The Tragically Short Life of the “Other” Prince William

By: Lauren | Published: Dec 31, 2023

When the world thinks of Prince William, they undoubtedly picture Prince Chalres, now King Charles III and Princess Diana’s son, the heir to the throne.

However, there was another Prince William who came before him. The “other” Prince William or the “flying prince” lived a wild life of adventure before his untimely and tragic death.

Who Was the “Other” Prince William?

The original Prince William was the Prince of Gloucester, born on December 18,1941 toPrince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester and Alice, the Duchess of Gloucester. 

Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, with their sons Prince Richard (left) and Prince William at Barnwell Manor, the family home in Northamptonshire

Source: Chris Ware/Keystone Features/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As one of the youngest grandchildren of King George the V and Queen Mary, he was the first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II and when he was born, William was fourth in line for the throne. 

Destined For Greatness

As the eldest son of the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, even if Prince William never made it to the throne, he would certainly become the Duke himself one day. 

Prince William of Gloucester relaxes on his 21st birthday at his home at York House

Source: Dennis Oulds/Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As a royal and future Duke, Prince William spent his early years preparing for greatness. He attended Wellesley Prep School and Eton College before going on to get his bachelor’s degree from Magdalene College. 

Prince William Decided to Go His Own Way

But soon after college, it was clear that Prince William didn’t want to just sit around until he became the Duke of Gloucester. Instead, he decided to get a job at a merchant bank in London, making him only the second royal to ever work in civil service. 

The royal group on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after returning from the wedding ceremony between Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster Abbey

Source: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

He still attended royal functions, such as his cousin Princess Elizabeth’s marriage to Phillip Mountbaten, but Prince William wanted something different for himself than just being “royal.”

Adventure Overseas

In 1965, Prince William was sent to Lagos to work as the third secretary at the British High Commission shortly after getting a job at the Commonwealth Office. 

Prince William of Gloucester boards his Piper Twin Comanche at Cambridge Airport, before embarking on a three-week trip to Japan

Source: Ted West/Central Press/Getty Images

Then, at the age of 27, he was transferred to Tokyo, Japan, where he worked at the British Embassy. 

Finding His One True Love

Japan was reportedly a wonderful experience for the young royal, and it was there that he met the love of his life, Zsuzsi Starkloff. 

Three photos of Prince William of Gloucester and his paramore, Zsuzsi Starkloff

Source: Pinterest

But sadly, as Zsuzsi Starkloff was a Jewish, Hungarian mother who had been twice divorced, she was not deemed suitable by the royal family for the future Duke of Gloucester. 


Princess Margaret Sent to Bring the Prince Back Home

Some say that Princess Margaret, the Queen’s younger sister, was sent to Japan to emplore Prince William to think of his duty to the crown above his relationship.

Prince William of Gloucester and Princess Margaret hold umbrellas outside

Source: Pinterest

And while no one knows for sure if the Princess’ words had an effect on the young Prince, he did end up choosing duty over love.


When Duty Calls

In 1970, Prince William’s father, the Duke of Gloucester, became extremely ill and William, then 29, returned home to become the royal he was always meant to be. 

Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands invite the British royal family to a banquet at Carpenters' Hall in the City of London

Source: Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Prince William had to leave his beloved and his preferred job as a civil servant in order to manage the Gloucester estate, attend royal functions, and essentially, fill the role he was born to play. 


Prince William’s Love of Flying

Although Prince William gave up much of what he loved to fulfill his duty, there was one thing that he could continue to enjoy. 

Prince William of Gloucester competes in the King's Cup Race, a cross-country air race in the UK, 14th August 1971

Source: S.E. Orchard/Daily Express/Getty Images

Prince William had an incredible passion for flying and whenever he could be, he was up in the air.


Living Life on the Edge

And Prince William didn’t just like to fly; he also loved to compete in aerial events. Over the course of just a few years, he entered several contests around the country and even won a few. 

Prince William of Gloucester in the cockpit of an aircraft during the European gliding competition at Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire, 19th August 1972

Source: Brian Harris/Fox Photos/Getty Images

But sadly, the flight at the Dunstable Downs on August 19th, 1972, would be the last he ever landed. 


The Tragic Crash

Only 10 days later, on August 28,1972, Prince William took to the skies at the Goodyear International Air Trophy competition, where his mother was watching from the stands. 

Policemen and firefighters examining the wreckage of Prince William of Gloucester's Piper Cherokee light aircraft after it crashed during competition

Source: Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

But just after takeoff, Prince William somehow lost control of the aircraft and crashed straight into a nearby tree. The entire plane burst into flames, and Prince William died inside.


Today’s Prince William Carries the “Other” Prince William's Namesake

The daredevil prince, the adventurous prince, or the flying prince, Prince William was known by many names. But no matter what name they used, all who knew him loved his courageous and adventurous spirit.

Charles smiling with his teenage son Prince William at the start of their annual skiing holidays

Source: Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty Images

And one man loved him the most, Prince Charles, who later named his own firstborn son after the cousin he had lost so many years before.