Newsflash: Prince William has a holey jumper

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After two years of reluctantly keeping their telephoto lenses and notebooks under lock and key, the nation's royal newshounds can at last reveal the tantalising details of Prince William's private life they denied themselves for so long: that he cannot paint, wears a holey jumper and is learning Swahili.

This, with stunning insights into the prince's habits such as his preference for cider over beer and liking for R&B, was the fruit yesterday of a frenzied media bidding war for a tête-a-tête with William that cost one tabloid editor his job.

In a pooled interview with the Press Association news agency to mark the end of his second year at St Andrews University, he is cast as a down-to-earth undergraduate who is called "Will" by his friends and whose chief distinction is captaining the water polo team.

Summing up his university career thus far, he said: "The exams are the tricky bit but once they're out of the way, the rest is a lot of fun."

The carefully orchestrated snapshot of William's student life, which includes a spread of 16 photographs, is the payback from St James's Palace for a ceasefire agreement with the media to allow the prince and his brother, Harry, to complete their education unhindered by reporters and photographers. In return, there would be official photo opportunities and access to William at St Andrews.

But then the editor of the Daily Record announced earlier this month that he had got an exclusive interview. The claim led to a furious response from St James's Palace and the Record's competitors.

Within days, three Sunday newspapers had published unauthorised photographs of William and the interview offer was withdrawn in favour of PA. Peter Cox returned from a holiday last week to find he had been replaced by the editor of the Scottish edition of The Sun.

In his interview, William revealed that he was considering abandoning his history of art course to specialise in geography and is trying to teach himself Swahili. He said: "I love the people of Africa and I'd like to know more about them - and to speak to them."

The prince, who was wearing a plum-coloured jumper with holes in the right elbow and under the arms, said he admired his father's watercolours. "I am about the biggest idiot on a piece of canvas," he said.

In the meantime, bridling Fleet Street editors will not have long to wait for their next royal payday. A "wider-ranging" interview will be given in time for William's 21st birthday on 21 June.