Ah, Sweet William! Down Under, He Stands Up for the Press and Steals a March on His Folks

updated 05/09/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/09/1983 01:00AM

Precisely at 9 a.m. on a bright New Zealand day, the press assembled at Auckland's Government House to witness a tiny bit of history: Prince William, a future British king, granting a news conference. Since, at 10 months, the royal infant is not eloquent, he would do it the best way he could. He would demonstrate his crawl.

A rug was spread out under some trees for the event, and Victor Chapman, Prince Charles' press officer, paced about as if he were the nervous parent. "I don't know whether he'll crawl or not," Chapman fretted. "All the clicking may freeze him." But the chubby 24-pounder (he stands 30 inches), dressed in a cream-and-apricot romper, came through. Flanked by Mum and Dad, he blinked, then crawled toward his audience. For 15 minutes he smiled, scrambled about and even stood—with Diana's help—while reporters recorded every gurgle. Some insisted he said "Dad-a."

William's performance upstaged Charles and Diana, who were winding up their six-week tour of Australia and New Zealand. Another Kiwi high point was the first meeting in nearly eight months of Charles, 34, and his youngest brother, Edward, 19. Besides giving New Zealand the privilege of hosting the first, second and fourth in line to the English throne (Prince Andrew, at sea last week on the carrier Invincible, is No. 3), the occasion brought some rare attention to the least flamboyant of Elizabeth N's offspring.

After Edward graduated last year from Gordonstoun, his Scottish prep school, he was invited to go to New Zealand in September to teach two terms at a top boarding school: Wanganui Collegiate, whose 524 students include many sons of wealthy families. Besides teaching English and leading cross-country runs, Edward has had time to go fishing, water-skiing and river rafting and to take flying lessons. But while popular with students—"He's the sort most of them would like to be," says a recent grad—he thinks he is not "cut out" for teaching.

Though more studious than his siblings—he was called Educated Edward at Gordonstoun—the Prince says he is an "all-rounder," as fond of pop music (Elton John and the Beatles are favorites), horses and team sports (especially rugby) as he is of books. Wary of the press (he calls the coverage of Andrew's romantic flings "absolutely despicable"), he has squired only "suitable" girls, like Shelley Whitborn, one of his sister Anne's grooms. The word in London's deb set is that Edward is pleasant, if distant.

When it was announced that he would enter Cambridge's Jesus College next fall to study archaeology and anthropology (also Charles' major subjects), students got up a 150-name petition protesting his admission: On his entrance exams he had gotten only a C in English and D's in history and in economic and political studies. Denying that the Prince had been given a bye, Dr. Gavin MacKenzie, director of studies at Jesus, said he had found Edward "a very well-informed and able bloke." Jesus would not take "anybody who could possibly fail," he added. "We will teach the Prince to think."

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