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William at 40: A milestone birthday in a life under scrutiny

FILE - Britain's Prince William visits at the Heart of Midlothian Football Club, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Thursday May 12, 2022. The world watched as P...
FILE - In this June 22, 1982, file photo, Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and wife Princess Diana take home their newborn son Prince Willia...
FILE - Britain's Prince William, the 6-month old son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, with his mother during a photo call at Kensington Palace in...
FILE  Prince William holding the hands of his mother, Diana the Princess of Wales, on his arrival for the first day at his new school, Wetherby School...
FILE - Britain's Prince Charles and Princess Diana and their sons, Princes William, right, and Harry begin a cycle ride, June 1, 1989, around the isla...
FILE - Britain's Prince William shakes hands with admirers during a stop at St. James Cathedral in Toronto, Canada, in this Oct. 27, 1991 file photo. ...
FILE - Britain's Princess Diana and her son Prince William applaud the Wimbledon Ladies' Tennis Championship presentations after the final, July 1, 19...
FILE - Prince William walks with his head bowed behind the coffin of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, on its way to London's Westminster Abbey for...
FILE - Britain's Prince William, wearing a Union Jack waistcoat, poses for a photo in this 2000 photo in Eton, England. The world watched as Prince Wi...
FILE - Britain's Prince William carries out maintainance work in the village of Tortel, Southern Chile during his Raleigh International expedition in ...
FILE - Britain's Prince William blows out the candles on a birthday cake given to him, Thursday, June 19, 2003, during a visit to the Anglesey Food Fa...
FILE - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II; her eldest son, Prince Charles left; and his eldest son, Prince William, pose for a photograph at Clarence House ...
FILE Britain's Prince William, left, cheers as he makes his water polo debut for the Scottish national universities squad in the annual Celtic Nations...
FILE - Prince William kicks a rugby ball during a training session with some members of the British and Irish Lions players in Wellington, New Zealand...
FILE - Britain's Prince William pauses in St Salvator's Quad at St Andrews University where he is a student in St Andrews Scotland Monday Nov. 15, 200...
FILE - Britain's Prince William, marches with other graduates, during the Sovereign's parade at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, near Camberley,...
FILE - Britain's Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton walk in RAF Cranwell, England after William received his RAF wings from his father t...
FILE  Britain's Prince William gestures as he walks across the airfield at RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire, England, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008. The world wat...
FILE - Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton pose for the media at St. James's Palace in London, Tuesday Nov. 16, 2010, after they a...
FILE - Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge stand outside of Westminster Abbey after their Royal Wedding in London Friday,...
FILE - Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton exchange rings in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury at Westminster Abbey, London, Friday April ...
FILE - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is escorted by Prince William, during a visit to RAF Valley, Anglesey, Wales, where he is stationed as a search an...
FILE - Britain's Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge holding their son, Tuesday July 23, 2013, as they pose for photographers outside St. Ma...
FILE - Britain's Prince William, holds his son Prince George as they arrive at Chapel Royal in St James's Palace in London, for the christening of the...
FILE- Britain's Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge walks, with an East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) in the background, as he begins his new role, a...
FILE - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, left, attends the annual Festival of Remembrance with Prince Philip, Prince William, right and Kate, the Duchess ...
FILE From left, Britain's Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry attend a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, in Vim...
FILE Britain's Prince William, background centre, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, background and Prince Harry take part in a relay race, during a trai...
FILE - Britain's Prince Harry, left, reacts as he walks with Prince William as they arrive for his wedding to Meghan Markle at St. George's Chapel, in...
FILE - Britain's Prince William delivers a speech, during the launch of the Heads Up Weekends, in London, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. The world watched a...
FILE Britain's Prince William, left and Prince Harry unveil a statue of their mother Princess Diana, on what woud have been her 60th birthday, in the ...
FILE  Prince Harry, left, and Prince William stand during the unveiling of a statue of their mother Princess Diana, on what woud have been her 60th bi...
FILE - Britain's Prince William delivers a speech at the Tusk Conservation Awards in London, Monday Nov. 22, 2021. The world watched as Prince William...
FILE Britain's Prince William, left and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge attend the 'Royal Carols - Together At Christmas', a Christmas carol concert ho...
FILE - Prince William salutes veterans on Horse Guards Parade during the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph, in Whitehall, London, Sunday Nov....
FILE - Britain's Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge attend the 1st Battalion Irish Guards' St. Patrick's Day Parade at Mons Barracks, Thurs...
FILE - Britain's Prince William, President of The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, leaves after visiting to learn about the innovative work that is...
FILE -Britain's Prince William sits by the The Imperial State Crown in the House of Lords Chamber, during the State Opening of Parliament, in the Hous...
FILE - Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Louis, Princess Charlotte, Prince George, and Prince William watch from the balcony of Buckingham Place afte...
FILE Britain's Prince William speaks during the Platinum Jubilee concert taking place in front of Buckingham Palace, London, Saturday June 4, 2022, on...

