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British RoyalsThe Cambridges

A Most Momentous Time: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Year in Review


Picture by i-Images / Pool

It was perhaps their most momentous year as royals: The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge both announced several big projects including The Earthshot Prize, 5 Big Questions, Hold Still, Heads Up (and all of its smaller projects); and when the world focused on the coronavirus pandemic, William and Kate played a major part in the British Royal Family’s response to the crisis.

The couple pivoted their work towards focusing on frontline and key workers, arranging donations and holding meetings with those in charge to help as many people as they could. Though half the year was spent locked indoors with only Zoom to conduct major business, William and Kate were true MVPs this year. Let’s take a look back at their 2020!

January

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William and Kate teased a big announcement on their social media, which was revealed on New Year’s Eve: the Earthshot Prize. It would play a major role in their calendar later in the year.

Then, they were announced as the hosts of a UK-Africa Investment Summit reception at Buckingham Palace, the first time they’d been tapped to host an event of this size by The Queen. We covered it here. At a roundtable discussion with all the heads of television studios in the UK, Prince William said that he wanted more informed coverage of climate change.

On Kate’s 38th birthday on 9 January, the bells at Westminster Abbey rang (for one of the only times this year before they were cancelled due to the pandemic). At a poignant Investiture ceremony, William used sign language to speak with one of the honourees.

When The Duke and Duchess of Sussex announced that they planned to step back as full-time working royals, Royal Central brought you all the coverage, including a rare ‘royal source close to William’ who spoke to The Times.

The Cambridges visited Bradford for a day of engagements and were treated to a very special cake featuring pictures of their lives. There, Kate let it slip that she and William likely wouldn’t have any more children.

Kate began to unveil her Early Years work in January, launching the 5 Big Questions on the Under 5s, a UK-wide survey to gage public opinion on raising children and how to steer her work to make a real difference. She embarked on a 24-hour tour of the UK in support of the survey, visiting Cardiff, Birmingham, London and Surrey. She also visited HMP Send in Surrey, meeting with women she’d met on a previous visit in 2015. 

The Queen announced that she was naming William as this year’s Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (it was later cancelled due to coronavirus). Kate revealed portraits she’d taken of Holocaust survivors to mark the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The next day, she and William attended a Holocaust Memorial Day service.

With the BAFTAS announcing that they’d prefer it if guests rewore dresses they already owned, Royal Central looked back at some dresses we would’ve liked Kate to re-wear (spoiler alert: we didn’t guess correctly!). William and Kate hired a new Communications Chief for The Royal Foundation; Kate got artsy during a visit to Evalina London and served breakfast at a nursery school in London. William visited Everton for his Heads Up football and mental health campaign, and on the last day of the month, we revealed that Kate and Harry were named the top royal fashion icons.

Over the month, the Duke and Duchess continued to hold meetings with The Royal Foundation. These included general meetings with the executives and Early Years meetings. William attended a taskforce meeting of United for Wildlife

William received the Master and the Clerk of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots, as well as the Presidents of Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, Egypt, and Uganda ahead of the UK-Africa Investment Summit. He also met with the Rt. Hon. Helen Clark, who had been the Prime Minister of New Zealand and former Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme.

February

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It was announced in early February that The Art Room, one of Kate’s first patronages, would close. William and Kate attended the BAFTAS (Kate rewore a dress from the 2012 Diamond Jubilee South Seas visit), and William called for greater diversity in film.

For Children’s Mental Health Week, Kate encouraged young people to ‘find their brave.’ The Cambridges joined forces with The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall for an engagement to support injured military personnel (we covered the visit here). The couple spent a day in Wales carrying out engagements; William played Jenga to discuss mental health with famous footballers; and it was announced that they would visit Ireland in early March.

Kate visited Northern Ireland solo to promote the 5 Big Questions while William attended a reception for the 150th anniversary of the Metropolitan and City Police Orphans Fund. They sent a message of support to Australian firefighters battling the devastating bushfires; Prince William spoke with a footballer about mental health for Heads Up; Kate released a video on the Kensington Royal Instagram account urging people to fill out the 5 Big Questions survey. On the last day the public could fill out the survey, her younger brother James shared a message of support for his big sister.

