When finally he’s crowned King William V, most people assume, the current Prince of Wales will be titled after the four British kings previously bearing that name.
Not so his choice of name comes from a little-known British prince who died in a plane crash 51 years ago.
Prince William of Gloucester was the swashbuckling older cousin of Prince Charles, a friend and role model for the future king, whose own life was ruined by meddling and interference from the powers-that-be.
He died aged 30, unmarried and without children.
Prince Charles had no hesitation in naming him his first-born son and heir after Prince William of Gloucester. Charles is pictured looking lovingly at Prince William in New Zealand in 1983
Polo-loving Prince William of Gloucester at Smith’s Lawn, Windsor around 1970
Like his late cousin, Prince William, too, is a dashing, Eton-educated polo player
Prince William was a keen pilot, pictured here taking part in a cross-country air race in 1971. He would die in a plane crash the following year
Charles admired him profoundly and when his first son was born ten years later in 1982 he had no hesitation in naming him after the man, seven years his senior, who’d been his lifetime role-model.
By happy coincidence much of the current William’s life emulates that of his namesake. Polo player, pilot, handsome Eton-educated man of the world the description fits both men.
But the older William was the grandson of King George V and a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, and his love for a Jewish Hungarian divorcee, Zsuzui Starkloff, seven years his senior, created a huge crisis within the royal family.
At birth, William had been fourth in line to the throne and the royal family, traumatised by the abdication of King Edward VIII over his love for Wallis Simpson, saw history repeating itself within a generation – and effectively scuppered his treasured relationship.
The prince secretly was suffering from porphyria the so-called ‘royal disease’ which caused the so-called madness of George III – and his life became vague and largely purposeless.
Taking part in an air race in August 1972, he crashed his Piper Cherokee and was killed instantly.
William was not a name in common royal usage at the time. Indeed the tragic prince was named after a non-royal uncle, Scottish World War I hero Billy Scott.
Billy was the adored older brother of Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott, daughter of the landowning Duke of Buccleuch who would in due course become Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester – and mother of Prince William.
They lived in an age where children should be ‘seen and not heard’ and then only at teatime. Alice said of her childhood that ‘we never saw our parents’, and so the tall, handsome Billy, five years older, became her father-substitute.
A pilot, like his namesake, Prince William flew Sea King helicopters out of RAF Valley on Anglesey
Prince William with his mother, the Duchess of Gloucester, attending the Eton Wall Game in 1959
A later Etonian, the heir to the throne is seen in the uniform of a prefect
The wreckage of the Piper Cherokee in which William of Gloucester met his end in 1972
The wedding of Lord William Scott – uncle to Prince William of Gloucester – and Lady Rachel Home at St Margaret’s, Westminster in 1937.
From left to right, the Duchess of Buccleuch, King Edward VII, Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott, Henry William Frederick Albert, Duke of Gloucester and Queen Mary
And like his namesake a hundred years later, Billy played polo and joined a cavalry regiment. In action in France he was awarded the Military Cross for valiant leadership.
One day Billy brought home a fellow-officer called Prince Harry, and Alice fell in love.
Harry was officially the Duke of Gloucester, and the second son of King George V. When the couple married Alice insisted her first-born should be named after her hero brother, thus creating a link lasting four generations.
Whatever happens, the current prince sure to be an improvement on the previous King Williams.
The last one, William IV, who reigned from 1830 to 1837, was mockingly known as ‘Sailor Bill’ for having put to sea with a squadron of ships, leaving no word of where they were going and remaining away for ten days. On his return he was sacked as Lord High Admiral.
His domestic life was just as chaotic he had ten children with the actress Mrs Jordan, but as kingship loomed he dumped her for a German princess, Adelaide, whom he married so she could be his queen. Mrs Jordan died, heartbroken and penniless, in France.
William III, a Dutch-born royal who married the daughter of King James II they ruled jointly as William and Mary – reigned from 1672 to 1702. Unlike the love-match of the current William and Catherine, when Mary was told by her father at the age of 15 that he’d arranged she would marry the Dutch William, ‘she wept all that afternoon and all the following day’.
After their wedding in 1677 members of the royal family gathered round the marriage-bed to witness the ‘bedding ceremony’ the act of consummation just to be sure William had done his duty. Poor Mary!
In contrast, King William II came to a sticky end at the age of 43 when he went hunting in the New Forest and was killed by an arrow launched by one of his own men, Walter Tirel.
No surprises there according to historian Frank Barlow, William was ‘without natural dignity or social graces – indeed, according to his critics, addicted to every kind of vice, particularly lust and especially sodomy.’
William IV had ten children with the actress Mrs Jordan, but as kingship loomed he dumped her for a German princess, Adelaide, whom he married so she could be his queen
Anglo-Irish actress and courtesan Dorothea Jordan had been the mistress and companion of William IV – and was even known as the Duchess of Clarence. But she died penniless and heartbroken when he abandoned her
Dorothea Jordan as Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
King William III and Queen Mary II, who ruled jointly
An illustration depicting William, Duke of Normandy – soon to be William I – landing in Kent
His father King William I is now remembered as William the Conqueror, but his less well-known name was William the Bastard – a man known for his greed and cruelty.
As Duke of Normandy he invaded Britain in 1066, leading his army to victory over the forces of King Harold, but the rest of his life was dogged by the struggle to maintain his hold over the country that was now his.
No such battles face our future King William, and historians predict that, of all the Williams, he’s on course to have the happiest and most glorious reign.