Duke of Cambridge follows in Diana’s footsteps at Royal Marsden

The Duke of Cambridge followed in his mother’s footsteps during a rainy day in Sutton, visiting a branch of the Royal Marsden.

30 years after Diana, Princess of Wales laid the foundation stone for the Chelsea Wing of The Royal Marsden in west London, William laid the foundation stone for the Trust’s Oak Cancer Centre in Sutton.

Prince William touches up the pointing on a commemorative foundation stone to mark the opening of the Royal Marsden’s Oak Centre in Sutton (@RoyalMarsden)

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It was a rainy day, and Prince William – wearing a face mask – sheltered under a marquee with staff and patients to hear how clinical trials have transformed their lives and how the Coronavirus pandemic has changed how they now receive treatment.

He also learned from staff about the man different studies launched by The Royal Marsden to investigate the impact Covid-19 had had on cancer treatment and care. Frontline workers also spoke to the Royal about the Surgical Cancer Hub The Royal Marsden and its cancer alliance, which the hospital formed at the start of the pandemic so that they would be able to provide cancer surgery to patients around the UK.

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The Royal Marsden first opened its doors in 1851, becoming the world’s first hospital dedicated to cancer diagnosis, treatment, research and education. Today, it operates as a specialist cancer hospital and National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre for Cancer, working closely with the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR). The Royal Marsden and ICR are ranked in the top five cancer centres in the world.

Prince William became President of the hospital in 2007, taking over the role which his mother had held from 1989 until her death in 1997. Diana’s first solo engagement as a member of the Royal Family was a visit to The Royal Marsden.

Over the last decade, the Duke has visited the organisation’s hospitals numerous times, even watching surgery.

The Duke of Cambridge speaks with surgeons during a minimally invasive robotic assisted tongue base hemiglossectomy surgery during his visit to The Royal Marsden Hospital, January 2018. Picture by i-Images / Pool

After helping lay a foundation stone and speaking with patients and staff, the Duke gave a speech to those invited. The speeches helped to launch a public appeal to help raise the final £8 million needed to complete the Oak Cancer Centre, which is due to open in 2022.

In the speech, the future King touched briefly on his mother saying: “I am personally delighted to be with you today to lay the foundation stone of the Oak Centre, 30 years after my mother did the very same thing at The Royal Marsden in Chelsea, commemorating the building of the Chelsea Wing.”

He also touched on the effect the pandemic had on cancer treatment and spoke of how he kept in touch with The Royal Marsden during lockdown. “The knock on effects of coronavirus have been felt widely, but the impact on cancer treatment for patients up and down the country has been one of the most acute and challenging.

“When I spoke to Cally and her team in the early days of the pandemic, she told me about the rapid changes that had been implemented to keep cancer treatment going for hundreds of patients who are cared for by The Royal Marsden.”

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William spoke about his pride in being President of The Royal Marsden as he spoke about the new centre they hope to open in the next two years while acknowledging the work of frontline workers: “Despite the challenging times we are living in, it is so important we take the time to acknowledge the tremendous work that continues all around us. And that, irrespective of the global pandemic, there remains hope for the many thousands of people dealing with the effects of cancer.”

A poignant day for The Duke of Cambridge in the rain, and no doubt his mother was constantly on his mind throughout.

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