Kate made her podcast debut on the Happy Baby Happy Mum podcast, chatting with host Giovanna Fletcher about the 5 Big Questions and her own parenting experiences (including the ‘terrifying’ Lindo Wing photocalls). To coincide with the podcast, Kate released a new photo of Princess Charlotte picking flowers, a moment she’d referenced in the chat.

At the half-term, Prince George and Princess Charlotte spent time lambing, and as coronavirus began to appear in the UK, we found out that their school was issuing new health protocols. New details of William and Kate’s visit to Ireland were unveiled, and the couple attended a show of ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ on the West End in support of The Royal Foundation and mental health.

At an Investiture ceremony, William honoured a legendary cricketer, and Kate got sporty for a SportsAid event in London. At an unannounced visit to Nottinghamshire, William became the first member of the Royal Family to visit Mansfield since his mother visited in 1985. William attended a rugby match between Wales and France in his role as patron of the Welsh Rugby Union. The couple continued to hold meetings with their Royal Foundation.

Before their visit to Ireland, we wrote about the political uncertainty in place and wondered how the coronavirus would affect the Royal Family’s calendar (hindsight is 20/20).

March

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With their royal visit to Ireland at the beginning of the month, Royal Central provided full coverage: day one, day two, day three. William quipped about coronavirus during the visit, making a comment many felt he probably shouldn’t have made.

After attending the Commonwealth Day Service at Westminster Abbey with the rest of the Royal Family, Kate attended a reception for Place2Be’s 25th anniversary. William was announced as the new patron of the London Air Ambulance Charity (following his role in their anniversary appeal in 2019), and his role as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was officially terminated as the event was cancelled due to the pandemic.

The Cambridges pivoted towards coronavirus appeal work with their Royal Foundation as the pandemic began to spread rapidly. William helped launch an emergency appeal with the National Emergencies Trust; the couple visited NHS workers at a 111 call centre who’d been taking calls around the clock; and Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis helped as well, clapping for carers in a video posted to the Kensington Royal social media accounts.

William called his patronage, The Passage, to discuss the coronavirus pandemic, saying: “We are in a life and death fight to help those people living on the streets in this public health emergency.”

The couple continued to hold meetings with The Royal Foundation, and they received the winners of the Step Into Health Awards. The Duke held meetings for the Earthshot Prize and with the chief executives of the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

April

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As their work pivoted to digital, William and Kate began video calls with charities and other organisations. At the beginning of the month, they chatted with schoolchildren still attending school while their frontline worker parents were on the job.

William wrote a letter to the Church of Scotland during Easter and said that Britain is at its best during a crisis on a video call with a Welsh food bank. In a letter to Action on Addiction, Kate worried about the effect the pandemic would have causing anxiety in people. William opened an NHS Nightingale Hospital in Birmingham via video call and praised the work of Captain Sir Tom Moore, a 100-year-old veteran walking laps of his backyard to raise money for the NHS.

The Cambridges spoke out about mental health during the pandemic and hosted a Zoom call with Heads Together charities to discuss the issue further. Kate wrote a letter to Evelina London to thank the staff there for their work during the pandemic, as well as a letter to Action for Children and one for EACH. William penned letters for Centrepoint and Child Bereavement UK.

Later, they revealed how their children were staying in touch with their grandparents during the pandemic; they launched Our Frontline, a mental health support system for frontline workers. The Cambridge family appeared on the BBC to clap for carers at Anmer Hall.

On Prince Louis’s second birthday, Kate released new pictures she’d taken of her youngest child. A bonus image was released, and Royal Central looked back at the day he was born. Elsewhere, we explained why we’ll never see ‘Princess Kate.’

On 29 April, William and Kate celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary. We looked back on the day.

The Cambridges spoke with staff at Queen’s Hospital Burton and the University Hospital Monklands. William held a meeting with the staff of the Liverpool University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and a roundtable meeting to discuss first responders’ mental health and wellbeing. Kate spoke with staff at Kingston Hospital.

William also spoke with the Crown Prince of Jordan via telephone and met with the brains behind Comic Relief UK (he’d later appear in a skit on the BBC to boost morale). He spoke with the chief executive of Mental Health Innovations, attended a Duchy of Cornwall Finance Committee meeting via telephone, and met with the Football Association via telephone.

