Eighty-nine years after King George V became the first British monarch to address his subjects via radio broadcast on Christmas — when millions of people heard the voice of a monarch for the first time — and some 68 years after the televised coronation of Queen Elizabeth II — another first in the history of the House of Windsor — Prince William is now available to speak from your wrist.
Second in line to the throne. The first to use the bully pulpit of a fitness app.
Using new media to amplify his platform, while putting some wind in those royal sails — much like his great-great-grandfather and grandmother did in their eras — His Royal Highness has just been announced as the next big-get audio guest on the “Time To Walk” series, courtesy of Apple Fitness+ and found on the Apple watch. Released Monday, it will have the Duke of Cambridge spilling his guts while you, ideally, are inspired to put one foot in front of other. The 39-year-old prince joins a ribbon of influential people already available for mindful walks on the series — boldface that run the course from Shawn Mendes to Dolly Parton, Naomi Campbell to Malcolm Gladwell.
My verdict, after being one of a handful of journalists invited to join a sneak listen a few days ago? Get ready for William at his most intimate. Like, ever.
Using the power of the medium (there is nothing more intimate than the simple power of the human voice, speaking to you, after all), “Time to Walk” makes you really feel like you are on the walk with the guy, as he strolls through the Queen’s Sandringham Estate in Norfolk — from Sandringham House (where the royals famously gather for Christmas every year), past St. Mary Magdalene Church, and ending eventually in Anmer, where William and his wife, Kate, have their country lair.
You hear his steps. That crunch of the gravel. Birdsong coming in and out. His breath close to the surface, as he holds forth in those oh-so-dulcet tones.
“Thought provoking.” “Poignant.” “Humorous.”
Just some of the descriptions about the audio walk that were thrown out to us journos before a top-secret live listen that also doubled as a fascinating, sign-of-the-times emblem of royal communications in these times: the preview helmed by Jay Blahnik, who serves as Apple’s senior director of fitness technology, but also joined by Edwina Iddles, “deputy communications secretary at the household of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.” Two brand empires making a merger, one might say.
Iddles took the opportunity to emphasize the priority that both Wils and Kate have made in speaking out about mental health in recent years, and nodding to the three charities in that area that Apple is specifically supporting with donations, as chosen by the Cambridges.
“I have very strong memories of walking down here, and my grandfather … he used to walk so fast there would be a huge gap and spaces between all of us walking down, and I’d be sort of at the back with little legs trying to keep up.” So he begins, reflecting on promenades past, both with Prince Philip, and with William’s father, Prince Charles.
Along the way, he muses on his time serving in the Royal Air Force, reflects on the trauma of the last year and a half of the pandemic, shifts to talking about his experiences in Africa, tells us about a particularly cringe moment involving Taylor Swift, gets personal about some of the sibling squabbles between his kids, Charlotte and George, and even name-drops Tina Turner (recalling how the song “The Best” reminds him of joyous car rides with his late mother).
For those who might be wondering, he also mentions his brother, Prince Harry, several times, when summoning memories of his childhood — all of which could not help me consider how this collaboration with Apple represents, in some ways, William etching out his own space in the cold war, of sorts, between the Cambridges and Sussexes, these days. After the bombshell Oprah interview earlier this year, and the deal that Harry and Meghan later inked with Netflix (among other ventures), it seems like an effort, at least in part, to take back the narrative — using some of the same media oxygen.
The thing is, it works. It really does. There is anything but the standard royal reserve in this William first. After announcing that the Apple audio is coming on their own Instagram (where else?), and staying relevant in other channels of communication of late (William and Kate both appeared with the Queen herself on a Zoom call with front-line workers this year, for instance), this is one gambit that appear to hit the mark.
As William himself puts it, “Walking has been a feature of my life during the good times and the bad, come rain or shine. For me, it provides an opportunity to clear my mind and gain some perspective. It’s a key part of how I manage my mental health.”
Or, to put it another way: Keep calm and walk on.
“Time to Walk” episodes are available in the Workout app on Apple Watch with a Fitness+ subscription. Three special audio airings of Prince William’s “Time to Walk” episode, featuring stories and music only, will also stream for free on Apple Music 1, the flagship global radio station on Apple Music.