LONDON — The young carpenter whose custom-made furniture is on sale in Britain and the United States introduces himself as David Linley. He is really a lord, a nephew of Queen Elizabeth II and 10th in line to the British throne.
The 20-year-old woman sitting behind the receptionist's desk at Christie's auction house in London is Lady Helen Windsor, 19th in line to the throne and considered the most glamorous unattached woman in the royal family.
The queen's youngest son, Prince Edward, 20, lives in a dormitory at Cambridge University, eating cafeteria food, playing rugby and acting in undergraduate plays.
These are some of the new breed of Britain's young royals--setting out to make their own way in the world.
"This is the first group of royals really to work, to study at university, to be people in their own right and not be overshadowed by their mothers and fathers," said Harold Brooks-Baker, publishing director of Burke's Peerage, one of the bibles of British bluebloods.
"In the past, the brothers and sisters of whoever was on the throne and their children were never visible to the outside world. They tended not to be well-educated and lived in a cloistered world," he added.
"This is the first time in history that royals are becoming normal rich people, not locked away in the tower. They're leading an upper-class existence, working, having affairs, going skiing and surfing."
With 18 direct descendants of King George V under 25--the largest number since Queen Victoria--those farther down the line of succession will have few public duties to perform.
Edward, now fifth in line to the throne, will receive a substantial government allowance when he starts carrying out a full program of official duties. But he is also expected to choose a career.
The Times of London said he is likely to become the first member of the royal family to choose a profession, but he may follow royal traditional and pick the military.
Many, such as Linley who is the son of the queen's sister Princess Margaret and her ex-husband Lord Snowdon, have no independent wealth and must work.
Course in Furniture-Making
The 23-year-old viscount took a two-year course in furniture-making at the John Makepeace School for Craftsmen and opened his own workshop, where custom tables cost about $560 and have become popular with American buyers. A furniture critic writing in The Times of London said a desk Linley made when he was 13 years old should be in London's Tate Gallery.
"Many more people are taking an active interest in learning about woodwork than when I started 10 years ago," Linley said in an interview with The Standard newspaper. "People are fed up with mass production. They want something unique, with a bit of character."
The short, curly-haired lord, who sometimes deliberately sounds more like a cockney than a royal, also has his father's talent for photography and won a national photographic competition, the Beaton Award, in 1983. According to The Times, he is debating whether to remain a furniture-maker or move into photography.
His sister, Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones, 20, a onetime member of the Kensington Brownies who was a bridesmaid at the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, is trying to decide between a career in art or the film industry.
Eleventh in line to the throne, she spent a year at London's Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in a pre-college course and went to India last year as an assistant to her father, who was shooting still pictures for David Lean's movie, "A Passage to India."
"Sarah worked extremely hard. I'm proud of her," said Lord Snowdon.
Bottom of the Ladder
Lady Helen, daughter of the Duke of Kent and the first royal baby to use the surname of the British royal house--Windsor--took a three-month art course at Sotheby's, went on to Paris to study art and French, and is starting at the bottom of the ladder in the art world as a receptionist at Christie's.
In a country accustomed to distance between the royal family and the common people, the idea of a royal furniture-maker or receptionist is as novel as a royal university student.
Prince Charles, 36-year-old heir to the throne, was the first royal to attend college, graduating with a degree in history from Cambridge in 1970. His mother, the queen, was taught at Buckingham Palace by governesses and tutors. But his father, Prince Philip, prodded him to attend schools with other children and pursue higher education.
Youngest brother Edward's respectable first-year exam results at Cambridge, where he is studying archeology and anthropology, went some way to answering fellow students who protested he shouldn't have been admitted in the first place because his grades weren't good enough.
The prince, whose acting talents have won critical acclaim, explained after a dress rehearsal last November for an undergraduate comedy revue in which he wore eight different guises that he didn't mind making a fool of himself.
Prince Does His Thing