Prince William is very rarely relatable – except when he’s at the Baftas

<span>Prince William meets Phoebe Dynevor, Ayo Edebiri, Sophie Wilde and Mia McKenna-Bruce after the Baftas.</span><span>Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Prince William meets Phoebe Dynevor, Ayo Edebiri, Sophie Wilde and Mia McKenna-Bruce after the Baftas.Photograph: Jordan Pettitt/AFP/Getty Images

‘Love” would be a strong word, but I like the Baftas, hard. I don’t care especially who wins, I could take or leave the acceptance speeches except where they’re phenomenal (Samantha Morton), but the photos – all those magnificent faces that only actors know how to make: the “I’m so surprised to have won on this completely unsurprising occasion” face; the “of course I don’t mind not winning, the winner who won is, by happy chance, much more important to me than myself” face; the knowing side-eye, the straight-down-the-lens candour, the beaming sincerity. These are faces only the pros can perfect. If the rest of us tried any of them, we’d look like we just got caught shoplifting.

And into this Bafta array, as its president, steps Prince William. This job was not really optional for him. The only time in the organisation’s history that it hasn’t been led by a member of the royal family is when it was David Attenborough, who is like royal-plus. William, grinning at rising stars Phoebe Dynevor, Ayo Edebiri, Sophie Wilde and Mia McKenna-Bruce, hits the summit of his endearing awkwardness. In the great schism of the princes, in which all right-thinking Britons were supposed to pick a side, everyone who chose the elder and who was not motivated by fervour against the wokerati, misogynoir or keenly felt anti-Americanism was really responding to Prince William’s self-consciousness.

It’s just so relatable. Which of us hasn’t smiled a little too widely in anxiety and suddenly found that using all those muscles is surprisingly taxing, then forgotten what to say, and, oh, hell, now the terror is in our eyes and we’ve forgotten our name, all we can remember is that we had one job for which we’ve been preparing all our lives, which is to be able to talk and smile, if not simultaneously, at least in quick succession? OK, that’s two jobs. But which of us hasn’t felt like that? A body language expert told me recently that King Charles is always playing with his cufflinks and Harry is always buttoning the button that’s already buttoned – which are self-comforting moves to deal with social anxiety. But Prince William is off the scale, seeking comfort in rictus grin formations that most evolved humans don’t know how to activate any more, having last used them trying to make peace with a cheetah.

• Zoe Williams is a Guardian columnist

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