British columnist Katie Nicholl has spent years observing, reporting on, and sometimes socializing with her country's royal family. Americans who want to believe the best about the House of Windsor should be mostly pleased by her new book, "William and Harry: Behind the Palace Walls," just being released in the US today.
For the most part, Nicholl portrays the two young princes as surprisingly normal and frequently charming young men. William may be more guarded than his prankster brother, but both come off as heirs to the best of their royal antecedents.
Asked to describe the brothers in a recent Vanity Fair interview, Nicholl called Harry "Very cheeky, very playful, not afraid to speak his mind, and very likable," while portraying William as "More cautious than his brother, less playful with the press but thoroughly charming, and polite."
In her coverage of the boys in the British press, Nicholl has presented them as reasonably responsible fellows, who embrace at least some of their father's causes and worry about things like the size of their carbon footprints.
According to Nicholl, the wildest of this latest generation of royals is Princess Eugenie, daughter of the Duke and Dutchess of York. "She’s studying at Newcastle University, and she’s living the life of a regular student, out drinking, probably not studying quite as hard as she should be," says Nicholl. "She’s not prepared to miss out on having fun just because of her title, which I take my hat off to, really."
Nicholl also writes about some of the stresses in the lives of the young Windsor brothers – such as the occasional challenges created by their father's second marriage and William's efforts to deal with thoughts of his future as the King of England. She speculates, of course, on the question of matrimony between William and Kate Middleton as well as the more turbulent love life of Harry.
But perhaps the most delightful tidbit to emerge from the book so far is the incident reported in USA Today. Harry, apparently, was asked by his grandmother Queen Elizabeth to create her new cellphone greeting. The young prince is said to have shocked at least one of the queen's aides with his breezy message: "Hey, wassup? This is Liz. Sorry I'm away from the throne. For a hot line to Philip, press 1; for Charles, press 2; for the corgis, press 3."
Not surprisingly, the message was quickly removed from the queen's phone.
Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.