Which royal was known as 'Basher Wills' – and why?

Which unruly royal was once known as ‘Basher’ and ruined a children’s party by hurling sandwiches and ice cream around the room? (A clue: he liked to boast ‘my Dad’s the Prince of Wales’)

  • Today, he’s a family man, but appeared on Spitting Image with a machine gun!
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Today, we smile at five-year old Prince Louis’s cheeky appearances.

If he gurns and fidgets today, we know that, all-too-soon, he will be swept up into a life of royal duty.

In any case, Louis is not the first young royal to test the boundaries of good behaviour. It is not so very long since another prince was raising eyebrows…

William, his father, had quite an unruly reputation as a child, known as ‘Basher Wills’ or ‘Billy the Basher’ when he was at Mrs Mynor’s nursery in Kensington. 

‘Noisy, cheeky and defiant of discipline, Wills soon angered his classmates by pushing his way to the front of the dinner queue and getting involved in playground fights,’ writes biographer Robert Lacey.

‘Basher Wills’ being scolded by his nanny, Olga Powell, at the Windsor Horse Show in 1987

Four-year-old Prince William with a cheeky glance at the camera. He is pictured with a friend on their way to the school nativity in December 1986

A sullen-looking Prince William with his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, at the Cartier International Polo Smith’s Lawn in Windsor in July 1989. By then, the worst of the tantrums were behind him

“My Daddy can beat up your Daddy,” he would say. “My Daddy’s the Prince of Wales.”

In his best-selling book Battle of Brothers, Lacey explains that neither Charles nor Diana were keen to play the disciplinarian and that it was left to Nanny Ruth Wallace to sort him out.

‘In the autumn of 1987, she yanked the five-year-old home from a birthday party following a tantrum when he had not been allowed to blow out the candles on the cake and had expressed his displeasure by throwing sandwiches and ice-cream around the room.’

Nanny made him clean up the mess before he left.

Royal biographer Penny Junor gives recalls how his misbehaviour made itself known in public at the 1986 wedding of Prince Andrew to Sarah Ferguson , where William was a pageboy.

‘William fidgeted throughout the ceremony,’ she writes, ‘rolled his order of service into a  trumpet, scratched his head and covered his face with his fingers, poked his tongue out…and left the abbey with his sailor hat wildly askew.’

Diana, says Lacey, was rather forgiving: ‘William is very enthusiastic about things,’ she explained. ‘He pushes himself right into it.’

By the autumn of 1987, Spitting Image had included five-year-old William among its latex characters. The puppet was shown dressed in combat gear, armed with a knife and machine gun, wildly attacking a meek and submissive Harry.’

Times change of course. The phase soon passed and, as Lacey writes, there was no more barging by the time he was at Wetherby Pre-Preparatory School Notting Hill the following year. 

It hardly needs saying that the  Prince of Wales is known as a model of courtesy today.

What can have brought about the transformation, aside from the passage of time?

Robert Lacey speculates that with his parents’ marriage collapsing around him, it was his destiny as a future monarch that proved his salvation.  

Prince Harry with his older brother at Smiths Lawn Guards Polo Club in Windsor in June 1987

Prince William appears preoccupied at the Cartier polo in 1989

‘William began to find consolation in the idea that one day he would one day be “King”,’ he writes

‘This observation seems to have given the young prince the strength he needed to endure the pain and confusion that any child would feel as his family crumbled around him.’ 

The trauma seemed to have matured him early, suggests Lacey. And William, of course, had a destiny denied his younger brother.

‘Prince Harry, meanwhile, was moving in quite the opposite direction,’ concludes the author. 

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