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If you are in a hurry, here's the story in a nutshell. Scroll down a bit for the full sorry tale..

14 February: is wrongly listed in WhoWhere as the e-mail address for "HRH Prince William"
21 February:
  I notice that strangers are emailing me, or actually Prince William. The emails continue to arrive until...
8 April:
  Troublesome e-mail account closed down and removed from WhoWhere directory.
29 April:
  The Prince William E-Mails, a one-page website displaying all the emails, is launched, now William's in-box.
5 March:
  Site relaunched as Will Not with lots of the feedback received over the previous year, including a second generation of people who sent e-mails to Prince William via the site, and a third generation who start to leave messages for him on my bulletin board.
27 July:
  Live chat added, and a fourth generation of messages for William starts to trickle in.
25 April:
  Live chat closed, and the best chats and messages published in live chat.

The long story

In February 1999 I was surfing the net at home in London, investigating whether I could send my monthly Amnesty International appeal letters by e-mail. I found the excellent Head of State E-Mail Page (now sadly discontinued), but I also found another site that allowed you to leave messages for celebrities. The messages were, they say, forwarded by post to the celeb in question. I was particularly struck by the enormous e-mail postbag for Prince William. I sent the URL to a friend, telling her to look at the site too. As a prank, I sent that message from a free e-mail account that I opened with as "HRH Prince William". The address was A few days later, I went back to delete the account, and to my astonishment found that there were messages in the in-box from people I didn't know. I had not realised that automatically list accounts in the WhoWhere e-mail directory. Obviously, these people had looked up HRH Prince William, found "his" e-mail address, and sent "him" an e-mail!

As a child, I wrote many fan letters myself, and after my initial surprise, I did feel an obligation to the senders of these e-mails. I did not have the heart to tell them they had made such a foolish mistake. So I did not shut down the account after all. I set up a bland automatic reply, referring people to the official British Monarchy website, and I checked the mail from time to time. Now and again, I could not resist sending a short, rather formal, but personal reply.

After about six weeks, messages were arriving every day. I could not bear it any longer, and I closed down the e-mail account. But before I did, I saved all the e-mails. I let a few friends read them, and everyone was struck by the strange collision of modern celebrity, royalty, friendliness, formality, ancient protocol and e-mail culture.

Publishing the e-mails

At this time, April 1999, I was learning HTML for a work project. Encouraged by my trainer to practice HMTL skills, I uploaded all the e-mails to make a simple one-page website called The Prince William E-Mails, using free webspace from the lovely people at Tripod Lycos. The page included all the e-mails I had received, and which you can now read in William's in-box. You will see that some were friendly and charming, others were very emotional, and some people turned the tables by pretending to be friends of Prince William. At least I assume they are pretending... I wanted to respect peoples' privacy, and did not want to make fun of individuals, so I removed all their names and e-mail addresses.


Almost everyone who read the emails was astonished, a little embarrassed, and entertained. Not long after I set up The Prince William Emails, I applied to join a webring of sites devoted to Prince William. It seemed like a good idea, but the owner of the ring turned out to be someone who had sent one of the e-mails. She was a little upset to say the least. You can read my correspondence with her, and many other people who came to visit the original site, in the feedback. Visitors filled a guestbook with comments and thoughts, and you can read the best of them in the highlights of the guest book. If any of the others who e-mailed "William" in Spring 1999 visit this site, I hope that they forgive me for stringing them along for a while. I did not mean to be unkind, I just became fascinated.

Weirdly, though perhaps predictably, some people used the site's feedback address, or the guestbook, to try to contact Prince William himself. Later still, I launched a bulletin board and you will see that it continues to attract messages for William himself, as well as for me. This has always seemed very strange to me, but it means the site continues to grow without me doing very much, and there is always something new and strange to read!

Experimenting with a live chat programme that I was using for a work project, I opened a live chat page for a while, hoping to talk with visitors like you. I did have some interesting chats, but tragically some people really thought that Prince William might only be a mouse-click away, and I had some very odd chats and offline messages meant for him. You can still read the best of these messages and chats -- and my sarcastic replies that usually fell on deaf and clueless ears.

Mistaken identity

That's a very good question. I think the site is fairly blatantly satirical. Those who sent the original messages, who looked him up in WhoWhere, are only guilty of being naive and hopeful. But what about the others who visit this site and then decide to leave Prince William a message in my guestbook or on my bulletin board? Or the lost souls who tried to chat with "him" live? Perhaps they just ignore the evidence of their own eyes and common sense? Perhaps some who are not native speakers of English are misled? All I know is that even now, three-and-a-half years years after it all started, there is barely a week goes by I don't get a message for Prince William in my guestbook. I think it is bizarre and funny that they do so, so I do not delete this messages.

Weirder still, I have had lots of messages from people who understand the site, who "get it", who say the site is funny, interesting, etc., but then say something that shows they don't get it at all. The two most common messages have always been variations on

  • "The site is funny, I love it. What is Prince William's real email address?"
  • "Great site, I enjoyed it. But you know you really do look like him!"
They think that the photos are me! Some others seem to think it is all a bluff, and that Buckingham Palace is behind the whole thing? I have a feeling that this person is talking about me when she speculates that Prince William is "out there" in disguise.

Of course Prince William does use email, and this has itself become the subject of speculation and fantasy. There were many stories about his email correspondence with Britney Spears, he spoke in an interview about emailing family and friends, and at least one fan fiction site uses the ideas as the basis of a fantasy called The Day He IM'd Me.

Who cares?

Prince William seems a perfectly nice person who is coping well with the strange life he is stuck with. But in this new Millennium, many British people, including myself, question what a modern democratic country needs with princes and princesses, and privilege and superiority by birth right.

It was very interesting to me that the original e-mails all came from outside the UK. Most were from the US, and some from Australia and France. I am no historian, but surely the constitutions of these countries were drawn up partly as a protest against the idea of privilege through birth? People have send me some interesting ideas about this in the guest book and the discussion area.

Most people do get the point of this site, thank goodness, and it has been mentioned in the media quite often -- see the fame area for details. I have also had complimentary words from cultural critics I admire:

I also now have the main status symbols of real celebrity: a professional lookalike, a fan site, a conspiracy theorist and and, in the shape of "Danielle", a stalker.

I do love hearing from visitors, so please do sign the guest book before you go, or use the bulletin board.

I don't know if Prince William or his family has visited the site. I assume he has, and I hope he appreciates the spirit in which it has been created. Weird people do leave me messages saying I am insulting him, but I don't see how. In a way this site could be about how fans relate to any celebrity, but the fact that it is the heir to the British throne makes it far more interesting.


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