King of hearts

22.07.27: WILLIAM V today became King of England following the abdication of his father, Charles III.

A pin-up and playboy when young, 45-year-old William matured rapidly after his marriage 21 years ago to Fionnuala Fitzgerald-Butler, the Irish beauty.

"My conscience I get from my father and my spreading waistline from my Spencer genes," he said in a recent television interview.

At the Accession Council this morning, King William said that his principal objective would be to cement the closeness between England and Ireland. "This is the cause closest to my heart," he said, taking Princess Fionnuala's hand.

He also dedicated himself to his father's work in making both the monarchy and English society fit for the modern age. As a first step, he announced a commission to consider whether the coronation should be replaced by a simple swearing-in ceremony.

For the past 10 years William and Fionnuala have been based in New York as United Nations special ambassadors for peace and reconciliation. Fionnuala, a computer entrepreneur before her marriage and popularly known as the Steel Shamrock, is expected to be the power behind the throne in the new reign. Charles was known to be keen to allow William to take control at a relatively early age.

The royal couple will also keep their house in Co Derry ­ dubbed the Ulster Balmoral ­ as their principal holiday home. Their children, 20-year-old Diana and 18-year-old Louis, both attended schools in the county. This afternoon, the Irish prime minister extended the hand of friendship to the royal couple and said that he hoped the Princess would be given a formal role in Ireland's public life.

The most popular idea is to revive the ancient rite and to crown her High Queen of Ireland at Tara, the historic seat of former Irish kings. DRS