William will be the king of hearts
HIS impending marriage couldn't be far from his thoughts – comments from well-wishers made sure of that – but Prince William has had to push those thoughts to the back of his mind this past week.
With his wedding to Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29, the Prince could have been excused for staying home.
Instead, he has immersed himself in grief by helping people deal with the human misery inflicted by natural disasters here and in New Zealand.
By doing so, the second in line to be King has been taken into the hearts of those who poured out theirs to him.
As he walked around the West Moreton Anglican College hall yesterday, there was a connection of emotional understanding.
After all he's seen and heard this past week he still showed no sign of having been through it all before.
The 28-year-old Prince has handled a daunting task with maturity, sensitivity, compassion and understanding.
It's a sure bet his mother, Princess Diana, would have been proud of him.
With his broad, friendly smile and imposing presence, he has inherited her superstar appeal and her common touch.
Queensland Premier Anna Bligh rightly called him “a real people person”.
He has visited Greymouth in New Zealand where 29 miners died in an underground explosion; Christchurch, where more than 180 people died in an earthquake; far north Queensland, where a cyclone caused billions of dollars of damage; Ipswich and the Lockyer Valley, which bore the brunt of floods which killed 37 people.
On Monday he is off to Victoria where he will meet still more flood victims.
He has undoubtedly helped make people feel better, even if only for a while, before they return to the grim task of coping with death and destruction and getting their lives back on track.
Those he listened to, smiled at, cried with and reached out to will never forget what he did for them in a short but concentrated time.
His visit has been a public relations success, and as second in line to the British throne he is very much in the public relations business.
Polls show William to be a bigger public favourite to succeed his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, than his father, who after a lifetime of waiting is just a few years short of most people's retirement age.
By the time William sits on the throne – most likely man years from now – Australia may well be a republic.
Nevertheless, his tour may have just done the impossible – united republicans and monarchists.
Because there can be little doubt that as long as people suffer grief, they need someone like Prince William; a charismatic figure who strides across the world to show he cares.
Hopefully when Prince William sits down at a party for a few hundred of his closest friends thrown by his father, Prince Charles, following his wedding, he can allow himself a moment of pride for what he has done.
For listening, for caring, for being there for those in need when many others have abandoned them, he deserves that at least.