May

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Princess Charlotte celebrated her fifth birthday by delivering food packages to isolated elders in the Sandringham area. Kate snapped new pictures to mark the occasion. We looked back on the day she was born in 2015.

To coincide with Maternal Mental Health Week, Kate chatted with maternity care workers and experts. She wrote a letter to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. As Nursing Now 2020 was set to begin, Kate penned a letter in support of nursing. William wrote a letter of support to the Diana Awards, created in honour of his late mother.

Kate launched one of her biggest projects of the year in May, Hold Still, a photography exhibition opened to submissions from people all over the UK. People were encouraged to share a snapshot of their lives in lockdown. The project was supported by the National Portrait Gallery.

Elsewhere, we explained how William could one day become the Prince of Wales. We also noticed that William and Kate’s social media names had changed.

Shout, the crisis text line launched by William and Kate and Harry and Meghan celebrated its first anniversary. William and Kate held a video call with staff and volunteers to mark the occasion. William spoke with members of a Muslim mosque in Christchurch and thanked police officers for their work during the pandemic.  

For the first-ever virtual Royal Chelsea Flower Show, Kate shared never-before-seen photos of her Back to Nature garden. William chatted with Scottish charities, and the royal couple tried their hand at bingo calling when they called into a retirement facility. In the Sunday Times, the Archbishop of Canterbury praised William’s focus on mental health. At a Church of England service, William spoke about the importance of mental health.

In a documentary about men’s mental health, William spoke about parenting and his memories of his late mother. The Duchess of Cambridge and Countess of Wessex joined forces to thank nurses on World Nursing Day

We held a readers poll to determine Kate’s best outfits of 2020; and when a bombshell Tatler cover story came out about Kate (that Kensington Palace later threatened legal action over and got substantial changes made to the online story), our editor-in-chief had strong words about the ‘sources close to Kate’ who’d allegedly spoken out.

William met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the beginning of the month. He also met with the staff at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust while Kate met with the National Portrait Gallery. Other meetings William had included with the Rt. Hon. Robert Jenrick MP (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government) and Dame Louise Casey (Chairman, HM Government’s Covid-19 Rough Sleeping Response Taskforce); and with Bill Gates.

William discussed marine conservation with residents in Wester Ross and with shielded people in Northamptonshire via telephone. The couple continued meetings with The Royal Foundation.

June

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To mark the first-ever Thank a First Responder Day in Australia, William and Kate spoke with a few; Sophie supported Kate’s Hold Still project by submitting her own photo; and to mark Volunteer Week in the UK, William and Kate praised those going above and beyond and released a new family photo.

We started a series called ‘Before They Were Royal’ and looked at Kate’s life before she was a duchess; Kate visited an addiction services centre via video link and shared some of her favourite Hold Still snaps she’d received before the submission window closed.

William announced that the FA Cup would be renamed the Heads Up FA Cup Final this year to mark the mental health initiative he’d been working on; and in his first in-person engagement since lockdown began, he visited the ambulance crew near Anmer Hall to thank them. Kate led a school assembly on kindness, and we reminisced about the time she met a famous cat at a movie premiere.  

The UK marked Father’s Day and we were treated to new photos of William and his children for the holiday. Since it coincided with William’s 38th birthday, we were also treated to new portraits.

Kate and Camilla joined forces to commemorate Children’s Hospice Week; William visited the University of Oxford to view their work on a COVID-19 vaccine; and Kate visited EACH’S The Nook to help plant a garden.

In addition to meetings with The Royal Foundation and The Duchy of Cornwall, the Cambridges held meetings with The Passage, Action on Addiction, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, United for Wildlife, Arsenal Football Club, Sport England and UK Sport, Tusk Trust, Heads Up, Family Action, 1st Battalion The Irish Guards, and London’s Air Ambulance Charity.

July

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Kate promised Wimbledon fans that 2021 would be “worth the wait” as she narrated a short film about the world’s most famous tennis tournament. She also spoke, via video, with students at Bond Primary School about tennis and ushered in Sir Andy Murray to chat with them, as well!

As pubs and restaurants began re-opening, William popped down to his local for a pint and a chat with pub owners about their struggles during the pandemic. The couple attended a party for the NHS on its anniversary.

