Prince William’s 40th birthday photos offer clues as to what he’ll really be like as king

Taken shortly after the Platinum Jubilee weekend as the Duke sold copies of the magazine in Rochester Row, near Victoria in London, they serve to illustrate his blueprint for the future – others before self, action before image.

The Duke, whose mother introduced him to homelessness charities when he was just 11 years old, pledged to use his birthday to “shine a spotlight on this solvable issue not just today, but in the months and years to come.”

His birthday and the public appetite for photographs and news at Royal family milestones was a “good opportunity” to “highlight something that matters to me”, he said.

That policy is by no means unique to the Duke. His grandmother, the Queen, has made it a lifelong mission to sprinkle her star power on hundreds of charities, while the Prince of Wales has made use of his position to command attention for good causes.

But the birthday photographs mark a new direction, even for them.

Other Royal family 40th birthdays have involved black tie parties at palaces, formal portraits to capture the Queen and her heir for the history books and – in the case of the Queen’s children – photographs on mugs to be sold as souvenirs.

The Prince of Wales’ portrait was a posed shot with the Princess of Wales and their sons Princes William and Harry, radiating a message of family harmony and continuity.

Even the Duchess of Cambridge approved formal portraits for her recent 40th birthday this year, in a photography project designed to boost her patronage of the National Portrait Gallery.

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