LONDON - Prince William insisted he took his royal duties "seriously" but complained they can "weigh you down" in a rare interview out on Wednesday following claims that he is slacking off on official engagements.
"I take duty very seriously. I take my responsibilities very seriously," he told the BBC in an interview broadcast ahead of his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday on Thursday.
"But it's about finding your own way at the right time and if you're not careful, duty can sort of weigh you down an awful lot at a very early age and I think you've got to develop into the duty role," he said.
The second in line to the throne after his father Prince Charles said the queen was "a real guiding example of just what a good monarch could be".
The Sun, Britain's most widely-read newspaper, in February dubbed William the "reluctant royal" after noting he had conducted just 122 official engagements last year, while the queen had carried out 341.
Official photographs of the prince and his family skiing just weeks later fuelled the growing criticism, with The Sun's headline reading: "Sloping off again... Workshy Wills takes family skiing".
"I'm going to get plenty of criticism over my lifetime. It's not something I completely ignore but it's not something I take completely to heart," the prince said in the BBC interview.
"When the queen decided that she's going to hand down more responsibilities, I'll be the first person to accept them." The queen has reigned for more than 63 years and shows no sign of retiring, even if she has in recent years passed on some of her duties to the younger royals.
William also has a job as helicopter pilot for the air ambulance service near his home in Norfolk, eastern England - the first royal directly in line to the throne in civilian employment.
But the Daily Mail has reported that he only works there 80 hours a month. The Sun quoted a source saying that he was "hardly ever on shift".
The Daily Express has said that William, who has two children with his wife Kate, is wary of working as hard as his father Prince Charles because he wanted to be a more hands-on dad.