Kate helped launch a new BBC Kids initiative: Tiny Happy People; William narrated a video about the illegal wildlife trade. In Peterborough, William learned firsthand how the homeless population had been living during the pandemic.

As Prince George celebrated his seventh birthday, new photos taken by the Duchess were released, and we looked back at the day he was born.

The Cambridges, having already announced that they would pivot their Foundation work to COVID-19-related causes, announced that they would be granting £1.8 million to various frontline charities. After devastating flooding in India, William wrote a letter of support to the Kaziranga National Park (the couple visited the park in 2016).

A brief scandal kicked up following the news that The Royal Foundation had transferred money to a foundation for The Duke and Duchess of Sussex after they’d split (and seemed to disappear within the week). William backed a ‘Mentally Healthy Football’ declaration and then appeared on the That Peter Crouch Podcast to discuss football.

Meetings this month included with The Royal Foundation, Tusk Trust, The Earthshot Prize, Heads Up, the Submarines, United for Wildlife, and the National Portrait Gallery.

August

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To watch the Heads Up FA Cup Final at Anmer Hall, William invited frontline workers to join him. Normally, he attends the match in person and awards the trophy, but the coronavirus prevented him from taking part.

Kate wrote a letter to the British Red Cross for its 150th anniversary, and a family honoured by the Duchess at the EACH garden in June visited the garden to see the sunflower she’d planted. Perhaps her biggest project in August? Working on behalf of the baby banks to get big British brands to donate 10,000 items.

The Cambridges made a surprise visit to Barry Island and played in an arcade; mid-month, William helped lead the celebrations for VJ Day by giving a speech. William announced, with Harry, that a statue for their late mother would be unveiled at Kensington Palace in 2021 to mark what would have been her 60th birthday.

And Kate teased more from her Hold Still photography exhibition: at the end of the month, she shared three of her favourite images. William also had big news at the end of the month: his Private Secretary, Dr. Simon Case, would be leaving him to rejoin the government.

Meetings this month included with The Royal Foundation and the Football Association.

September

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William honoured frontline workers with an online speech at the 999 Festival; a few days later, at the start of Air Ambulance Week, William penned a letter thanking them for their hard work during the pandemic. On 999 Day, William made a surprise visit to Belfast, Ireland, to thank frontline workers there.

Just before Hold Still officially launched, The Queen penned a letter of support for Kate’s project. Just after Hold Still officially launched, I penned a letter of support for Kate’s project. She shared a few behind the scenes stories for a few of the portraits, and later held outside meetings with parents to discuss the importance of peer-to-peer support groups.

The couple visited East London to see how this side of the city was recovering from the pandemic; we looked back at Prince George’s christening, which happened seven years ago in September; and Tatler backed down after a legal challenge from the Cambridges following a bombshell cover story.

William announced a new ITV documentary, ‘Prince William: A Planet for Us All,’ which would focus on conservation and climate change. The Cambridges picked Zeinab Badawi as a Director of their Foundation; William paid tribute to the ambulance workers we lost during the pandemic, and the family hosted Sir David Attenborough for a screening of his new Netflix documentary. Kate became co-President of The Scouts Association alongside The Duke of Kent and carried out her first engagement with a troop.

Meetings this month included with The Royal Foundation, the Emergency Responders Senior Leaders, The Earthshot Prize, the Football Association, the former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Indra Nooyi, the 1851 Trust, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Natural History Museum, Yao Ming, and Naoko Yamazaki.

October

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In a video call to residents of Kangaroo Island, off Australia, William pledged that the family would return to pay their respects following the bushfires earlier this year as soon as they could.

William sent his condolences to Kuwait following the death of the Emir; the world went gaga when we heard Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis ask Sir David Attenborough nature-related questions; and Kate visited the University of Derby for World Mental Health Day.

The Cambridges held their first audiences at Buckingham Palace, meeting with the visiting President and First Lady of Ukraine.

William then officially launched The Earthshot Prize, an ambitious, decade-long prize to reverse the effects of climate change and other environmental problems. He received the support of many people around the world, including former US President Barack Obama.

