PRINCE WILLIAM has a talent for polo – and his father Prince Charles passed on the passion for the sport after he himself took it up in an effort to please Prince Philip, according to royal experts.
Prince William and Kate Middleton are currently self-isolating at their country home Anmer Hall in Norfolk, where they are virtually continuing their royal duties via video-calls, and homeschooling their three children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. However, during more normal times William has a passion for the equestrian sport of polo, and can be regularly seen playing with Kate and the children cheering him on from the sidelines. William’s prowess in the sport comes from his father Prince Charles, who has been an aficionado for decades – and pursued the sport in an effort to impress Prince Philip.
Writing for Vanity Fair in 2017, royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith describes how Charles took up polo to please his father, whom he “idolised”.
She wrote: “He disappointed Philip in team sports, although he did develop considerable skill in the more solitary pursuit of fishing, along with traditional upper-crust shooting.
“At 13, Charles shot his first stag, steeling himself to the sight of the beast being eviscerated by servants on the hillside at Balmoral.
“In 1961, he took up polo, eager to follow his father.
“‘I was all for it,’ said Charles. ‘At least you stay on the ground’—as opposed to jumping over fences in fox-hunting.
“By 1964, Charles was applying himself to the sport more seriously.
“That year, he also started playing practice matches with Philip at the Household Brigade Polo Club, on Smith’s Lawn, at Windsor Great Park.
“Still a censorious figure, Philip nevertheless was idolised by Charles.
“The young prince began to mimic his mannerisms—walking with one arm behind his back, gesturing with his right forefinger, clasping his hands for emphasis, and pushing up the sleeve of his left arm.”
American journalist Christopher Andersen, writing for Vanity Fair in 2003, discussed how both William and Harry took after their father on the polo field.
He added: “Despite their duties, the princes manage to find time for more enjoyable pursuits.
“Coeds at St. Andrews—among them a disproportionate number of Americans—routinely show up poolside to ogle William at water-polo practice.
“Taking after their mother, both princes are superb swimmers.
“‘Sometimes William is more like a fish,” Diana once said, adding that Harry behaved ‘as if he had gills.’
“She also had a theory about why the older boy took up water polo.
“’I think William chose to play it,” she told her astrologer, ‘because it was a way of pleasing both Charles and myself.’
Mr Andersen continued: “Papa is even more pleased today, since the boys—now thoroughly ‘Windsorized’ — take to the polo field almost as often as he does.”
“For William, a lefty, this presented special problems.
“Since the real Sport of Kings requires that all players ‘meet’ right hand to right hand, William trained for months to become ambidextrous.
“Papa rewarded him with his own polo pony.
On any given weekend, Charles and the boys climb into one of the Range Rovers at their disposal and take a secret shortcut from Highgrove to the Beaufort Polo Grounds— three miles along an unmarked country road.
“Once there, they play out the internecine rivalries that have long simmered beneath the surface.
“It is here that Harry, third in line to the throne but by far the more fearless competitor, emerges from his brother’s shadow.”
One regular spectator told the author: ”It is something to watch them go at it.
“Even though they are playing on the same team, it is very clear from those fierce looks on their faces that the princes are just as interested in trying to best each other.”
Mr Andersen adds: “When their father was pitched off his horse and knocked out cold, an ambulance was dispatched to take him to the hospital for observation. After a break the boys continued playing.”