Destiny's Children

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The birth of a prince in 1982 raised so many questions: What colors will grace the royal nursery? What will he be named? (Bookmaker William Hill offered 1,000-to-1 odds on Canute or Björn.) Who will perform his circumcision? No one asked what he'd be when he grew up. Everybody knew. William turns 20 on June 21, and his brother Harry will be 18 in September. They may be fresh faces in an ancient monarchy, but their roles are largely preordained. Their life's work will inevitably be tied to the family business, and one can never fully resign from the Firm. Not when you're Charles and Diana's sons. Not when you're No. 2 and No. 3 in the line of succession. Not when the world has been talking about you since you were fetal. The princes grew up with much — privilege, adoration, even names (William Arthur Philip Louis and Henry Charles Albert David). Much of everything, that is, except privacy. "I like to keep my private life private," William said in 2000. Good luck. Careful control by St. James's Palace has helped, as has a deal with the media: we'll give you photo ops and you give us peace. In exchange for face time, say, at the start of a trip to Klosters, the pack let the royals ski (and après-ski) unphotographed and unhindered. The same has applied to both princes' stints at Eton and to William's time at Scotland's St. Andrews University. The protective bubble hasn't been totally impermeable, and you can't entirely blame the long lenses either. Boys will be boys, as reports of Harry's marijuana use and underage drinking show. But William and Harry haven't even started dating seriously yet. (Or has it been all hush-hush?) One wonders how long the media can show restraint on personal topics — and how that will impact two princes who believe the press played a role in their mother's death. Harry's wildness is seen by some as reassurance that the princes are pretty normal. Like Diana, William is more impulsive than he seems in public and has waffled about his studies, choosing art history, then switching to geography. He's adventurous, too; he got his motorcycle license earlier this year. Friends say Harry is "on the same wavelength" as his dad. He's now trying to pick between university and the army. Both brothers like sports, like techno music, use e-mail and enjoy an occasional alcohol-fueled night with friends. In other words, they're as average as one could expect from what writer Julie Burchill called "the maddest family since the Munsters." How long can that normalcy last? The princes' royal roles as unelected politicians serving often ambivalent constituents will only grow. William is in line for a life of Prime-Minister meeting, throne sitting and knight dubbing. That makes him, as Harry reportedly said, "the important one." But Harry should recall that twice in two centuries, Little Brother has risen to the top. Even if that doesn't happen, he shares the burden of preserving both the Crown's credibility and the family's reputation. Damage can be done, he knows, with little more than a puff of smoke. The princes will have to deal with their tasks — and "everyday" lives — under intense public scrutiny. And they know it. Says biographer Robert Lacey: "They have the most awful self-consciousness in terms of the watching lens." Long before paparazzi walked the earth, Queen Elizabeth I said that to "wear a crown is more glorious to them that see it than it is a pleasure to them that bear it." William and Harry would doubtless agree.