Get out, William, before it is too late

He is beginning to look less like a soft, pretty Spencer; he has acquired the horsey expression of the Windsors

At last William has admitted to having "anxieties" about the cruel, weird world of monarchy. Who wouldn't? Solely because of the tragedy of his genes, he is required to give up his freedom of religion, his freedom of speech, his right to choose a career, his right to vote, his privacy, his romantic and sexual freedom... you get the idea. And, thanks to the joys of monarchy, William - a randomly selected person who never chose to be a public figure - is a direct target for terrorists, and most of them aren't comedians. And yet - despite the very anxieties (stirrings of common sense, more like) that I have reported over the last year - he has now declared that "those stories about me not wanting to be King are all wrong... It's not a question of wanting to be [King], it's something I was born into and it's my duty."

William, you need to remember your gnawing doubts. Remember when you told your mother that she was "very lucky to be able to give up her HRH"? (Diana told Jennie Bond, an unimpeachable source). Remember when you refused to take the HRH title yourself when you turned 21, a stunning act of independence and rebellion? Remember when your mother told reporters that you "hate the press even more than I did when I first got into this family", that you "see them as the enemy"? And yet - you are not stupid - you know that once you start to play the royal game, the press will see you as their property until (no, including) the moment you lie dying. A royal is never free; you glimpsed that truth once. Remember your great-great-uncle, Edward VIII, who described his abdication as "a liberation". Remember.

Yet now William has been bashed into becoming a true Windsor, one of Them. He is even beginning to look less like a soft, pretty Spencer. The shots of him in Diana-like poses released a few days ago looked false; he has acquired the horsey expression so characteristic of the Windsors. The rebellious Spencer spirit that made him doubt his "fate" has trickled away, so far and so fast that now he speaks the arid language of "duty" like a pro. He has acquired the typical Windsor cackhandedness when it comes to Diana's specialist subject, public relations. Who on earth thought it was a good idea for William to have an "Africa-themed" party consisting of white aristocrats dressed in a mockery of African tribal gear? Immersed, to his great detriment, in that bizarre world, he seems to have acquired the Windsors' taste for the worst aspects of lingering White Africa. The monarchists have now inducted him fully into their ugly, offensive little culture. The gatecrasher dressed as Bin Laden must have seemed sane compared to the bowing, scraping madness of the Windsor family and the clique around them.

So what awaits William now that he is reconciled to this world? Perhaps murder at the hands of terrorists (both his father and grandmother have been shot at). Perhaps death as he tries to flee the ceaseless, tireless pack of photographers who will stalk him every minute of the day. (Would Diana would have been dashing through Paris at over 100mph if she had never become a royal?) Perhaps just a life of miserable "duty", doing nothing interesting, being hounded and photographed everywhere, seeing every woman he loves bullied and psychologically broken by a press that will never, ever leave her alone. That, realistically, is the best case scenario for him: a golden goldfish bowl of misery.

He has seen flashes of this already. For example, he admitted this weekend that his royal status nearly wrecked his time at university. It "crossed my mind", he says, to drop out: "I went home and talked to my father during the holidays and throughout that time debated about whether to come back... My father was very understanding about it and realised I had the same problems as he probably had." You will suffer all his problems, William, and then some. Press scrutiny gets more intense by the year - especially of a fit lad like yourself - and you have been given comparatively light treatment over the last few years. The piranhas will be dropped into your tank as soon as you graduate.

For too long, republicans allowed themselves to be portrayed as hating the royal family. But we are not the ones tormenting the Windsors; it is the monarchists who want to enslave them and republicans who want to set them free. Now the monarchists have indoctrinated and bullied William into accepting a fate that, as he admits in this weekend's interview, he does not actually want ("It's not a matter of wanting..."). The monarchists have taken his teenage rebelliousness and crushed it, so that he sees the miserable life awaiting him not as a choice but as a dull inevitability. The monarchists will gloat that they have successfully plucked the wings off this butterfly; republicans should shed a passing tear, as - I am regretfully certain of this - William will be doing soon enough.

j.hari@independent.co.uk

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