PRINCE William has revealed he overcame anxiety about public speaking by not wearing contact lenses so he could not see his audience.
The step is similar to the method used by King George VI, whose bid to overcome his nervous stutter during World War Two was the subject of hit movie The King’s Speech.
Both William and his great-grandfather, who made his most important radio addresses in a near-empty room, found they could only beat heir crippling angst if they felt they were not being watched.
The future king was speaking as part of tonight’s BBC1 documentary Football, Prince William And Our Mental Health, which looks at a range of psychological issues affecting men.
Wills, 37, said: “Because I couldn’t see everyone’s eyes, you didn’t feel like the whole weight of the room is watching you.
“You’re like, ‘This has to go right. I don’t want to mess this up’. There’s a lot of people watching and you can see certain people.
“My eyesight started to sort of tail off a little bit as I got older, and I didn’t used to wear contacts when I was working, so actually when I gave speeches I couldn’t see anyone’s face.
“It helps because it’s just a bit of a blur of faces, and because you can’t see anyone looking at you. I could see enough to read the paper and stuff like that, but I couldn’t actually see the whole room.
‘STIGMA ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH’
“And actually that really helped with my anxiety.”
The prince made the documentary to chart his Heads Up campaign with the Football Association which aims to use football as a way of getting men to tackle mental health problems ranging from depression to thoughts of suicide.
Although he admits to using a similar method to George VI, played by Colin Firth in the 2010 film, Wills says the wartime attitude could actually be harming us.
He added: “Why do we still have a taboo and a stigma about mental health? It does seem a lot of it has come about from the war, you know, two world wars.
“There is no amount of talking, no amount of explaining, no amount of counselling you can have that can get a whole generation past the atrocities and the grief and the sadness that a whole nation felt about two world wars.
“I think that in itself made a generation internalise their problems because they just wanted to get on with life, they just wanted to move on, but right now we have to start questioning whether that’s relevant in today’s world and how were living. And it’s not.
“We’ve got to be able to be more open and able to talk about stuff that really matters, stuff that affects your everyday life before it gets to the point where you’re damaging your relationships and your work life and everything around you.”
The prince met footballers past and present to talk about the problems within the game and how they can be overcome.
He had a pint with Frank Lampard, 41, to discuss how the issue is treated in football clubs.
The Chelsea boss says players, who often suffer from extreme stress and anxiety, would rarely talk to each other about their problems when he was starting in his career.
He said: “We were stuck in the Stone Age in many ways. I think things are moving on — awareness is huge. I was certainly at fault for it. And now I look back and go, ‘I wish we had a bit more maturity’.
“I grew up in a family where it was kind of seen that the way it is is that you don’t give away too much emotion, you keep things to yourself, you maybe don’t engage together in an emotional kind of way.
“And I try to come away from that, but I think some of those things are within and I think opening up and talking about other people’s experiences is the only way to start approaching it.”
The prince also met players from one of the local Sands United charity teams for men affected by the death of a young child.
But the prince’s most revealing and personal discussion was with ex-Watford and England under-21s striker Marvin Sordell, 29, who quit football last year due to depression.
Marvin, whose other clubs include Coventry, Bolton and Burnley, said his problems started when he became a father in 2017, and it brought back painful memories of not having a dad growing up.
Wills sympathised, saying: “Having children is the biggest life-changing moment, it really is.
“I think when you’ve been through something traumatic in life and that is, like you say, your dad not being around, my mother dying when I was younger, the emotions come back in leaps and bounds.
“Because it’s a very different phase in life and there is no one really there to help you. I definitely found it at times very overwhelming.”
As the documentary shows footage of Wills and Kate with Prince George at a match, he also revealed becoming a father had made him realise the value of football.
He added: “Football is such an important part of the fabric of this country. It goes very deep with us. It’s very spiritual, it’s very kind of connected to us.”
- Football, Prince William And Our Mental Health is on BBC1 tonight at 8.05pm