...and Wee Willie Is Almost Two

updated 06/25/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/25/1984 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Children everywhere go through the "terrible twos," but Britain's Prince William is one who can mess up royally. Even before his second birthday, on June 21, Fleet Street's Willie watchers reported that the 3', 28-pound heir had begun testing his burgeoning talents by smashing a miniature of his great-great-great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, gnawing on an antique book and trying to wash a pair of his father's shoes down the toilet. Indeed, the royal flush seems to hold special fascination: Numerous hankies and booties have also gone with the flow. Princess Diana has called her son "quite a handful," and Charles, who has reportedly nicknamed him Willie Wombat, says that the kid "breaks everything in the house."

Charles, 35, and Diana, 22, aren't the only ones who've struggled to keep up. While playing in the garden at Kensington Palace last December, William scampered away from nanny Barbara Barnes and stepped through an infrared beam that triggered an alarm. A squad of bobbies arrived posthaste and were greeted by Barnes. An embarrassed Diana apologized for the ruckus. On another occasion the royal tyke summoned the Aberdeen police by pushing an alarm button in his Balmoral Castle nursery.

Not that William's enterprising adventurism is causing him to lose any fans. The photogenic toddler already has learned to mug for press photographers, who will record his cradle-to-grave progression, and he is expected to receive some 4,000 birthday presents, even though the occasion will be marked only by a quiet celebration for palace intimates. So popular is William that Diana, saying she's "afraid he'll get spoiled," has asked family and staff not to lavish attention on him or to pick him up too often.

Despite his parents' resolve to give him a private, if modern upbringing, it seems unlikely that the Prince will ever escape the limelight. British newspapers delight in gleaning the latest intelligence. We know, for example, that, like a true Windsor, he adores dogs; that he plays with a pail and spade marked "H.R.H. Prince William"; that his blond locks are trimmed by Kevin Shanley, who crops Di's do; and that he is the best protected Prince in history. He is attended by two Scotland Yard detectives, and Highgrove, his parents' country estate, is equipped with a rein-forced-concrete-and-steel room into which the family can retreat in the event of a terrorist attack.

We also know that Britain's youngest Prince has already become the object of controversy. Last October the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents chastised Charles for giving his son a "driving lesson." A worker at Balmoral was quoted as saying that Wills perched on his father's lap and guided Dad's Range Rover car down a private road while Charles accelerated to a stately 10 mph—prompting a snippy ROSPA official to warn that Charles would have been subject to prosecution if he'd performed the stunt on a public highway. And a Jaguar motors announcement that the state-owned company would give the little Prince a $83,000 two-fifths-scale Jaguar XJS Cabriolet for his birthday drew an outcry from Labor Party left-wingers. "I know of...hundreds of children whose parents could not afford to spend six pounds ($8.30) on their birthday presents," declared MP David Nellist, who called the gift "a scandal."

Such sniping undoubtedly presages the kind of potshots that will be Wills' lot in a world where royalty is fighting extinction. For now, however, the Prince knows only the bliss of childish ignorance—and the profound joy of making improbable objects disappear down the loo.

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