He has spent the better part of his life sheltered, often wearing a mask to hide his face from the public's prying eyes. But after his father's unexpected death it has emerged that Michael Jackson's son, Prince Michael Jackson I had become the defacto family leader, according to at least one former Jackson family employee.
Michael Jackson's son, 12, appeared composed beyond his years at his father's memorial. And he has surfaced as a quiet leader inside his home, where workers respected him, even before his father's death.
"It was a bit unusual in the beginning taking instructions from Prince," said the King of Pop's former personal chef, Doug Jones. "But once I understood the process, he was like a go-between [between] Mr. Jackson and myself."
Jones said it was Prince who frequently gave the orders — not his reclusive father.
"Prince was usually the only one that would convey to me certain instructions when Mr. Jackson wanted to eat upstairs," he said. "I looked at him as a young man in a kid's body."
Jones said the preteen was "very mature for his age."
Another Michael Jackson chef Kai Chase, says when she was hired to accompany the "Thriller" singer to London for his comeback concert tour, it was Prince who personally made the request on behalf of his father.
Chase said Prince also was the first one Michael Jackson's personal doctor Dr. Conrad Murray, asked for when he found the singer unresponsive in his bedroom.
"I started preparing the lunch and then I looked at my cell phone and it was noon. About 12:05 or 12:10 Dr. Murray runs down the steps and screams, 'Go get Prince!' He's screaming very loud. I run into the den where the kids are playing. Prince runs to meet Dr. Murray and from that point on, you could feel the energy in the house change.," Chase told The Associated Press in an interview.
Yet with his siblings, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince Michael Jackson II, Prince is a typical preadolescent.
"They always had computer time. One thing they would always do is they would listen to Bill Cosby tapes. They would play games," Jones said. "Prince was working on a project that he was working on for the Guinness World Records."
Prince's paternal grandfather said the child now is spending a lot of time with his cousins. Joe Jackson said recently his grandson is an athletic youngster who enjoys his time at the family compound playing with his cousins.
"Prince, he's busy playin' football with the guys out there and baseball," Joe Jackson said. "And those kids about the smartest kids I ever seen, really. 'Cause that's what Michael put into them," he said of Michael Jackson's young children.
Prince's has come a long way from the days when masks shrouded his face from the world's view. His father never took Prince or his siblings on typical kiddie outings. There were no trips to popular children's restaurants or other children's birthday parties.
"He left the house one time in a red Toyota Prius. And they drove around for about four hours. Michael and the kids never got out of the car once. The bodyguard would pick up the ice cream or the pizza and then put it inside the car," said Ben Evenstad, a photographer and the head of National Photo Group.
While the seclusion of Prince's former life may be gone, a custody agreement about who will raise him and his siblings was reached Thursday.
After weeks of negotiations, Michael Jackson's mother Katherine Jackson and his ex-wife Debbie Rowe reached an out-of-court agreement that gives Katherine Jackson full, permanent custody of the pop icon's three children, while Rowe will be granted "meaningful visitation rights." A court still has to approve the deal.
With this agreement in place the Jackson children's lives will change even more, as Prince, Paris and the child nicknamed Blanket into adolescence under the care of Katherine Jackson.