Prince William BeardDec 14th, 2008
The future King was joined on the shoot by his brother Prince Harry, his girlfriend Kate Middleton and a mystery blonde....
Kate aims high as she joins bearded Wills, Harry and mystery blonde on royal shoot
By Martin Delgado
14th December 2008
A muddy field in Norfolk may not be the most romantic of venues.
But Prince William and Kate Middleton were clearly enjoying each other’s company as they went on a pheasant shoot at Sandringham yesterday.
Kate, dressed in a dark jacket, scarf and warm hat, beamed broadly as her Royal boyfriend concentrated on taking aim at their feathered quarry above.
Prince William fires a shot as girlfriend Kate (centre), Prince Harry (far left) and a mystery blonde look on at Sandringham
This was the first time they had been photographed together since September, when they attended a friend’s wedding in Austria.
Kate, who has been dubbed ‘Waity Katie’ because she is apparently happy to hang on until he proposes, is said to have had a ‘minor wobble’ about their relationship when William decided to commit the next seven years to the RAF.
Kate appears to be thoroughly enjoying being behind the barrel of a gun
But they looked relaxed and happy as they tramped around the Royal estate in the rain, accompanied by Prince Harry, who was with a mystery blonde female friend.
Whether Kate approves of her boyfriend’s newly acquired beard is something Royal watchers will have to wait to find out.
William, 26, is thought to have stopped shaving while on a recent anti-drug-smuggling exercise with the Special Boat Service in the Caribbean. His father, the Prince of Wales, followed the same naval tradition while serving abroad more than 30 years ago.
Yesterday, one onlooker said: ‘It was a real shock to see William with a beard. It looked as if he had not shaved for a couple of weeks at least.
‘Whether Kate approves is another matter entirely. But she was laughing and joking during the shoot so maybe she does like it.’
Kate’s obvious enthusiasm for blood sports, however, infuriated animal rights campaigners.
Andrew Tyler, director of the Animal Aid charity, said: ‘It’s depressing that Kate should be drawn into the Royal habit of killing for fun.
‘There is no tradition of shooting in her family, yet she is now senselessly taking the lives of birds. It seems that you cannot enter the Royal Family’s inner circle without spilling blood for pleasure.’
A bearded Prince William searches for his target
William's father Prince Charles sporting a beard and their ancestor George V
This is not the first time Ms Middleton has been dragged into a row about hunting.
Last year, she was bitterly criticised by the League Against Cruel Sports after she joined a deer-shooting party on the Queen’s Scottish estate at Balmoral.
Wearing camouflage gear, she was seen being coached by two ghillies on how to use a bolt-action rifle fitted with telescopic sights and silencer – a weapon capable of killing an animal at a mile.
William and Harry regularly enjoy a weekend break at Sandringham with friends before Christmas. They always stay at Wood Farm, a secluded retreat on the 20,000-acre estate.
Prince Harry and friend look to be enjoying themselves hunting pheasants
Harry, 24, recently passed the selection test to train as an Army Air Corps helicopter pilot.
There was no sign yesterday of his girlfriend Chelsy Davy. She is currently on a work placement at the London offices of the Queen’s solicitors Farrer & Co.
The blonde woman standing next to Harry in the photographs is thought to be one of a group of friends who spent the weekend at Sandringham at the Princes’ invitation.
The others apparently decided to stay inside in the warm, rather than venture out into the unpleasant December drizzle.
Last night, a source at Clarence House confirmed that William had given up shaving for a few weeks while he was on military exercises abroad with special-forces personnel.
Kate examines her weapon as the hunters scour the scene at Sandringham
Members of the Special Boat Service, which was founded during the Second World War and whose motto is By Strength And Guile, are often unshaven, in line with a Navy tradition dating back hundreds of years.
But the growth may be short-lived because the Prince is due to start training as an RAF search and rescue pilot next month. The RAF and Army have a policy of banning servicemen from having beards, though moustaches are allowed.
Some soldiers serving in Afghanistan, however, have been encouraged to grow beards to earn the respect of local people.
William and Harry are expected to return to Sandringham later this month for the Royal Family’s traditional Christmas break. Harry missed the festivities last year because he was serving with the Army in Afghanistan.
Ready, aim, fire... Wills tries to take out a pheasant
Is William pointing his gun the wrong way?
Experts yesterday questioned Prince William’s actions in apparently aiming his shotgun over the heads of other members of his shooting party.
Mike Williams, a professional shooting instructor, said: ‘You should never shoot over somebody’s head.
‘The party should be standing in a line and each has a quadrant that they shoot into. You can shoot 20 degrees either side, anything more than that is within somebody else’s quadrant.’
Wills lines up to shoot
Mr Williams added that Harry appeared to be holding his gun correctly. ‘The safest way is if you stand there with the gun broken across your arm so you can see the two cartridges.’
James Marchington, editor of Sporting Shooter magazine, said: ‘It would be unsafe and rude to point your gun in somebody else’s direction.
'There are safety rules that should be followed in between shoots. One would normally break the gun and cradle it over the arm as you walk from one shoot to the next.
‘However, it sounds as though this is an informal shoot and one would not expect to follow strict rules in that situation.
‘It seems this is not an inherently unsafe situation. Compared to other sports, shooting has a very good record in terms of accidents.’