Duchess Kate turns 40 with dazzling new birthday photos: A look back at her year

Duchess Kate is welcoming her 40s with a glamorous new photo shoot.

Kensington Palace released three new portraits of Kate the evening before her 40th birthday on Sunday, taken by photographer Paolo Roversi at Kew Gardens last November. 

One sepia-tinted photo depicts her wearing a sheer off-the-shoulder gown, tied to each arm with bows with trailing ribbons. Her hair is worn in loose waves, and Princess Diana’s famous sapphire engagement ring is visible on her left hand. She dons a white dress with a ruffled neckline for a close-up.

In the third color portrait, Kate wears a deep red, one-shouldered gown with pockets and a dramatic poufy sleeve, worn with dangling diamond earrings. 

Kate thanked the public for their "very kind birthday wishes" in a tweet Sunday.

Duchess Kate is celebrating her 40th birthday on Sunday with three new photo portraits.

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The photos are a departure from the more casual images that have typically been released by Prince William, 39, and Kate to commemorate special occasions in the royal family.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s official social media accounts note that the new portraits of Kate will enter the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London, of which the duchess has been the royal patron since 2012.

The new birthday images of Duchess Kate were photographed last November at Kew Gardens.

Kate has emerged as the "reliable" royal in the royal family, particularly over the last year. 

After Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s stormy departure to California in 2020, the death of Prince Philip last year, and now sexual-abuse allegations against Prince Andrew, the former Kate Middleton remains in the public eye as the smiling mother who can comfort grieving parents at a children’s hospice or wow the nation by playing piano during a televised Christmas concert.

At a moment when the House of Windsor is facing more than its share of controversy, Prince William’s spouse has won accolades for her commitment to early education, art and music. The charities she supports gush about her willingness to get personally involved in their causes.

These are some of Kate's biggest moments in the last year: 

Duchess Kate's new portraits will enter the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Duchess Kate, Prince William's 10th wedding anniversary 

William and Kate celebrated a major milestone in their relationship in 2021: 10 years of marriage on April 29. 

The duke and duchess shared two new photos themselves, smiling and cuddling outside Kensington Palace, plus a new video of the couple playing with their children outdoors. 

The Cambridges, now the parents of three – Prince George, 8 and another future king, Princess Charlotte, 6, and Prince Louis, 3 – are now full-time working royals, taking up more responsibilities to help his father, Prince Charles, as grandmother Queen Elizabeth II, 95, cuts back on public engagements. 

Happy 10th anniversary! Prince William, Duchess Kate share new romantic photos, family video

The royal couple arrive on YouTube

Will and Kate, who boast more than 13 million Instagram followers and 2 million Twitter followers, allowed the public even more glimpses into royal life by joining another social media platform. 

They joined YouTube in May with a 25-second highlight reel video showing Will and Kate at multiple memorable royal events and engagements over years, with peppy rock music in the background. Since then, the official Duke and Duchess of Cambridge account has amassed nearly two-thirds of a million followers. 

See their first video: Prince William and Duchess Kate launch YouTube channel

"Be careful what you say now because these guys, they're filming everything," William teased his wife in their first video. "I know!" Kate said, laughing. 

Kate meets with first lady Jill Biden

The duchess' charity work has taken on a bigger role as of late. What better way to exemplify its growing cause than a community engagement event featuring the first lady of the United States? 

First lady Jill Biden and Duchess Kate of Cambridge – both of whom have made education among their causes – appeared together in June at a school in Cornwall ahead of the royal family and Bidens attending the G7 climate change summit

Duchess Kate of Cambridge and first lady Jill Biden during a visit to Connor Downs Academy during the G7 summit in Cornwall on June 11, 2021.

“It’s a huge honor to have you in the United Kingdom,” Kate said, thanking Biden for her interest in early education. “I’m very much looking forward to the conversation.”

The first lady and the duchess met with young students and led a roundtable discussion with educators on how early childhood schooling results in positive outcomes for kids. 

'I can't wait to meet her':Duchess Kate sends 'the very best' to baby Lilibet during visit to UK school with Jill Biden

Kate's Christmas surprise

Kate wowed royal watchers over the holidays by playing piano to accompany Scottish singer/songwriter Tom Walker on his holiday ballad "For Those Who Can't Be Here" for “Royal Carols: Together at Christmas,” a holiday concert recorded at Westminster Abbey.

While it wasn’t a secret that Kate had studied the instrument, the nationally televised performance – inspired by loss and separation during the pandemic – showed a new side of Kate and her increasingly significant role within the royal family. 

Contributing: Maria Puente and Brian Truitt, USA TODAY, and The Associated Press