The Tragic History Behind Prince William’s Name


As the future king of England, a lot of attention has been paid to Prince William over the course of his life, but he wasn’t the first to bear his name. There was another Prince William with a much more tragic ending. Many royal watchers believe Prince Charles named his firstborn son after a family member who passed away in a terrible plane accident 10 years before the Duke of Cambridge made his grand entrance into the world. 

Who Was Prince William Named After?

Prince William Arthur Philip Louis, Duke of Cambridge and future king of England bears quite a few names, but it’s likely his first name that history will remember him by. His parents Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana waffled initially between his first and second names, meaning we almost ended up with a Prince Arthur instead. The expecting parents soon settled on William, however, as a stronger option and the rest, as they say, is history. There’s another, more sentimental reason, that might have been behind the decision. 

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The Prince Of Gloucester

The Duke of Cambridge isn’t the first Prince William in recent history. Prince William of Gloucester was his predecessor, a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth who shared a grandfather, King George IV. At the time of his birth, he was the fourth in line to the throne behind his royal cousin and her sister Princess Margaret. In fact, he was a pageboy at the queen’s 1947 wedding to her late husband Prince Philip. 

As a young man, he was dispatched to Tokyo, Japan to work in the British Embassy in 1968 where it’s believed he first met the woman he wanted to marry, a woman named Zsuzsi Starkloff. The romance was not to be, however, as Starkloff was deemed unacceptable by royal standards to become his bride. 

Black and white image of Prince William of Gloucester sitting on a couch and holding a book in his lap. He is dressed in a suit and tie.
(Photo by Dennis Oulds/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

She was twice divorced, already a mother of two children, and Jewish and Hungarian. Royal gossip claims that the queen’s sister Princess Margaret was sent to Japan at one point to ask him to reconsider his choice, which he eventually did, though that alleged meeting wasn’t the cause. 

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A Sudden, Tragic Ending

In 1970, William of Gloucester’s father suffered a series of strokes that forced the almost 30-year-old to return home to oversee the family affairs. Two years later, during the 1972 Goodyear International Air Trophy, he entered the competition. He was an experienced pilot, but unfortunately lost control of the aircraft shortly after takeoff. He collided with a tree, which caused the plane to become engulfed in flames. Perhaps the most tragic detail: his mother was in the crowd and witnessed his demise. 

There are some eerie similarities between the two Prince Williams, not including their names. Both fell in love with “commoners,” though the younger prince was more fortunate with his timing. Both have experience as pilots, though the Duke of Cambridge is usually a passenger these days rather than behind the controls. Unfortunately the late Prince William was unable to achieve what our current prince has: a family of his own. His death was a sad and tragic event but his memory will live on in England’s future king.

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