The Prince of Wales returned to work two days after the Buckingham Palace announcement about the King's health
Prince William is back to royal work following a series of family health announcements.
The Prince of Wales, 41, made his first public engagement on Wednesday since his wife, Kate Middleton, returned home following her 13-day hospital stay after abdominal surgery. It also marked him resuming royal duty for the first time amid the news of King Charles’ cancer diagnosis, revealed earlier this week.
Prince William conducted a morning of investitures at Windsor Castle on behalf of his father, presenting medals to the likes of former soccer player Ellen White and brigadier Tobias Lambert, who was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
Investitures recognize outstanding achievement, personal bravery or services to the U.K., and the ceremonies are held throughout the year to celebrate those named to the New Year Honors List or the sovereign’s Birthday Honors list.
Princess Anne hosted the first investiture ceremony of the week on Tuesday, presenting medals to operatic tenor Nicholas Spence, rugby referee Sara Cox, wheelchair rugby player James Simpson and more at Windsor Castle.
Ellen Convery, who is better known as Ellen White from her soccer playing days, received an MBE from Prince William for services to soccer as the royal returned to public duties.
"It was an incredible honor to receive an MBE so I feel very lucky," she said at the castle.
"I sent my best wishes to the King and obviously to Kate, the Princess of Wales as well," she continued. "He was lovely. He really appreciated it. I just wanted to send my best wishes."
The pair also chatted about Prince William's favorite soccer team: Aston Villa.
"He’s been an incredible supporter of women’s football for so many years, since I’ve been a part of England and playing football," Convery, 34, tells PEOPLE. "It was amazing to receive it from him and to have a bit of a chat about football as well, which definitely put me at ease and made me feel a bit more relaxed. So that was really nice."
Prince William cleared his calendar as Princess Kate had a "planned abdominal surgery" on Jan. 17 to be by his wife’s side and support their three children.
The Prince and Princess of Wales are parents to Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 8, and Prince Louis, 5, and William was not expected to resume public duties until several days after Kate was home from the hospital. While Prince William visited his wife at the London Clinic, their three children did not go to see their mother there.
"I don't think she wanted to make more of a big thing of it than it already was. They’ll be rallying 'round in their own way and helping to look after her,” royal biographer Ingrid Seward exclusively told PEOPLE.
Princess Kate was discharged from the hospital on Jan. 29, and Prince William stepped out for the investiture at Windsor Castle nine days later. Prince William and his family’s home of Adelaide Cottage is within the 655-acre Windsor estate, making the engagement a convenient commute from the royal residence where Princess Kate continues to recover. Kensington Palace said on Jan. 17 that Princess Kate would recuperate at home following the hospital stay after surgery and was "unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter" based on the current medical advice.
Prince William's return to work Wednesday is set to be a day of double duty, as the Prince of Wales is also scheduled to attend London’s Air Ambulance Charity gala dinner later in the day. It’s a cause close to heart for Prince William, who was an air ambulance pilot for around two years in East Anglia and serves as the organization’s patron.
It was confirmed that Prince William would return to work before Buckingham Palace announced that King Charles was diagnosed with cancer. The statement came shortly after King Charles was treated for an enlarged prostate. However, he does not have prostate cancer.
“During The King's recent hospital procedure for benign prostate enlargement, a separate issue of concern was noted. Subsequent diagnostic tests have identified a form of cancer,” Buckingham Palace said in the statement on Monday.
"His Majesty has today commenced a schedule of regular treatments, during which time he has been advised by doctors to postpone public-facing duties. Throughout this period, His Majesty will continue to undertake State business and official paperwork as usual," it continued.
"The King is grateful to his medical team for their swift intervention, which was made possible thanks to his recent hospital procedure. He remains wholly positive about his treatment and looks forward to returning to full public duty as soon as possible," the statement added.
"His Majesty has chosen to share his diagnosis to prevent speculation and in the hope it may assist public understanding for all those around the world who are affected by cancer.”
Those close to the family were taken aback by the news. “I was really shocked when I heard it,” a palace insider tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue.
It’s understood that the King personally informed his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, as well as other family members of his cancer diagnosis before Buckingham Palace made the public announcement.
As heir to the throne, Prince William may undertake some duties on behalf of his father in addition to his own diary of engagements in the coming weeks, PEOPLE understands. However, there are currently no plans to appoint Counsellors of State to act on King Charles’ behalf. Counsellors of State are members of the royal family who can carry out constitutional duties for the monarch if he is abroad or unwell.
The potential for increased responsibilities for Prince William as King Charles’ heir highlighted the royal family’s thinned ranks since Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped back from their working royal roles in 2020 and Prince Andrew was forced to stop public duties due to his controversial ties to Jeffrey Epstein.
“William will do his best, but the King will want to carry on with his duties as best he can,” says the source close to the royal household.
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The Duke of Sussex, 39, arrived in London on Tuesday after catching a flight from Los Angeles on Monday. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle relocated to her home state of California in 2020, and Harry made the trip without his wife and their children, Prince Archie, 4, and Princess Lilibet, 2. It’s believed that Prince Harry and the King were most recently together at the coronation ceremony in May 2023. However, a royal source says there are "no plans" for Prince Harry and Prince William to get together.
On Tuesday, the King and Queen Camilla were seen for the first time since the cancer announcement. The royals were photographed driving from Clarence House, their home in London, and gave a wave through the window. The couple made their way to Buckingham Palace, where they traveled to Sandringham House by helicopter.
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