The Tragic Life Of The Man Who Inspired Prince William's Name

William, Prince of Wales, isn't the first William in the royal family and likely won't be the last. The William that inspired his name was Prince William of Gloucester, the first cousin of the late Queen Elizabeth II. William, the son of Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, was born in 1941 and lived in both Britain and Australia as a youth.

One link between the Williams is that they both attended Eton College. In a write-up for the Daily Mail, royal journalist Christopher Wilson claimed King Charles III chose Prince William of Gloucester as William's namesake because he was "a friend and role model for the future king." Sadly, the elder William died in a plane crash at age 30, a decade before Charles' son William was born. Prior to his death, Prince William of Gloucester experienced several tragedies, including forbidden romance and poor health for himself and his father.

He worked for the Commonwealth Office and lived overseas, first in Lagos and then in Tokyo. While working for the Tokyo British Embassy, William met Zsuzsi Starkloff in 1968, but they never had the love story they hoped for.

William was unable to marry Starkloff

Before living in Tokyo, Zsuzsi Starkloff moved from Hungary to America, where she worked as a model, flight attendant, and flight instructor. In a 2012 interview with Christopher Wilson for the Daily Mail, Starkloff said she and Prince William of Gloucester met at a party. She had her chauffeur bring him a note afterward: "Dear Prince Charming, I have a slipper missing. Would you like to come to a party?" Upon their second meeting, he called her "Cinderella" and asked her to dance.

William wanted to propose to Starkloff, but when he asked his parents, they said she was considered "unsuitable." The royal family didn't want a potential union for several reasons, one being that she had two children. Starkloff said, "It came as no shock to me. I was seven years older than William, for a start, divorced, and of a different religion. I knew it was doomed."

Queen Elizabeth II was reportedly worried about scandal, similar to Edward VIII's relationship with Wallis Simpson. Princess Margaret — who had her own drama-filled relationship with Peter Townsend — was even sent to Tokyo to investigate the pair (and advise William against a marriage). He still brought Starkloff to Scotland to meet his parents and an uncle. Later, after William had ended things, he continued to visit Starkloff in America, and they traveled the country together. The two didn't marry (and William never married at all), but Starkloff never forgot him.

William had porphyria

Prince William of Gloucester was advised to return to the U.K. to take care of his family's Northamptonshire estate and step up for more royal duties. The main reason for that was to keep him from Zsuzsi Starkloff (as their America trip did the opposite) and because of his father's poor health following a series of strokes. William's health wasn't stellar, either. Christopher Wilson wrote another piece for the Daily Mail that explained that William, a pilot, had the blood disease porphyria and that flying was something he did to feel better. "Flying is my great relaxation," William said, according to The New York Times.

William's death on August 28, 1972, was a tragedy that shook the royal family. He and his co-pilot, Vyrel Mitchell, crashed flying a Piper Cherokee Arrow for the Goodyear International Air Trophy Race. Since William died so young, his younger brother, Prince Richard, became the Duke of Gloucester following their father's death.

According to Starkloff's Daily Mail interview, she wore her ring from William on a necklace. He had a version of the ring, too. "The eerie thing is that he wrote me a letter just before he died," Starkloff said. "In it, he said he wanted to come to New York and talk to me to see if there was something we could do. He wanted us to be together." She thought he would propose and added, "He died wearing my ring. And I still think about him every day."