Kate Middleton Makes Official Red Carpet Appearance at Tusk Conservation Awards

Photo: ReutersKate Middleton took a glamorous break from diaper duty to hit the red carpet with Prince William at the inaugural Tusk Conservation Awards at the Royal Society, London on Thursday.  

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The event, which celebrates outstanding achievement in the field of African conservation, was the royal couple’s first official public appearance as new parents and also marks the end of Middleton’s maternity leave after she gave birth to son George on July 22. The new mom stunned in a floor-length glittery gown by Jenny Packham and her hair was in loose curls.

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It's a big day for Prince William, too. Earlier on Thursday, Kensington Palace announced that he is leaving his position as a helicopter pilot with the Royal Air Force's Search and Rescue Force, after almost eight years of service, to focus on protecting endangered species and habitats. Prince William will be president of United for Wildlife, a partnership between seven conservation organizations and the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

In a speech to guests attending the awards, Prince William said, "As you might have gathered, Catherine and I have recently become proud parents — of a baby who has a voice to match any lion's roar. This is actually our first evening out without him, so please excuse us if you see us nervously casting cheeky glances at our mobile phones to check all is well back home.

"Like any new parents, our thoughts inevitably turn to the world that our child will inherit. It is unfathomable to imagine a world in which children who have been born in the past couple of months may grow up in a world in which rhinoceros have ceased to exist in the wild.

"The possibility of extinction is bad enough for one of our children growing up here in the West, who will never experience the magic of seeing a rhino on a new television documentary; or even for my own little George, who Catherine and I very much hope to introduce to east Africa - a place we know and love — in the fullness of time.

"But for a child growing up in Africa and whose birthright and economic inheritance these creatures are, it is nothing more than immoral that he or she may never experience what his parents and grandparents knew and treasured."

The royal couple had one of their most exciting moments in Africa — in 2010, Prince William proposed to Middleton with an 18-carat diamond and sapphire engagement ring at an isolated log cabin in Kenya — and the prince calls the continent his “second home.” In footage filmed for a Sky1 documentary about the royal couple, Prince William said, "This place will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life. Africa's the perfect place to come. The locals haven't a clue who I am, and I love that."

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Thu, Sep 12, 2013 2:00 PM EDT

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