sure how much strategy went in to the co-ordination of the two royal Instagram feeds but both men clearly felt the picture worked for their respective audiences. Both princes already focus much of their work on young people which is the generation they will carry to the throne. Constitutional monarchs are only there by virtue of their public support so they need to start building that up whilst they are heirs. They will only have the clout they will need eventually if they stay relevant. Here’s an extract from my book where I weigh up how William is doing that:.
‘Our grandparents, The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, had made support for charity central to their decades of service to the nation and the Commonwealth,’ The Duke of Cambridge told the Royal Foundation forum. ‘The task for us would not be to reinvent the wheel. Instead, our job was to follow the example of those who had come before us, to hold on to the values that have always guided our family, but also to seek to engage in public life in a way that was updated and relevant for our generation.’ In other words, to continue the conversation his grandmother picked up on.
William gave a demonstration of that ‘updated’ monarchy when he left hospital with his wife and new born son and heir, Prince George, in July in 2013. He had his sleeves rolled up and carried the car seat himself, clicking it in to position before driving off with his new family. That doesn’t sound extraordinary but just a generation ago, when Prince Charles did the same thing with William as a baby he wore a suit and tie and took the back seat of the car as a chauffeur drove them all off.
I interviewed William a couple of weeks after George’s birth at Kensington Palace. He was still in that exhausted yet elated stage of early fatherhood. ‘I blubbed for about half an hour when George was born,’ he told one of the producers. ‘It was ridiculous.’
I then asked him about his approach:
William: Where I can be, I am as independent as I want to be, same as Catherine and Harry. We’ve all grown up differently to other generations and I very much feel if I can do it myself, I want to do it myself. And there are times when you can’t do it yourself and the system takes over or it’s appropriate to do things differently. But, I think driving your son and your wife away from hospital was really important to me. And I don’t like fuss, so it’s much easier to just do it yourself.
Me: And you didn’t stall.
William: I didn’t stall; well it’s an automatic so it’s alright.
Me: The interpretation of the imagery we saw there, which went around the world, was that this was a modern monarchy and a new way of presenting the monarchy, but was it that? Are we reading too much into it? Is it just you doing it your way, you and your wife doing it your own way?
William: I think so; I’m just doing it the way I know, you know. If it’s the right way, then brilliant, if it’s not, if it’s the wrong way, then I’ll try to do it better, but, no… I’m reasonably headstrong about what I believe in and what I go for, and I’ve got fantastic people around me who give me great support and advice.
Crown Prince Hussein is younger than William and even more expressive, as evidenced by his Instagram feed. For a start he posts with his own handle, rather than the palace. Then, as you scroll down you see him climbing...
Striking a goal...
Out on a military excercise...
Addressing the United Nations...
Or, just chilling out on the sofa...
These are all things young people can imagine doing themselves or aspire to do and crucially, he's being himself, or appears to be. He certainly looks personable and that appeals to younger people who are his target audience because they are the ones he will eventually rule over.
Knowing who to target is key to developing your clout. They are the ones who can help achieve your ambition. It affects what you say, how you say it and which platform you use.
These two future monarchs may have their lives mapped out for them but they can't take their destinies for granted. They need to start building their clout now and they know it.