Society reserves a spotlight for them unlike any it shines on other celebrities: they are the royal House of Windsor – famous, powerful, fabulously wealthy, revered, scorned, romanticized, vilified, and even taken for granted. Their gaudy, moving spectacle has played out alongside the entire 20th century – and continues into the 21st. In this year-long feature, we’ll examine the lives of the men and women whose stories comprise a Year with the Windsors.In March of 1998, a year after the sudden, unexpected death of Princess Diana, her former husband Prince Charles, Prince of Wales and heir apparent to Queen Elizabeth II traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia, for a quick one-day tour during which the Prince planned on visiting the Pacific Space Centre and commending Canada's environmental efforts, a cause dear to his heart. Security at the event was typical for a royal venue – brisk, professional, low-key. The Prince's detail encountered only one item they hadn't foreseen: the presence of some six thousand screaming, crying high school girls. Since they were hardly the Space Centre's usual clientèle – and since unkind pragmatism ruled out the Prince himself as the object of their hysterical attention (as he put it somewhat bemusedly, “They're certainly not here to see me”) – all eyes turned toward Charles' two sons, Prince William, 16, and Prince Harry, 14. Flowers and teddy bears were tossed onto the stage where the royal boys sat beaming and mystified, but Charles' nature-talk, though upstaged, concluded without incident. The incident happened a short while later, when the royal father and sons stopped by a Vancouver high school for a quick official handshake – and there were twelve thousand more screaming, crying girls waiting, clutching flowers and keepsake notebooks and yet more teddy bears and out-numbering the Prince's security detail some 200 to one. Even the glacial Windsor Palace mind-set was forced to acknowledge that something odd was afoot.Odd, but not unprecedented. More than any other house in British royal history, the Windsors are a curious historical echo chamber, with patterns repeating virtually intact – and Prince William's story takes us back to the very beginning of our “Year with the Windsors.” In our first few chapters, as in our last few, we have a beloved but forbidding Queen occupying the throne with virtually supernatural vitality, a Prince of Wales who's therefore compelled to hang around an unprecedented amount of time waiting for an opening in the only job for which he's qualified, and an heir presumptive who grows to young manhood in such a distant orbit from the throne as to seem almost unconnected with it. Queen Victoria never seriously considered abdicating, even though her grieving for her beloved Prince Albert left the throne virtually unoccupied for decades. King Edward VII succeeded her less than ten years before his own death – much as Prince Charles looks to do in our own time, since he's a man of 60 and his mother might reign another twenty years. And while King Edward was still Prince of Wales, his eldest son Prince Albert Victor grew into a very handsome young man whose image – reprinted on cheap postcards and engraved on everything from tourist brochures to cigar boxes – set many a female heart a-flutter (President Theodore Roosevelt had yet to spawn the fad of teddy bears, or one feels certain Albert Victor would have been pelted with them).