Dressed in uniform and wielding a ceremonial sword, Prince William dubbed his first knights today, stepping in for the queen to host his first investiture, or honors, ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
It's another step forward into the "senior royal" category for the second-in-line to the throne: He presided over one of the more antique duties of the monarch, that of handing out coveted medals, titles and honors to worthy citizens in the splendor of the palace ballroom.
British tennis star Andy Murray was among the dozens of honorees; he received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) medal pinned to his chest.
Queen Elizabeth II, or sometimes William's father, Prince Charles, usually does the honors, about 25 times a year, usually at Buckingham Palace but sometimes at Windsor Castle or other royal palaces.
Now that he's left active service as a helicopter pilot in the RAF, William, 31, is taking on more royal duties for his aging grandmother, 87. Last year she had to pull out of an honors ceremony after her chronic back pain flared up; the Prince of Wales stepped in instead.
The hour-long ceremony can be a strain, especially if there are dozens to be honored and there's a lot of bending and pinning and sword waving to be done.
The knighthood part of the ceremony is the most memorable throwback to the era of chivalry: The recipients kneel on the investiture stool and are dubbed (tapped) on the shoulders with a sword that belonged to the queen's father, George VI.
Those receiving other honors got their decoration from William, who shook their hands and chatted briefly before the next one was announced. All this was watched by the recipient's guests; they are allowed to bring three each.
According to British press reports, William was anxious to do everything properly so as not to mar what is usually one of the most important days in a recipient's life. So he practiced with a sword and with pinning medals to an aide's chest in advance.
Prince Harry rugby
Rugby patron Prince Harry throws himself into a coaching session for kids at Twickenham Stadium in London on Oct. 17 to promote the sport in UK schools.(Photo: Steve Parsons AP)
While William was working at the palace, brother Prince Harry was working, too: He helped coach high school students in rugby for the Rugby Football Union at a local stadium, and he was to open the Royal British Legion Center for Blast Injury Studies at Imperial College London.
Now that they've moved into their new residence, Apartment 1A in Kensington Palace, William and his wife, Duchess Kate of Cambridge, are stepping up their charitable and royal engagements in London.
Next week is the christening ceremony for Prince George, now three months old, on Oct. 23 in the Chapel Royal at St. James Palace, where late grandmother Princess Diana's body lay in state before her funeral in 1997. It will be a private and intimate affair: no TV cameras and fewer than 100 guests. The guest list and the godparents — there are likely to be more than two — won't be publicly announced until the day, but that hasn't stopped the speculation in the British media about who's in and who's not.
The crucial snap will be the historic picture afterwards of the queen with the three generations of her heirs — the last time that happened was in 1894 with Queen Victoria — but that won't be released until the following day, palace officials say.
Tomorrow, Kate will embark on her first solo engagement since the birth of George on July 22, attending a SportsAid Athlete Workshop at London's Olympic Park, and on Oct. 24, she is scheduled to attend a gala fundraising dinner for her charity, Action on Addiction.
William, president of the Football Association, will attend its 150th anniversary dinner at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London on October 26.