Prince William looks professional, speaks with easy self-confidence and interacts well with people from all walks of life. Experts say that's remarkable for someone whose childhood was marked by hugely public family turmoil.
There was the 1996 divorce of his parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, preceded by a long period of muted hostility, then recriminations and mutual public confessions of adultery. That was followed by Diana's shocking death in a 1997 car crash with her boyfriend, and Charles' 2005 remarriage to his longtime mistress, Camilla _ a controversial figure blamed by many for Diana's loneliness and pain.
And yet the future king who has emerged since announcing his engagement in November has won praise for his easygoing and self-deprecating public appearances, whether launching a lifeboat with his fiancee by his side or representing his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, at solemn occasions like the recent memorial service for those lost in the New Zealand earthquake.
"When one thinks of the ways in which William could have gone horribly wrong, at this moment it's all coming together in the right way," said British historian Andrew Roberts. "To have chosen a very sensible down-to-earth young woman who is middle class, that is revolutionary for the royal family. I think it shows a huge breath of fresh air."
William, 28, benefits from the nation's good will _ joyous headlines following his birth in 1982 proclaimed him a king for the 21st Century _ but faced a series of difficult challenges in his early years. Palace officials declined to say whether William received counseling to help cope with his parents' divorce or his mother's subsequent death.
Diana died more than a decade ago, but she remains a looming presence in the upcoming royal wedding, a fact acknowledged by William on the day his engagement was announced when he spoke movingly of his mother and showed the world Diana's sapphire and diamond engagement ring _ now placed on Middleton's finger.
The decision to give his late mother's ring to his fiancee seemed to divide public opinion: Some were impressed, while others found it unsettling since Diana and Charles' union was so ill-starred.
William has had to navigate an emotionally fraught relationship with his stepmother, Camilla, who divorced her first husband to marry Charles after a long-term love affair that Diana _ and much of the British public _ blamed for the demise of the royal marriage.
After Diana's death, Camilla was vilified in the press as "the other woman" and held responsible by some for Diana's unhappiness. Charles was cautious, waiting more than seven years for public passions to cool before marrying Camilla.
Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, says William seems to have borne up well under the pressure, and cautioned against relying on armchair psychology when it comes to analyzing the royals.
"We all think we know these people," he said, "but really we don't."