Prince William shows his style of royal leadership with rare interventions

Prince William certainly wants everyone to know he’s back on the frontline of royal duties, after taking some time away to support his wife, Catherine, following her January operation for an unspecified abdominal condition.

He’s made several moves to cement his return, but his impassioned plea on the Israel-Hamas war to “see an end to the fighting as soon as possible” was perhaps the most powerful moment this week.

“There is a desperate need for increased humanitarian support to Gaza. It’s critical that aid gets in and the hostages are released,” William said. “Sometimes it is only when faced with the sheer scale of human suffering that the importance of permanent peace is brought home.”

His strong declaration came ahead of several engagements recognizing the human suffering related to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.

On Tuesday, he paid a visit to the London headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which has been providing a humanitarian response to the war in Gaza. William was briefed about operations in the region and spoke with charity workers providing mental health support to those experiencing trauma around the world.

William has followed the region closely since his landmark trip to Israel and the West Bank in 2018, the first by any member of the British royal family, a royal source told CNN. Although the prince made a statement shortly after the Hamas attacks on October 7, it was the “extent of the human suffering that is on display” that led him to make the statement on Tuesday, the source added.

He also spoke with ICRC employees in southern Gaza who told the royal that they didn’t “even have words anymore to describe what we are seeing, what we are hearing,” according to the UK’s PA Media news agency.

Prince William speaks to Pascal Hundt of the ICRC on February 20, 2024. - Kin Cheung/Getty Images
Prince William speaks to Pascal Hundt of the ICRC on February 20, 2024. - Kin Cheung/Getty Images

In the days ahead, he will be heading to a synagogue to join a discussion with young people from different communities who are advocates against hatred and antisemitism.

William this week also unveiled a new housing initiative designed to help combat homelessness in the southwest of England. Using land on his private Duchy of Cornwall estate in Nansledan, Newquay, and working with a local charity, he is aiming to provide 24 purpose-built properties to support individuals in the area struggling with homelessness.

Ben Murphy, the Duchy’s estate director, said the Prince of Wales had “asked us to address the homelessness challenge within Cornwall and other areas where the estate resides.”

“We will be helping people rebuild their lives, with training and employment opportunities alongside the provision of more permanent housing that we are building,” Murphy said.

Development is expected to get underway in September, with the first homes completed by next fall.

The approach was inspired by William’s “Homewards” program, a five-year, locally-led plan in six UK locations that he launched with his Royal Foundation in June to demonstrate that it is possible to end homelessness.

Prince William during a visit to Bournemouth AFC's Vitality Stadium in Dorset, England on September 7, 2023. - Andrew Matthews/Getty Images
Prince William during a visit to Bournemouth AFC's Vitality Stadium in Dorset, England on September 7, 2023. - Andrew Matthews/Getty Images

One of the moves alone would normally have garnered headlines, but both within days of the other shows that while William may have been briefly out of the public eye, he’s been hard at work behind the scenes.

The British royal family has long taken a stance of political neutrality and does not generally comment on sensitive issues. But that has shifted in recent years when the family feels particularly strongly that they can’t simply stand by – as was the case with showing support for Ukraine following Russia’s unprovoked invasion two years ago.

William’s steps illustrate that he’s not afraid to offer up his views on current affairs, but in a way that doesn’t overstep his royal position.

Royal insiders told CNN that the British government was briefed by the Foreign Office in advance of the prince’s statement and engagements this week.

In the past, the family have faced criticism over owning vast swathes of land while many struggle with affordable housing. Here, William is seeking to address that and building on an area he has spent years working to raise awareness of.

His particularly forthright approaches appear to be resonating, with both initiatives welcomed positively. He’s handling matters a little differently to his father or late grandmother, moving with the times and reflecting issues his generation cares about – which will ultimately be the generation he serves as King.

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