Kate announced the Wildlife Photographer of the Year with the Natural History Museum; she visited with healthcare experts to discuss the research on how to reduce and prevent miscarriages.

William joined The Queen for her first in-person engagement since before lockdowns began in the spring (neither wore a mask, though both were tested – negative – and followed social distancing guidelines, and we had opinions on that). He also held a roundtable discussion with business owners in Liverpool to discuss the Tier 3 restrictions.

A year on from their official visit to Pakistan, William and Kate held a video call with children at the SOS Children’s Village in Lahore to play games, and with the students at the Islamabad Model College for Girls to play Pictionary and discuss the pandemic.

The couple visited outdoor portraits for the Hold Still exhibition in London (KFC had a great time trolling William online – one of the funnier moments of this too-long year) and Kate encouraged people to share snaps of the outdoor portraits they saw around the UK; William ‘followed in his mother’s footsteps’ yet again, this time visiting a hospital she’d visited 30 years ago; and the couple honoured frontline workers with a special Pride of Britain Award.

To end the month, we looked at the history of William’s dukedom, The Dukedom of Cambridge.  

Meetings this month included with The Royal Foundation and the Natural History Museum.

November

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A major bombshell at the beginning of November: William had tested positive for COVID-19 back in April but kept his diagnosis secret because his father and the Prime Minister had both publicly announced their illnesses, and he didn’t want to cause panic.

The Cambridges spoke to military families ahead of Remembrance Sunday; and as the UK began to discuss stricter lockdowns, Carole Middleton revealed that her grandchildren may have alternative Christmas plans to comply with protocols.

After the Hold Still exhibition closed, Kate released a message thanking the UK for its support.

William and Kate became engaged 10 years ago in November, and we looked back at some of the milestones from that day. We looked at the Issa dress that launched Kate as a style icon; her engagement ring with a special backstory; and what their engagement interview revealed about the shy royal fiancée.

As the BBC and Martin Bashir came under fire for the way they may have wrangled Diana’s controversial Panorama interview in 1995, William welcomed the news of an inquiry. William video chatted with Shout volunteers for The Diana Awards; and the couple spoke to fathers about the support they received when they became parents.

Sad news for the Cambridges at the end of the month: their beloved English Spaniel, Lupo, passed away, aged nine.  

Kate announced that the 5 Big Questions findings would be unveiled at the end of the month (full coverage of the findings here). Kate answered questions from Instagram about her work with the Early Years; and as the Oxford vaccine hurtled towards approval, the University of Oxford thanked William for his support back in the summer.

Meetings this month included with The Royal Foundation, The Earthshot Prize, The Royal British Legion, the Submarines, the British Armed Forces, the Football Association, Tusk Trust, the British Trust for Ornithology, The Duchy of Cornwall Finance Committee, Queen Rania of Jordan, the Managing Director of Public Affairs at Ipsos Mori, and Fauna and Flora International.

December

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Kate’s pal, Giovanna Fletcher (host of Happy Baby Happy Mum podcast) was crowned the winner of this year’s I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!

The Cambridges announced that they’d undertake a three-day Royal Train Tour through the UK to thank frontline and other essential workers. Full coverage: day one, day two, day three. Before they left, Kate’s phone calls with an isolated elder were revealed. The Cambridges became joint patrons of NHS Charities Together and PETA issued a statement about live animals on one of their engagements.  

A royal treat from the Cambridges as they took Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis to a holiday pantomime in London (the children’s first red carpet walk). It was later revealed to be a part of a bigger surprise for the children of frontline workers (William and Kate narrated a video to accompany the rollout).

The National Enquirer kept up its reputation for trashy and false headlines; Kate praised a UK sailing team as they prepare to win big early in 2021; the family released their holiday card, and they may have broken lockdown rules by joining up (accidentally or not) with the Wessexes at a Christmas walk in Sandringham. Meetings this month included with The Royal Foundation and The Submarines.

As the year came to a close, we looked at the history of Anmer Hall (their Norfolk residence) and compiled all of Kate’s Christmas morning looks since becoming a member of the Royal Family as a way to placate ourselves against the traditional Sandringham Christmas morning walk to church.

About author

Jess is a communications professional and freelance writer who lives in Halifax and has a passion for all things royal, particularly the British Royal Family.