There was a point where the British royal family was an absolute scandal machine. Remember the Charles/Camilla/Diana love triangle and the subsequent infidelities? Or going even further back, the Wallis Simpson affair? And we absolutely can’t get enough of the rich and the powerful betraying, backstabbing and divorcing one another. But surely the same fate won’t befall Wills and Kate? It seems that the world really does adore these two, and they’ve managed to drag the monarchy kicking and screaming into the 21st century. That’s why it’s so worrying to people that Prince William is so often seen without his wedding ring.
And while Prince William may belong to a British institution that’s frequently seen as backwards and stuffy, his romance with Kate Middleton was anything but. It wasn’t the miserable pushing together of people that his parents Charles and Diana had suffered through; it was something new.
Prince William met Middleton in 2001 at the prestigious University of St Andrews, where they shared the same dormitory building. And the pair soon discovered that they had lots of shared passions, including a love of traveling and sport.
Perhaps more important, though, was that they also shared a love of their own privacy. Indeed, William wasn’t the party prince that his younger brother Harry would turn out to be: he preferred to spend time on his own going swimming or cycling. What’s more, Middleton was also a quiet, even shy sort of person.
It wasn’t long, however, before the two fell in love. The trouble is, though, it’s very hard conducting a romance if you’re a member of the Royal Family… and it’s even harder being the object of a royal’s romance. In 2005, moreover, Middleton’s lawyers got in touch with newspaper editors in an attempt to get the paparazzi to stop harassing her.
Obviously, that wasn’t the first nor the last time that the media would disrupt the lives of Prince William and Middleton. But this was a particularly hurtful problem for the Prince: in 1997 his mother Princess Diana died in a car crash as she fled the paparazzi. And in a way, she had been running away from them her whole life.
In April 2007, then, it appeared as if the building pressure became all too much for Middleton. And after Prince William relocated to a British Army camp in Dorset, England, the couple split up. “It’s a surprise, because it had seemed very stable and very steady,” said Nicholas Witchell, the BBC’s royal correspondent, at the time.
But, as we all now know, that wasn’t the end of the story – not by a long shot. Indeed, mere months after separating, Prince William and Middleton got back together again. Regardless of the pressure on them – and there was a lot of pressure – it seemed as though the loved-up pair were determined to make it work.
Soon, then, Middleton was an accepted part of the royal family’s lives. And though the Prince was kept busy training with the Royal Air Force, it was a given that there would be a wedding before long. Prince William duly proposed in October 2010 while on a trip to Kenya to celebrate success in a helicopter course. And he gave her what was surely, despite his vast wealth, one of the most valuable items that he owned: the engagement ring that was once worn by his mother.
Middleton’s beautiful ring was on display throughout the engagement, and it was also very much on display when the couple wed in a much-anticipated, much-watched ceremony in April 2011. She also added a stylish yet simple wedding ring to her finger, accompanying her engagement ring. But what about Prince William? Where was his ring?
Spurred on by a media presence that watched the couple’s every move, people soon became very interested to know why Prince William didn’t wear his ring. Was it something to do with royal protocol? Or – way worse – was it a sign that he didn’t really love the new Duchess of Cambridge?
But, in fact, the answer is much less complex. The reason Prince William doesn’t wear a wedding ring is simply because… he doesn’t like rings. “It was something the couple discussed, but Prince William isn’t one for jewelry,” a palace aide explained in 2011.
Indeed, it’s a rare occasion where Prince William is spotted sporting any form of jewelry. The Prince – second in line to the British throne – does occasionally wear a watch. However, unlike his father, he won’t even sport a signet ring – something which has long been a symbol of the British aristocracy.
And on first glance, it actually seems like Prince William’s father Charles doesn’t wear a wedding ring, either. But he does – he just wears it on his left pinkie finger, which is a royal tradition that dates back to the days of Queen Victoria.
Of course, it’s possible that there could be practical reasons for the Prince not wearing a ring, too. After all, he now works for the East Anglian Air Ambulance as a helicopter pilot. And though pilots are not typically part of the ambulance medical team, it’s still good practice to keep rings away from medical environments.
Ultimately, though, William choosing not to wear a ring means very little. He’s devoted to his wife, and that’s what counts. Indeed, in the years since the wedding it appears as if his affection for her hasn’t wavered in the slightest, and vice versa.
And, as is more or less expected of a royal couple, they’ve expanded their family by two. In 2013 the Duchess gave birth to Prince George, third in line to the British throne. And in 2015 she had a daughter, Charlotte – middle name Diana – who is fourth in line.
What’s more, there’s no doubt that the romance between Prince William and Middleton has helped modernize the royal family quite a lot. For example, after their wedding, Commonwealth leaders changed the royal succession law so that a female firstborn child of Prince William could also inherit the throne.
Similarly, other signs of change are on the horizon, too. In October 2016, for example, it was announced that Prince Harry’s new girlfriend Meghan Markle is a divorcée. Last century, he wouldn’t have been able to marry her. But now, Prince William and Middleton – who was, after all, a “commoner” – have set the groundwork for royals being able to marry whomever they wish.
So William choosing not to wear his wedding ring is, in fact, no bad thing. If anything, it’s symbolic of the fact that the royal family is changing and beginning to embrace the individual choices of its members. And surely that can only be positive progress.