Prince of Wales addresses backlash over 'totally inappropriate' World Cup message to England

BURTON UPON TRENT, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 14: Prince William, Prince of Wales presents an England shirt to Harry Kane of England at St George's Park on November 14, 2022 in Burton upon Trent, England. (Photo by Eddie Keogh - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)
Prince William presents an England shirt to captain Harry Kane on Monday at St. George's Park in Staffordshire on Monday, ahead of the squad leaving for Qatar. (Getty Images)

The Prince of Wales has addressed criticism by high-profile figures including Welsh actor Michael Sheen after the royal threw his support behind the England football team ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.

"We're all rooting for you," Prince William told the England team at St George's Park in Staffordshire on Monday, after presenting the players with their shirts and squad numbers for the international tournament.

William has been president of the Football Association (FA) since May 2006, when he took over from Prince Andrew.

Sheen said on Twitter that William "can, of course, support whoever he likes, and as [president] of FA his role makes visit understandable – but surely he sees holding the title of Prince of Wales at the same time is entirely inappropriate?

"Not a shred of embarrassment? Or sensitivity to the problem here?"

While visiting the Senedd in Cardiff on Wednesday, William clarified that he is "supporting both" the English and Welsh national teams.

He said: "I've supported England since I was quite small. But I support Welsh rugby and that's my way of doing it. I happily support Wales over England in the rugby so I've got to be able to play carefully with my affiliations."

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 13: Michael Sheen of the television show ‘Good Omens’ speaks during the Amazon Prime Video Session of the 2019 Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour at The Langham Huntington, Pasadena on February 13, 2019 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Michael Sheen has criticised William supporting the England team now that he is the Prince of Wales. (Getty Images)

William also noted that he knows "it's a big deal for Wales" to have qualified, and said: "While I was growing up, Wales weren't getting through to the tournaments, so I had to make a choice."

But Sheen's sentiments were echoed by Rhun ap Iorwerth, deputy leader of Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru, who said William "is an Englishman, so of course he supports England. Obviously. Good on him."

He added: "There shouldn't be a Prince of Wales. But this football thing must be embarrassing for [William] too. Just highlights the nonsense. Time to drop the title, surely."

Owen Williams, writing for Nation Cymru, called it "embarrassing to Wales as a nation", adding on Twitter that the title Prince of Wales is "objectionable. It implies national subjugation – it must end.

"He's 'Prince of Wales' by dint of his dad giving him the title. It means literally nothing else."

The controversy comes as the Welsh team arrives in Qatar for the World Cup, only the second time the country has qualified for the tournament. Wales and England face each other in the group stage.

Watch: William wants England v Wales World Cup final

William's public support of the England team has attracted widespread criticism since he inherited the title Prince of Wales from his father after the death of Queen Elizabeth II in early September.

Two days after presenting the England team with their shirts, William travelled to Wales on Wednesday where he is visiting the Senedd to "deepen his understanding of the issues and opportunities of greatest importance to the Welsh people", according to a press release from Kensington Palace.

He will also visit the Welsh Youth Parliament to "get to the heart of issues of greatest importance to the younger generation".

Why is the Prince of Wales title historically so controversial?

Prince of Wales as a title has had a long and controversial history dating back centuries, opposition to which has only renewed since Charles' investiture in 1969.

The controversy dates back to 1283 when Dafydd ap Gruffydd was hanged, drawn and quartered by the English King Edward I.

Dafydd – the last native Welsh prince – was captured while fighting to maintain Welsh independence from England. After his torture and execution, Wales was made a principality of England and since 1301, the title of Prince of Wales has been held by the heir to the British throne.

Britain's Prince William (C), Prince of Wales, speaks with Senedd members Elin Jones (L) and David Rees during a visit to the Chamber of the Senedd, the Welsh Parliament, in Cardiff on November 16, 2022. (Photo by Geoff Caddick / POOL / AFP) (Photo by GEOFF CADDICK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Prince William speaks with Senedd members Elin Jones and David Rees during a visit to the Senedd in Cardiff. (AFP via Getty Images)

It is not a hereditary title, but instead bestowed at the discretion of the monarch.

Upon the death of Queen Elizabeth II, a petition to end the title now Charles has become monarch has circulated, amassing over 38,000 signatures to date.

William and Kate's spokesperson has been reported as saying there are "no plans" for a costly investiture as Prince of Wales, similar to one that Charles took part in in 1969, attracting protests and opposition.

Instead, the new Prince and Princess of Wales are said to want to grow "trust and respect" from the Welsh people.

In 1969, Charles famously gave a speech in Welsh at his investiture at Caernarfon Castle, after spending a term at Aberystwyth University studying the language.

But he noted in 2019 that "every day I had to go down to the town where I went to these lectures, and most days there seemed to be a demonstration going on against me. I did my utmost to learn as much as I could. But in a term that's quite difficult, and I'm not as brilliant a linguist as I'd like to be."