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Kate’s rock rushes to her side: REBECCA ENGLISH’S deeply personal portrait of Prince William and why she knows he’ll bend heaven and Earth to support his wife

We expect a lot of our Royal Family, and rightly so.

They occupy an extraordinary position in our national life, one that comes with a great deal of privilege (and a generous amount of financial recompense).

It’s why many of us expect them to be the embodiment of the nation’s ‘keep calm and carry on’ mantra, the last vestige of that British stiff upper lip.

But every now and again something happens that reminds us they are human too – and that behind the scenes they may just be battling the same challenges as the rest of us.

The news on Wednesday that not one, but two, of our senior royals are suffering serious health issues that require hospital treatment came as a shock.

Who would have thought seeing the King smiling broadly as he drove himself and his wife to church on Sunday that he was concerned enough about his health to seek imminent medical advice.

Or that on the very day he was told to scale back royal duties and prepare for surgery for an enlarged prostate next week, His Majesty would break with protocol and allow his diagnoses to be made known in the hope that it might encourage other men to get themselves checked out.

I’m told he is ‘genuinely’ in a good place, taking a pragmatic approach to his diagnosis and keeping up with his paperwork before his surgery next week.

More troubling is the Princess of Wales who, having undergone what has been described only as ‘abdominal surgery’, will be required to spend two weeks in hospital and up to three months recovering.

Kensington Palace has said it is her wish to keep further details of her condition private (although they have confirmed it is non-cancerous) but, clearly given her recovery time, it is significant.

Last week I was with her husband, Prince William, as he surprised motor neurone disease campaigners and former rugby league professionals Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield with their CBEs.
William and why she knows he'll bend heaven and Earth to support

He travelled up to Leeds to hand them their honours personally as Rob who – along with his friend, Kevin – has courageously used his diagnosis with the incurable, life-shortening condition, to raise millions of pounds to support fellow sufferers and fund research.

As always, William was charming, compassionate and engaging, careful to put Rob – who is in a wheelchair and can communicate only through a computer aid operated with his eyes – at the heart of events.

Even though Rob was unable to verbally join in the banter, the future king even joked with him about a prank the former player once played involving a Jaffa cake and a pair of Calvin Kleins (I shall say no more than that) which saw Rob break into a heart-warming, still-impish grin.

It was a deeply emotional occasion and one, without going into detail, I found very moving.

At the end of the engagement, I stepped tearfully out of the room to allow William some private time with the families.

When he exited a few minutes later he had obviously noticed my distress and, I think, was aware why. He looked at me, smiled kindly and nodded his head. ‘You OK, Rebecca?’

There was no hint that anything untoward was going on behind the scenes in his own life.

Which makes the reaction by some to his decision to clear his diary to be at his wife’s bedside and support their three young children disgraceful in the extreme.

Social media has been awash with trolls – even those with the letters Dr before their name – decrying his actions.

One (I shall not name the individual, as I fear they will only enjoy the publicity) highlighted an article on MailOnline and wrote: ‘Should we clap for him? The PR spin to desperately make Prince William look like a dedicated husband and father juggling childcare and caring when he has an army of people supporting him and zero financial concerns about cancelling work to stay at home is so tone deaf.’

Beyond spiteful.

Republic, the anti-monarchist pressure group that has spent the past year trying to convince the public it is a credible political force, has also seized on the issue with glee, posting: ‘They could all be off sick with the measles for six months and still fit in more engagements than last year’, and ‘Man visits wife in hospital. Huge if true’.

William would be the last to encourage a pity party, but it’s worth pointing out that wealth doesn’t mean that your wife or children need you less.

The heir to the throne has long made it clear that his three young children are his No 1 priority in life.

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