The Duchess of Cambridge is marking turning 38 as the royal family comes to terms with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s bombshell decision to step back as senior royals.
Harry and Meghan made the announcement, without consulting the Queen and the Prince of Wales, on the eve of Kate’s birthday.
Kate has faced reports of a rift with her sister-in-law Meghan, followed by a falling out between William and his brother Harry.
Harry and Meghan also split their household from Kensington Palace, then left the Royal Foundation they co-shared with Kate and William.
In a television documentary, the Sussexes spoke of their struggles, with Harry saying he had “good days” and “bad days” in his relationship with William.
The Queen spoke about the “bumpy” path the royal family and the nation had experienced over the last 12 months in her Christmas Day address, but the Windsors are now beginning the new decade with a major crisis.
The slimmed-down monarchy has shrunk further after star players Harry and Meghan said they intended to step back as senior royals, and become financially independent.
Kate is expected to celebrate her birthday on Thursday with William and their three children – six-year-old Prince George, Princess Charlotte, four, and 20-month-old Prince Louis.
The past year’s highlights for the duchess, who married into the royal family in 2011 and became a future Queen, have included a successful tour to Pakistan with William.
The couple visited the Hindu Kush mountain range, a traditional Kalash village and the Badshahi Mosque, played cricket and travelled in a tuk tuk.
The duke and duchess also had an unexpected extra night in Lahore after their plane was caught in a thunderstorm.
Louis celebrated his first birthday in April, and Kate was there to take an excited Charlotte to her first day at school in September.
The duchess also co-created a wilderness garden for the Chelsea Flower Show, where her children paddled in the stream and had a go on the rope swing.
👀 We invite you to take a sneak peek at The Duchess of Cambridge’s #RHSChelsea ‘Back to Nature’ Garden!
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) May 18, 2019
In November, as part of her focus on improving early years support, Kate spent two days privately shadowing staff at Kingston Hospital’s maternity unit in London, taking part in home visits with midwives.
In an open letter marking the start of 2020’s designated Year of the Nurse and Midwife, she praised the care and kindness provided by midwives across the country.
Kate told midwivers her visit had given her “a broader insight into the true impact you have on everybody you help”.
The duchess attended Christmas Day church at Sandringham in Norfolk with the Queen and other members of the royal family.
The Cambridges brought along George and Charlotte to the traditional festive outing for the first time.
Catherine Elizabeth Middleton was born to Carole and Michael Middleton at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading on January 9, 1982.
She was christened at the parish church of St Andrew’s Bradfield in Berkshire on June 20, 1982.
Amman in Jordan was home to Kate and her family for a few years in the mid 1980s, where she attended a nursery school from the age of three, before returning to Berkshire.
At the age of 13, she went to the exclusive, private Marlborough College in Wiltshire, where she part-boarded.
She graduated in 2005 with a 2:1 in history of art from St Andrews University, where she met and began dating William, whom she married at Westminster Abbey in 2011.
She was dubbed “Waity Katie” for her patience during their long courtship, and was described by William in their engagement interview as having “a really naughty sense of humour”.
Kate – now an HRH and a future Queen consort – is patron of 19 charities and organisations, and has focused her charity work on helping children have the best possible start in life, particularly surrounding their mental health.