FILE - Britain's Prince William visits at the Heart of Midlothian Football Club, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Thursday May 12, 2022. The world watched as P...

FILE - In this June 22, 1982, file photo, Britain's Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and wife Princess Diana take home their newborn son Prince Willia...

FILE - Britain's Prince William, the 6-month old son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, with his mother during a photo call at Kensington Palace in...

FILE Prince William holding the hands of his mother, Diana the Princess of Wales, on his arrival for the first day at his new school, Wetherby School...

FILE - Britain's Prince Charles and Princess Diana and their sons, Princes William, right, and Harry begin a cycle ride, June 1, 1989, around the isla...

FILE - Britain's Prince William shakes hands with admirers during a stop at St. James Cathedral in Toronto, Canada, in this Oct. 27, 1991 file photo. ...

FILE - Britain's Princess Diana and her son Prince William applaud the Wimbledon Ladies' Tennis Championship presentations after the final, July 1, 19...

FILE - Prince William walks with his head bowed behind the coffin of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, on its way to London's Westminster Abbey for...

FILE - Britain's Prince William, wearing a Union Jack waistcoat, poses for a photo in this 2000 photo in Eton, England. The world watched as Prince Wi...

FILE - Britain's Prince William carries out maintainance work in the village of Tortel, Southern Chile during his Raleigh International expedition in ...

FILE - Britain's Prince William blows out the candles on a birthday cake given to him, Thursday, June 19, 2003, during a visit to the Anglesey Food Fa...

FILE - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II; her eldest son, Prince Charles left; and his eldest son, Prince William, pose for a photograph at Clarence House ...

FILE Britain's Prince William, left, cheers as he makes his water polo debut for the Scottish national universities squad in the annual Celtic Nations...

FILE - Prince William kicks a rugby ball during a training session with some members of the British and Irish Lions players in Wellington, New Zealand...

FILE - Britain's Prince William pauses in St Salvator's Quad at St Andrews University where he is a student in St Andrews Scotland Monday Nov. 15, 200...

FILE - Britain's Prince William, marches with other graduates, during the Sovereign's parade at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, near Camberley,...

FILE - Britain's Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton walk in RAF Cranwell, England after William received his RAF wings from his father t...

FILE Britain's Prince William gestures as he walks across the airfield at RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire, England, Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008. The world wat...

FILE - Britain's Prince William and his fiancee Kate Middleton pose for the media at St. James's Palace in London, Tuesday Nov. 16, 2010, after they a...

FILE - Britain's Prince William and his wife Kate, Duchess of Cambridge stand outside of Westminster Abbey after their Royal Wedding in London Friday,...

FILE - Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton exchange rings in front of the Archbishop of Canterbury at Westminster Abbey, London, Friday April ...

FILE - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is escorted by Prince William, during a visit to RAF Valley, Anglesey, Wales, where he is stationed as a search an...

FILE - Britain's Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge holding their son, Tuesday July 23, 2013, as they pose for photographers outside St. Ma...

FILE - Britain's Prince William, holds his son Prince George as they arrive at Chapel Royal in St James's Palace in London, for the christening of the...

FILE- Britain's Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge walks, with an East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA) in the background, as he begins his new role, a...

FILE - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, left, attends the annual Festival of Remembrance with Prince Philip, Prince William, right and Kate, the Duchess ...

FILE From left, Britain's Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry attend a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, in Vim...

FILE Britain's Prince William, background centre, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, background and Prince Harry take part in a relay race, during a trai...

FILE - Britain's Prince Harry, left, reacts as he walks with Prince William as they arrive for his wedding to Meghan Markle at St. George's Chapel, in...

FILE - Britain's Prince William delivers a speech, during the launch of the Heads Up Weekends, in London, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. The world watched a...

FILE Britain's Prince William, left and Prince Harry unveil a statue of their mother Princess Diana, on what woud have been her 60th birthday, in the ...

FILE Prince Harry, left, and Prince William stand during the unveiling of a statue of their mother Princess Diana, on what woud have been her 60th bi...

FILE - Britain's Prince William delivers a speech at the Tusk Conservation Awards in London, Monday Nov. 22, 2021. The world watched as Prince William...

