The Duchess of Cambridge has taken over as patron of the RAF Air Cadets, relinquishing The Duke of Edinburgh of a role he has held for 63 years.
Prince Philip, 94, who became the Air Cadets’s Patron after the death of King George VI, passed over the title of Honorary Air Commodore-in-Chief to the Duchess in an audience at Buckingham Palace on Wednesday.
It is the first time Kate has taken on a patronage from another royal and is her first military-linked role. Adding to her portfolio of patronages, most of which have been focused on young people’s wellbeing and development, she will now represent 42,000 air cadets aged 12 to 19 and 15,000 adult volunteers.
The Duchess is already well-attuned to the work those in the RAF do, having seen her husband Prince William serve as a helicopter search and rescue pilot in the Force. It is now expected that she will play a part in the organisation’s various parades and will continue the work Prince Philip has done throughout his tenure.
Wearing a festive red Luisa Spagnoli suit, Kate beamed as she was handed a copy of Horizons, the history of the Air Cadets, which sets out the proud history and traditions of her new patronage.
The Duchess of Cambridge assumed her new role on the eve of the Air Training Corps’ 75th anniversary which will see cadets celebrate throughout 2016. She joins the ranks of other female members of the family with links to the Armed Forces including The Countess of Wessex and Princess Anne, both of whom are linked to a number of regiments in the UK and overseas.
The Duke of Edinburgh seemed to spend a moment reflecting as he was presented with an engraved crystal vase bearing the 75th-anniversary logo and was on top form as he shared a cheeky grin in a group photo. Although a former naval officer himself, the 94-year-old veteran has played a major part in projects for both the RAF and the British Army and the Air Training Corps was once the largest awarding body of his Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, with hundreds of cadets and junior volunteers achieving the coveted gold award every year.
Speaking of his departure, Air Commodore McCafferty said: “We will be forever grateful to The Duke of Edinburgh for his outstanding commitment to the Air Training Corps over the decades.
“He is admired and respected by cadets and volunteers alike and we will miss his ready sense of humour and genuine interest in the development of the nation’s youth.”
Buckingham Palace announced in 2010, shortly before the Duke’s 90th birthday, that he would be stepping down from a number of his patronages. 2016 marks a landmark year for royal birthdays, as Prince Philip turns 95 in June, alongside huge celebrations for The Queen who celebrates her 90th birthday in April.
He remains closely associated with 780 organisations or charities but there are no plans for him to end his involvement with a large number of bodies all at once. The palace has previously said that the reduction in his charitable duties will be gradual and in consultation with each organisation concerned.
It opens up many more opportunities for both Prince William and Kate, both of whom are expected to take on more responsibilities and roles as senior members of the royal family.
So far, the couple’s interests have been aligned with young people’s mental health being the primary focus alongside William’s strong conservation efforts.
Cadet Sergeant Tommy Dade, 18, of 222 (Broadland) Squadron paid homage to the Duke’s work saying that cadets and volunteers “couldn’t ask for more.” He also welcomed the addition of Kate as the organisation’s new Patron, saying:
“Having a new royal patron particularly someone as approachable and friendly as the Duchess is awesome.
“My fellow cadets will be so jealous that I met our new patron today and I hope many more cadets and staff get to meet her over the coming years.
“She will definitely raise our profile and, hopefully, help us recruit more volunteers so more young people get to experience cadet life.
“It is so much fun and I recommend it to any young person.”