The Prince of Wales made a return to carrying out royal duties yesterday, following Catherine’s abdominal surgery. The engagements also mark his first public appearance since The King announced that he had been diagnosed with cancer.
William carried out his last major engagement over three weeks ago, visiting Leeds to give former Leeds Rhinos team-mates Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield CBEs, for their fundraising and awareness for motor neurone disease.
The first engagement for the Prince was an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle. He awarded a range of honours to over 50 people.
Recipients included Lionesses Ellen White, who was the England women’s football team’s top goalscorer in the Euros in 2022.
Speaking to Press Association after the investiture, Ellen said that she sent her best wishes to The King and added: ‘I just think, you know, it must be a difficult time for the family. He [William] was really lovely. It was a really nice conversation. I’ve met him a couple of times, he definitely puts you at ease.’
William also presented Suzanne Hutchinson with her MBE – however he accidentally dropped her medal on the floor! However, the Prince swiftly picked up the honour and had a joke with Suzanne about the mishap. Hutchinson is Chief Executive of Little Hearts Matter for children with single ventricle heart condition.
HRH also awarded David Shreeve with an MBE for his services to the environment. Shreeve co-founded the Conservation Foundation charity alongside TV botanist, David Bellamy. He said the conversation with William included a memory about a tree he planted on the castle grounds more than 40 years ago, which kickstarted his environmental work.
He told Press Association: ‘I did say to him at the end that I wished both his wife and his dad good luck. He said he appreciated it.’
In the evening, The Prince of Wales donned a black tie and suit and attended the London’s Air Ambulance Charity Gala Dinner in his role as Patron of the charity. His formal association with them came in March 2020, after supporting the charity’s 30th anniversary in 2019.
During the evening, Prince William met with crew members, former patients and supporters. The dinner was held in support of the charity’s largest fundraising campaign to date – ‘Up Against Time’ – which is aiming to raise £15 million by the autumn. Funds from the campaign will replace the charity’s helicopter fleet.
No air ambulance services receive any public funding in the UK, so rely entirely on donations and fundraising.
During his speech, the Prince took the ‘opportunity to say thank you, also, for the kind messages of support for Catherine and for my father, especially in recent days. It means a great deal to us all.’
William added in jest: ‘It’s fair to say that the past few weeks have had a rather “medical” focus. So I thought I’d come to an air ambulance function to get away from it all.’
Acknowledging the other special guest at tonight’s gala, Tom Cruise, the Royal said: ‘I should take also take this opportunity to give a mention to my — our — fellow pilot, Tom Cruise. Tom, huge thanks for supporting us tonight.’
He jokingly added ‘if you [Tom Cruise] wouldn’t mind not borrowing either of the new helicopters for the next Mission Impossible, it would be appreciated. We have all seen on our screens that… how can I put it — you seem to have a different take on “normal wear and tear” to the rest of us. It’s not the kind that buffs out, that’s for sure.’
His Royal Highness also backed the London’s Air Ambulance fundraising campaign and praised their life-saving work in his speech.
— The Prince and Princess of Wales (@KensingtonRoyal) February 7, 2024
The gala dinner raised £1.2 million, surpassing all previous galas for the organisation.
Supporting the work of the Air Ambulance has been a long-standing commitment of William’s following his time as an air ambulance pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance from March 2015 and July 2017, where he flew Helicopter Emergency Medical Service missions.
William was based out of Cambridge Airport, as part of a team including specialist doctors, critical care paramedics and pilots providing emergency medical services across Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.
Last year, The Prince of Wales wrote the foreword for the London’s Air Ambulance new booklet on bereavement. In the foreword, William stated that ‘no two experiences of bereavement are ever the same. The sudden and often unexpected loss of a loved one can be profoundly difficult to process, even with the passing of time.’