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How Kate Middleton and Prince William Honor Queen Elizabeth: 'Something They Think About Every Day' (Exclusive)

On the anniversary of her death at 96, Queen Elizabeth’s influence remains strong — even as the royal family navigates a complex future without her

Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Prince William and Kate Middleton in February 2023
Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Prince William and Kate Middleton in February 2023

Kate Middleton and Prince William are always thinking of Queen Elizabeth.

On the first anniversary of the Queen’s death on Friday, Sept. 8, the Prince and Princess of Wales have much to reflect on. It’s been a year of change for the royal family, especially William and Kate, who became heir and queen-in-waiting with King Charles’ reign.

Prince William and Princess Kate, both 41, “are maintaining a good balance between carrying out their duties and raising their children as privately as possible,” royal author Sally Bedell Smith exclusively tells PEOPLE in this week's issue.

Getting that right is key and “something they think about every day,” adds a source close to the family. In doing so, they honor the Queen.

“The prince was incredibly close to his grandmother,” the source says. “She was such a big part of his life and a real supporter of his work, and I’m sure he and the princess miss her presence.”

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth

Related: One Year Without Queen Elizabeth: How the Royal Family Has Coped with the 'Enormous Loss' (Exclusive)

In the last 12 months, the Prince and Princess of Wales have forged ahead with work that will be central to their lives for decades to come. Kate has taken her early childhood initiative to a new public level with Shaping Us, a campaign focused on kids under age 5, while William is concentrating on a new homelessness project, Homewards. He has been increasing his global role, too, meeting President Joe Biden in Boston last December and traveling to the border between Poland and Ukraine in March. Later this month he’ll promote his environmental Earthshot Prize during a visit to New York.

Their family life has gone through a huge change too. The first full day at the private Lambrook School for Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 8, and Prince Louis, 5, was the day the Queen died. Since then, the children have been more visible than ever, participating in significant family and formal events. Prince George, who is now second in line to the throne, historically stepped into the spotlight to support his grandfather as a Page of Honor at the coronation in May.

In the days after his mother’s death last Sept. 8, King Charles made William and Kate the new Prince and Princess of Wales (the titles formerly held by Charles and his first wife, Princess Diana), recognizing their seniority in the family and signaling their critical roles ahead.

“Charles is leading the way for them already, and [William and Kate] are both involved in decision-making behind the scenes. They are ready and willing to do the job — and Kate is very much a part of that,” a friend of the princess tells PEOPLE.

<p>Chris Jackson/Getty</p> Queen Elizabeth with the royal family in June 2022

Chris Jackson/Getty

Queen Elizabeth with the royal family in June 2022

Related: Kate Middleton and Prince William 'Ready and Willing to Do the Job' One Year After Queen's Death (Exclusive)

In matters both personal and professional, “there is an enormous loss,” says a source close to the royal household, “as [the Queen] played a very important part in all of their lives. But I’m impressed at how smoothly things are moving forward given all the little hiccups that there are in the background.”

The biggest “hiccup” of all, of course, has been the ongoing estrangement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle from the rest of the royal family. Fissures within the family came to the fore when King Charles’ younger son and his wife left the U.K. for the U.S. in 2020, and relations have remained strained since.

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Although Prince Harry, 38, made plans to stop in London to attend the WellChild charity awards on Sept. 7 before heading to the Invictus Games in Germany, which begin Saturday, sources say that there is no chance of a reunion with his brother or father anytime soon. The Prince of Wales feels betrayed by Harry’s claims in his memoir, Spare, and the Netflix docuseries Harry & Meghan, but he is dealing with his feelings privately, insiders say. A source who knows both brothers says the public drama “has quieted down a bit.”

If he’s looking for a way forward, Charles could examine the way his mother negotiated public scandals, political upheavals and family drama for 70 years.

“[The Queen] managed to navigate these choppy waters, and that’s why she was always admired and loved—because she got the family through,” says the source close to the royal household. “[Charles] will have to show that he can do that."

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