SUPPORT OUR JOURNALISM: Please consider donating to keep our website running and free for all - thank you!

British RoyalsThe Cambridges

A year in the life of the Duke of Cambridge as William marks his 39th birthday

As the Duke of Cambridge celebrates his 39th birthday today, let’s take a look back at the past year of his life. Since last June, William has devoted himself to highlighting frontline carers, emergency responders, NHS personnel, and vaccine development and roll-out, while also taking on more serious royal duties on behalf of The Queen.


On 24 June 2020, William visited the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford to view their progress on a vaccine for the current global health crisis. The researchers’ work would result in the Oxford–AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. He also met with the volunteer participants in the vaccine trials, and said: “When it is announced that you have cracked it people will breathe a huge sigh of relief. People want there to be some sort of finality to it.”

Embed from Getty Images


On 5 July 2020, William and Kate visited the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, as part of the birthday celebrations for the National Health Service, and to thank the staff for their hard work throughout the pandemic. At the time of the party, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital had treated 450 patients for COVID-19 and discharged 291 of them. In a post on their Twitter account, William and Kate wrote: “Whether you are existing staff, former staff members who came out of retirement, volunteers or key workers – we thank you for the resilience, perseverance and hope you’ve shown our nation.”

Embed from Getty Images


On 1 August 2020, William held a viewing party for the Heads Up FA Cup Final on the grounds of the Sandringham Estate for frontline carers, local football fans and members of the Heads Up campaign. The Duke is President of the Football Association, but due to public health restrictions, he was unable to attend the Final in person and present the trophy.

Embed from Getty Images


William traveled to Belfast to mark Emergency Services Day and celebrated the work of emergency responders. In a speech, he said: “This has already been an extraordinary year. The months ahead will no doubt be uncertain and at points scary. But, thanks to the dedication and sacrifice of those of you working across the emergency services and in the NHS, I count myself and others in this country very fortunate.

“Your dedication is not only apparent when we are faced with a global pandemic. Each and every day, people from teams across the blue light community are called to the scenes of dreadful incidents.”

Embed from Getty Images


In a slight return to normality, William and Kate hosted President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and First Lady Olena Zelenska of the Ukraine for an audience at Buckingham Palace on 7 October. It was the first official engagement at Buckingham Palace since the pandemic lockdowns began, and the duty of hosting the Ukrainian President fell to William and Kate as they were the most senior royals in London at the time.

After meeting with William and Kate, President Zelenskyy wrote on Twitter: “People-to-people contacts are always most important for countries. Friendly meeting and conversation with @KensingtonRoyal at Buckingham Palace. Ukraine and Britain have a shared vision on a broad range of issues. Looking forward to fruitful cooperation and successful projects together!”

Embed from Getty Images


At a scaled-back Remembrance Sunday service, William laid a wreath at the Cenotaph at Whitehall in honour of the Royal Air Force. Only 26 veterans were permitted to attend the commemorations, and the Cenotaph was not open to the public.

Embed from Getty Images


William and Kate undertook a mini-tour of the United Kingdom in early December, dubbed the Royal Train Tour, to visit frontline carers and other important workers who’d been at the forefront of the pandemic.

Their whistlestop tour included visits to Scotland and Wales, and culminated with an outdoor gathering at Windsor Castle with other senior royals including The Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, and the Princess Royal to thank locals for their pandemic work. It was the first time that the Royal Family had been seen together since March.

Embed from Getty Images


In January, as vaccine administration began with the oldest population groups in the UK (The Queen and Prince Philip were the first members of the Royal Family to receive their vaccines, a move William would praise), William began video-calling and telephoning NHS staff members to thank them for the role they were playing in ending the pandemic and protecting the safety of the UK population. By April, he had spoken to representatives from every NHS branch.

Embed from Getty Images


On 22 February, William paid an in-person visit to a vaccine centre in King’s Lynn to learn more about the roll-out there and to thank the staff. He also met with locals who were there to get their doses. By the time of his visit, nearly 18 million people in the UK had received their first shot.

Embed from Getty Images


On 18 March, William spoke with aid workers in Syria via video call to learn more about their work amidst the pandemic. When he learned about the difficulties they faced, the funding they had managed to secure, and the ways they were helping out in a crisis zone, William praised them: “You are all incredible heroes. I’m totally overwhelmed by the scale of the burden you guys face, the scale of the challenge, but also the enormity of the dedication you have.”

Embed from Getty Images


On 17 April, William attended the funeral of his beloved grandfather, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He walked behind his grandfather’s casket in a scaled-down ceremony at St. George’s Chapel. In a statement released a few days before the funeral, William praised his grandfather, saying:

“I feel lucky to have not just had his example to guide me, but his enduring presence well into my own adult life – both through good times and the hardest days. I will always be grateful that my wife had so many years to get to know my grandfather and for the kindness he showed her. I will never take for granted the special memories my children will always have of their great-grandpa coming to collect them in his carriage and seeing for themselves his infectious sense of adventure as well as his mischievous sense of humour.

“My grandfather was an extraordinary man and part of an extraordinary generation. Catherine and I will continue to do what he would have wanted and will support The Queen in the years ahead. I will miss my Grandpa, but I know he would want us to get on with the job.”

Embed from Getty Images


In May, William travelled to Scotland to act as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, a position granted to him by The Queen. This appointment included a week of engagements with Kate in communities around Scotland, which saw the royal couple visit Edinburgh, Fife and Orkney.

In a speech to open the General Assembly, William said: “In short, Scotland is the source of some of my happiest memories. But also, my saddest,” and promised to listen with full attention to everything that happened during the week.

Prince William inspects Guard of Honour at Holyroodhouse Palace
i-Images/ Pool


On 11 June, William and Kate attended a G7 Summit reception in Cornwall with other senior royals including The Queen and the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. In this photo, he is seen talking with French President Emmanuel Macron and the French First Lady, Brigitte.

Embed from Getty Images
About author

Jess is the Senior Royal Reporter and Editorial Assistant at Royal Central. Her interest in royalty started in her teenage years, coinciding with The Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and grew from there. She specializes in the British Royal Family (with emphasis on the Cambridges) and the Danish Royal Family, and has provided royal commentary for media outlets in Canada, the United States, the UK and Australia.