June 23, 1998 12:00 AM

Prince William’s year off from school to participate in an expedition to Chile has the royal seal of approval, reports PEOPLE’S London Bureau. William’s grandfather, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, heartily supports the time Wills is devoting to mixing with others and immersing himself in conservation efforts. “Most of the family have served in the services where you meet people from different classes and different countries,” Prince Philip, 79, told a gathering of American reporters in England. “It is a marvelous experience, of course, to take part in a trip like this with other people. But it is not really that unusual. People think there is an absolute rigid class system (here).” With a broad smile, he added, “(But) dukes have even been known to marry chorus girls, some have even married Americans.”

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