“Prince William’s Passion: New Father, New Hope” premieres on CNN on September 15 at 10:00 p.m. ET
(CNN) — After more than seven and a half years of military service, Prince William is leaving the armed forces to focus on royal duties and charity work, Kensington Palace said Thursday.
William was a pilot with the Royal Air Force Search and Rescue Force. Known to his RAF comrades as Flight Lt. Wales, he had been stationed at a search-and-rescue base on the remote Welsh island of Anglesey since 2010, and lived there with Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge.
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In the next few weeks, the pair will move into their official residence at Kensington Palace. The palace statement said that William is considering a “number of options” for public service.
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As the first-born child to the late Princess Diana and the Prince of Wales and second in line to the British throne, Prince Wiliiam has never been far from the public eye. He’s seen here in 2004. Click through the gallery for a look back at every year of his life so far.
Prince Charles and Princess Diana leave St. Mary’s Hospital in London with Prince William on June 22, 1982. A bulletin announced that the royal baby weighed 7 pounds, 1 1/2 ounces.
Prince William takes his first steps in public with his parents in the walled garden at Kensington Palace on December 14, 1983.
Accompanied by his nanny Barbara Barnes, Price William waves as he leaves St. Mary’s Hospital after visiting his mother and his newborn brother, Prince Harry, on September 16, 1984.
From the balcony of Buckingham Palace, a young Prince William watches the Trooping of the Color in 1985 with Lady Gabriella Windsor, left, and Lady Zara Phillips.
Prince William waves from a carriage en route to the wedding of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson on July 23, 1986.
Wearing a regulation school uniform, Prince William waves to the press on his first day at Wetherby School on January 15, 1987.
In 1988, Prince Charles and Princess Diana visit Palma De Mallorca, Spain, with their two sons.
Prince William and Prince Harry ride bicycles with their parents in 1989 while on holiday in the Scilly Isles.
On a private beach in 1990, Prince William shovels sand onto his mother. Photos of the young prince with his adoring mother were common as media interest swelled.
Prince William and Prince Harry wave from the deck of the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1991.
Princess Diana and Prince William wait for Prince Harry after attending the annual Easter Sunday church service in 1992 at St. Georges Chapel inside Windsor Castle.
Prince William grimaces after riding Splash Mountain at Disney World’s Magic Kindom in Florida. He was with friends of the royal family on a three-day vacation in 1993.
Accompanied by Prince William, Princess Diana arrives at Wimbledon before the start of the women’s singles final in 1994.
Queen Elizabeth II, Prince William and Prince Charles attend a service commemorating VJ Day outside Buckingham Palace in August 1995. The event was in honor of the day Japan surrendered to Allied forces, effectively ending World War II.
Prince Charles and Prince Harry, at left, stand for anthems as Prince William, right, looks around during the Wales-Scotland game in the 1996 Five Nations rugby championship.
At age 15, Prince William and his brother Harry, 12, bow their heads after their mother’s funeral at Westminster Abbey on September 6, 1997. Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris that August.
Prince William receives flowers from an adoring crowd in Vancouver on March 24, 1998. He was on a weeklong vacation with his father and brother, though they also made time for official engagements.
Britain’s Queen Mother joins Prince Charles and his sons during an occasion marking her 99th birthday at her London residence in 1999.
Prince William hammers a log while helping construct walkways in a remote village in Chile during his Raleigh International expedition in 2000.
In 2001, Prince William, left, and Prince Harry take part in an exhibition polo match in Gloucestershire, England.
The royal family stand vigil besides the Queen Mother’s coffin at Westminster Hall on April 8, 2002. Prince William, right, stands alongside Prince Harry, Princess Anne and Sophie of Wessex.
A London officeworker licks a first-class stamp that was issued to mark Prince William’s 21st birthday in 2003. Commemorative coins were also minted for the occassion.
Prince William makes his water polo debut for the Scottish national universities squad in the annual Celtic Nations tournament in 2004.
In 2005, Prince William graduates from St. Andrews University in Scotland with a degree in geography.
Queen Elizabeth glances up at her grandson, right, as she inspects the parade at the Royal Military Academy in 2006. Prince William graduated as an Army officer and later went on to receive his Royal Air Force pilot’s wings
Prince William and Prince Harry speak on stage with Sir Elton John, far left, during a concert they put on to celebrate Princess Diana on July 1, 2007. The event fell on what would have been their mother’s 46th birthday and marked 10 years since her death.
Prince William sports a beard for the first time in public at a Christmas Day church service in 2008. He was clean-shaven by early January.
Prince William walks with a group of homeless people during a 2009 hike with Centrepoint, the United Kingdom’s largest youth charity for the homeless. William became the patron of the organization in 2005.
During his first official overseas visit, Prince William is welcomed to Sydney with a traditional smoke ceremony by local Aboriginal elder Uncle Max in 2010.
After their wedding service, Prince William kisses his wife, Kate Middleton, on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on April 29, 2011.
Prince William throws a foam javelin as the Duchess of Cambridge stands at his side during a visit to Nottingham, England, on June 13, 2012. The couple were in the city as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee tour, marking the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge depart St. Mary’s Hospital in London with their newborn son on July 23. Prince George was born a day earlier, weighing 8 pounds, 6 ounces.
Photos: Prince William through the years
For now, he will focus on his royal duties. He will also expand on his conservation work, dealing particularly with endangered species.
Kensington Palace announced he will become president of a new collaboration among seven environmental groups. The group, United for Wildlife, will focus on fighting the illegal wildlife trade.
William will also focus on charities that deal with children, veterans and service members.
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William’s final search and rescue duty was Tuesday. “He and his crew had an uneventful 24 hour shift,” the defense ministry said.
“Throughout his tour his airmanship, often in the most demanding of conditions, has contributed directly to saving lives in the mountains of North Wales and from the ravages of the Irish Sea. He has earned the respect of all who have worked with him as a highly professional and competent pilot,” the ministry said.
Last year, he helped save a teenage girl who was in danger of drowning off the coast of Wales.
The 16-year-old girl was caught in a rip current and rapidly losing strength. William, the grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, had just landed a Sea King helicopter nearby, after going out on a routine exercise, when the alert was radioed through.
In less than a minute, he and the crew had reached the scene and a paramedic was winched down into the sea to assist the exhausted girl, who had just gone under water.
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There’s no suggestion that William, 31, would ever drop out of public life, but he does crave normality. The prince gets some of that from his role in the military where he’s treated as “one of the guys,” but he also gets it from Africa.
Dreaming of Africa is one way that William escapes from the stresses he faces, he said.
“I regularly daydream,” The Duke of Cambridge reveals in the CNN documentary, “Prince William’s Passion: New Hope, New Father,” which airs later this month.
“Africa is definitely one of the places I go to … I have hundreds of animals on my iPhone. So if I am ever having quite a stressful day … you can put a buffalo on in the background or a cricket,” he says.
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