FILE Britain's Prince William, left and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge attend the 'Royal Carols - Together At Christmas', a Christmas carol concert ho...

FILE - Prince William salutes veterans on Horse Guards Parade during the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph, in Whitehall, London, Sunday Nov....

FILE - Britain's Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge attend the 1st Battalion Irish Guards' St. Patrick's Day Parade at Mons Barracks, Thurs...

FILE - Britain's Prince William, President of The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, leaves after visiting to learn about the innovative work that is...

FILE -Britain's Prince William sits by the The Imperial State Crown in the House of Lords Chamber, during the State Opening of Parliament, in the Hous...

FILE - Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Louis, Princess Charlotte, Prince George, and Prince William watch from the balcony of Buckingham Place afte...

FILE Britain's Prince William speaks during the Platinum Jubilee concert taking place in front of Buckingham Palace, London, Saturday June 4, 2022, on...

LONDON (AP) — The world watched as Prince William grew from a towheaded schoolboy to a dashing air-sea rescue pilot to a balding father of three.

But as he turns 40 on Tuesday, William is making the biggest change yet: assuming an increasingly central role in the royal family as he prepares for his eventual accession to the throne.

That was clear two weeks ago when William took center stage at the extravaganza concert marking Queen Elizabeth II’s 70 years on the throne, lauding his grandmother as an environmental trailblazer as he delivered a call to action on climate change.

“Tonight has been full of such optimism and joy — and there is hope," he said, as images of wildlife, oceans and jungles were projected on the walls of Buckingham Palace behind him. “Together, if we harness the very best of humankind, and restore our planet, we will protect it for our children, for our grandchildren and for future generations to come."

Get ready to see more of this.

Slowed by age and health problems, the 96-year-old queen is gradually handing over more responsibilities to her son and heir, Prince Charles. That in turn gives William, his eldest son, a more important role to play and more opportunities to put the stamp on a new generation of the monarchy.

William, along with his wife Kate, has staked out a role as an advocate for more openness about mental health, and as a supporter of organizations working to end homelessness. This month, he was spotted selling the Big Issue, a magazine that supports the homeless, on a London street.

In an article for the magazine, William pledged to “continue doing what I can to shine a spotlight on this solvable issue.”

“And while I may seem like one of the most unlikely advocates for this cause, I have always believed in using my platform to help tell those stories and to bring attention and action to those who are struggling," he wrote. “I plan to do that now I’m turning 40, even more than I have in the past.”

William’s position as the eventual heir to the throne was, of course, sealed at his birth on June 21, 1982, the first son of Charles and the late Princess Diana. That put him in the public eye from the second that Charles and Diana presented him to the TV cameras outside the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital in London.

The world has watched William from his school days in London to his courtship of Kate Middleton at St. Andrews University in Scotland and their spectacular marriage at Westminster Abbey.

He paraded before the cameras once again when he graduated from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, then went on to active duty in the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force. Finally, he became a civilian air ambulance pilot before moving into full-time royal duties five years ago.

His charities and causes — from mental health to the environment — have given hints of what sort of monarch he might one day be.

Royal expert Pauline Maclaran, author of “Royal Fever: The British Monarchy in Consumer Culture.” said William was keen to show “how he will treat things differently.”

“And so we see that more and more, where the future of the line is being emphasized, with Charles being put more in a kind of holding position for William. We’re always reminded that William is after Charles,” she added.

Events just before and during the celebrations of the queen’s platinum jubilee started to give a clearer indication of William’s vision of the future.

William and Kate represented the queen last March when they made an eight-day tour of Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas, three of the 14 independent countries where the British monarch still serves as head of state.

They were met with brass bands and gala dinners, but also with demonstrations by protesters demanding reparations for Britain’s role in the enslavement of millions of Africans. Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness told the royals his country intended to become a republic, severing ties to the monarchy.

After the trip, the young royals were criticized as “tone deaf” for perpetuating images of Britain’s colonial rule.

But rather than falling back on the House of Windsor’s traditional response of “never complain, never explain,” William took the unusual step of issuing a statement reflecting on all that had happened.

“I know that this tour has brought into even sharper focus questions about the past and the future,” William said. “In Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas, that future is for the people to decide upon.”

“Catherine and I are committed to service,” he continued. “For us, that’s not telling people what to do. It is about serving and supporting them in whatever way they think best.”

That willingness to be approachable is critical for the House of Windsor as it seeks to remain relevant to younger people and cement its role in British society, Maclaran said.

“It’s important that William shows there are going to be changes to the monarchy," she said. “Otherwise, you know, I suspect it really can’t survive.”