To watch Prince William work a room is to observe a master class in charm school taught by Prince Charming himself.
During a royal event last year, mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin marveled at the 35-year-old royal’s ability to smoothly multitask. “He had a photographer in one ear saying, ‘William, can you angle your face a bit more?’ And in the other he had his assistant saying, ‘William, you’ve got two minutes here’ — and he managed to carry on his conversation with me naturally,” Benjamin tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story.
“I was impressed at how he stayed focused and calm despite all of the stuff going on around him.”
It hasn’t always been easy, and last year when talking about his grandmother Queen Elizabeth, William hinted that he had been given time when he was younger to prepare. “It’s about finding your own way at the right time and if you’re not careful duty can wear you down a lot at a very early age,” he told the BBC. “You’ve got to develop into the duty role.”
Now he has taken on royal duties full-time, leaving behind his civilian job as an air ambulance pilot and focusing on his public role. In any given week, that could mean chatting with staff and ex-addicts at a homelessness charity or, as he was recently, opening a new emergency center at the Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool.
During that visit, he laughed with 75-year-old Edna Dagnall when she asked if he could help with getting her a makeup bag. “I’ll see what we can do – I’m sure the hospital can rustle up a makeup bag,” he said cheekily turning to the smiling staff. Minutes earlier, in the trauma ward, he talked heavy metal with cancer patient Pagan Tordengrave, 55, and when she apologetically told him, “I don’t look my best,” he replied without missing a beat, “You look beautiful.”
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Close observers will also detect how he has a disarming way of giving away a little of himself to subtly build personal connections – such as when he confessed to feeling “nostalgic” for flying upon spotting an air ambulance at the Liverpool hospital. And later he told a young diving instructor that he had tried – and failed – at kite surfing in Trearddur Bay, north Wales when she told of her first expeditions in the same place.
For more about how Prince William’s life as a dad and future King, pick up a copy of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.