Magazine article The Spectator

Television: The Other Prince William

Magazine article The Spectator

Television: The Other Prince William

Article excerpt

In 2011, the Daily Mail carried a long story about how the Queen's cousin Prince William of Gloucester, who died in a plane crash aged 30, had been Prince Charles's boyhood idol. (Our own Prince William, it claimed, was named after him.) In passing, it tactfully informed us that William's ex-girlfriend Zsuzsi Starkloff 'no longer wishes to be reminded of her lost love'.

Well, the good news is that Zsuzsi has certainly changed her mind since. The following year she gave the Mail an interview describing their relationship in some detail. And on Thursday, she appeared in The Other Prince William: Secret History to tell all over again what Channel 4 unblushingly called 'the untold story' of their time together.

The result was an archetypal Channel 4 royal documentary. Which is to say that the makers added a narration apparently written by Sylvie Krin of Private Eye and threw in a few royal commentators demonstrating their usual gifts for telepathy (or, if you prefer, complete guesswork). Above all, though, the programme took an intriguing slice of history and cramped it to fit a pre-existing template so rigid that, by the end, it was impossible to know how much of what we'd heard was true.

The blizzard of clichés began immediately when we were introduced to 'the playboy prince' with the 'movie-star looks' whose great love affair 'was destined to end in tragedy'. We then cut to a wistful-looking Zsuzsi, whose home in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado is, the narrator shrewdly noted, 'a long way from Buckingham Palace'.

The two met in Tokyo in 1968, where William impressed the ladies by arriving for his British-embassy posting in a plane he'd piloted himself. For her part, Zsuzsi was a model and former air hostess with a neat line in flirty banter. Before long, love had duly 'blossomed' and they'd found themselves 'a private love nest' -- always better than a public one, I find.

But, as the template demands, it was now time for those stuffed shirts at the palace to stand in the way of romance -- merely because Zsuzsi was a twice-divorced Hungarian single mother, seven years William's senior. According to those telepathic royal commentators, the prince was still determined to marry her, but just as he was about to pop the undocumented question, his father the Duke suffered a stroke and William had to return to Britain. …

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