Royal News

The Deeper Meaning Behind Kate Middleton’s Playful New Photo of Prince William and the Kids

The Prince of Wales' birthday portrait is a departure from typical royal photos, showing family comes first as the Princess of Wales undergoes cancer treatment

Kate Middleton got behind the camera for a new birthday photo of Prince William with their children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis. But this isn’t your typical royal portrait.

While the Prince and Princess of Wales have previously shown glimpses of their casual family life outside the public eye, the new image showing William and their kids is one of the best family photos they’ve ever released for its high-spirited portrayal of the usually reserved royals. The playful snap features Prince William and the trio of siblings holding hands as they jump in the air during a beach day in Norfolk, with huge smiles on their faces and arms in the air.

The carefree image was a complete departure from the formal side of the royal family that’s usually on display to the world, including just last week when they gathered at Trooping the Colour, the annual celebration of King Charles’ birthday.

Prince William’s red military uniform from Trooping the Colour was replaced with pink shorts, a casual hoodie and bare feet, highlighting a rarely seen side of the heir to the throne. As for the children, Prince George and Princess Charlotte matched little brother Prince Louis’ fun-loving side rather than correcting him on royal protocol.

Even the family of five’s recent portraits have reflected the more buttoned-up side of the monarchy. For their 2023 Christmas card photo, Prince William and Princess Kate opted for a posed studio-style image sporting matching white collared shirts.

The decision to release such a casual photo shows how Prince William and Princess Kate, both 42, are all about family, especially during this difficult time. In March, the Princess of Wales publicly revealed she had been diagnosed with cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy. Her announcement had her “young family” at the heart of the message, with Kate saying, “It has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte and Louis in a way that is appropriate for them and to reassure them that I am going to be okay.”

While that focus on family is more important to the Prince and Princess of Wales than ever, it’s nothing new. They’ve always striven to give their children a normal life whenever possible despite their royal status, including future king Prince George.

“It’s a massive balancing act,” a palace insider previously told PEOPLE. “William and Kate are doing the right thing, protecting him so he can have as normal a childhood as possible, but he’s also dipping into duties as a future monarch.”

The insider added, “He’s getting firsthand experience of what it’s like to be a royal and a monarch and firsthand experience of being a normal boy.”

Prince George of Wales, Prince Louis of Wales and Princess Charlotte of Wales depart Buckingham Palace in a horse drawn carriage to attend Trooping the Colour on June 17, 2023 in London
Prince George, Prince Louis and Princess Charlotte at Trooping the Colour on June 17, 2023. 

Prince George and his siblings have a completely different upbringing than previous heirs, largely thanks to his mom’s childhood outside the royal fold.

“Coming from a different background, she appreciates the importance of having family time,” said a source close to the royal household. “She wasn’t brought up in that aristocratic setting where you see the children for a short time each day.”

Princess Kate’s latest photo of her husband and children also reflects one of their favorite places, Norfolk. The family often retreats to their country home of Anmer Hall, where Kate is said to feel most at home.

Britain's Prince William, Prince of Wales (R) looks on as (L-R) Britain's Princess Charlotte of Wales, Britain's Prince George of Wales, Britain's Prince Louis of Wales and Britain's Catherine, Princess of Wales toast marshmallows as they take part in the Big Help Out, during a visit to the 3rd Upton Scouts Hut in Slough, west of London on May 8, 2023, where the family joined volunteers helping to renovate and improve the building. - People across Britain were on Monday asked to do their duty as the celebrations for King Charles III's coronation drew to a close with a massive volunteering drive.
From left: Princess Charlotte, Prince George, Prince Louis and Kate Middleton at the Big Help Out in May 2023.

“This part of Norfolk is just very quiet and peaceful,” local B&B owner Marie Therese Viney previously told PEOPLE. “It is the perfect place to raise a family.”

Prince William and Princess Kate previously shared a candid look at their off-duty life in Norfolk in a video to mark their 10th wedding anniversary. The footage showed the parents and children walking up sand dunes on the beach, playing on a seesaw and roasting marshmallows over a fire — no crowns or thrones in mind.

In a personal message released on June 14, Princess Kate said she was “making good progress” in her ongoing cancer treatment but knew she was “not out of the woods yet.”

The Princess of Wales has been reprioritizing her life over the last three months and said she is focusing on her own needs while drawing strength from her family.

“On the days I feel well enough, it is a joy to engage with school life, spend personal time on the things that give me energy and positivity, as well as starting to do a little work from home,” she said in the message.

Ailsa Anderson, former press secretary to Queen Elizabeth, tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s cover story, “She might be the Princess of Wales, but she is still a mother and wife and going through the same set of emotions and worries and fears as anyone else in that set of circumstances would be.”

Prince George, the Prince of Wales, Prince Louis, the Princess of Wales and Princess Charlotte on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, London
From left: Prince George, Prince William, Prince Louis, Kate Middleton and Princess Charlotte at Trooping the Colour on June 15, 2024. 

While the Princess of Wales said she is “starting to do a little work from home” and expressed a “hope to join a few public engagements over the summer,” no date has been set for her to return to her royal duties and public life. Any outings in the near future will be based on when she feels able and under the guidance of her medical team.

Behind the scenes, Kate has started to work from home and hold meetings with her official teams in Windsor, where the family primarily lives, when she’s able.

A source close to the royal household adds, “She has been doing what’s right for her and recovering privately at home. She is dealing with it the best she can.”

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