CNN hopes for a royal boost with the documentary “Prince William‘s Passion: New Father, New Hope,” premiering on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
The man focus of the film is the Duke of Cambridge’s enthusiasm for conservation in Africa — he popped to the question to the former Kate Middleton, his now-Duchess, during a safari in Kenya — sparked in childhood by stories his mother, the late Princess Diana, told of visitng the continent.
Now, the oldest son of Diana and Charles, Prince of Wales, has become a parent himself, with the July 22 birth to of princeling George to him and his wife.
U.K.-based CNN anchor Max Foster, also the cablenet’s official Royal Correspondent, has long followed the saga of William and Kate, including their spectacular wedding on April 29, 2011. Now he’s snagged the first interview with the prince — who’s second in line to the British throne, after his father — since the baby arrived.
“Even at the hospital,” says Foster, speaking to Zap2it from his home in the U.K., “everyone was asking questions about George. It’s not just about Kate anymore; it’s about George as well. It’s interesting.”
Having gotten to know Prince William a bit, Foster was eager to introduce him a little more to the public. The interview didn’t happen immediately, but it was worth the wait.
“I don’t think that people had a real sense of him,” he says, “largely due to his wariness of the media. But I wanted to really show that side of him on camera. We’re very strong on conservation on CNN International, and I saw that he was particularly passionate when he was talking about Africa.
“So I very quickly fine-tuned my interview bid for Prince William on conservation in Africa, and that was a couple of years ago. I’ve been following up on that ever since. Of course, you hope that the interview, if you do get it, falls at a time when there’s a newsworthy event as well.
“I was quite lucky. He chose this year to talk about the Africa foundation, and he chose me to talk about it. Then he was happy for me, obviously, to ask some baby questions as well, because I was under the impression I might get a couple of answers.”
It also helped that the chat took place in a congenial location and at a propitious time.
“It was in his garden,” says Foster, “so he was in an environment that he felt comfortable with. He was less than two weeks into fatherhood, and I recognized in him that sense of elation was still there, and also tiredness.
“It was very clear that him and Kate are hands-on parents, doing the nappies. They are experiencing it, certainly at that point, in a way that other parents are experiencing it. It does completely consume your world, so I think there were less distractions about him as well.
“I just tried to make it a conversation. I got rid of my notes and leant forward and tried to engage with him, to get the real Prince William out of him, because I knew it was in there. You see it a lot in private, but not necessarily in front of the cameras, largely because a lot of the events you see him at with cameras are formal events anyway.”
From the moment Prince William held his newborn son outside the hospital, then buckled the safety seat into the back seat of the car and finally drove away with his family, it was evident that this royal didn’t need the palace guard to tag around after him at all times.
“We wanted to know,” Foster says, “if he’s trying to project a new form of monarchy, because that would be a big change. He just said, no, he’s just doing things his own way. Certainly from the time I’ve spent with him, he’s someone that likes to do things his own way, simply because it makes him comfortable.
“He worries about the machine around him taking over, and his way of coping and being normal is being as much himself as possible. So, that’s all he’s doing.”
The Duchess of Cambridge made her first official appearance since the baby’s birth when she and her husband attended the inaugural Tusk Conservation Awards — sponsored by the Tusk Trust, which has William as its royal patron — looking rather trim in a sequined silver gown (women reading this may speculate whether the new mother was wearing a foundation garment).
Earlier that same day, Prince William announced he was leaving his military post as an RAF search-and-rescue pilot to concentrate on his royal duties and charity work, and is also moving his family to Kensington Palace in London.
So, royal watchers may be seeing a lot more of the Cambridges, and get an even bigger taste of William’s easygoing style. But, since the pageantry surrounding the British royal family adds a lot to the nation’s tourist appeal, he could be taking a chance — but Foster doesn’t think so.
“It’s an interesting point,” he says, “because a lot of the fascination with royalty is the mystique, the mystery, and perhaps all the pomp and ceremony, the formality. He is taking that away to a large extent.
“It’ll still be there — he’s still going to be involved in those big events — but around that, when it becomes more personal, it’s going to be quite relaxed and casual and informal.
“Maybe that is a risk, but from the response so far, it’s been pretty positive.”