LONDON -- Prince William, second in line to the throne and father of the world's most celebrated newborn, is giving up active duty in the British military for a life devoted to charity and public service, the royal family announced Thursday.
The prince, 31, is completing a seven-and-a-half-year military tour, most of it spent as a rescue pilot based in Wales. Leaving the armed forces will allow William to become, in effect, a full-time royal representative dedicated to shaking hands, cutting ribbons, promoting worthy causes and generally preparing for the day he will be king.
The announcement by Kensington Palace officials came less than two months after William and his wife, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, became parents for the first time. The birth of their son, Prince George, third in line to the throne, made front-page headlines worldwide; royal diaper changes are now regular tabloid fodder.
The palace said in a statement that William would concentrate over the next year on the work of his charitable foundation and would expand his activities related to environmental conservation, particularly concerning endangered species.
Essentially, the next 12 months will serve as a transition period for the prince to figure out what his special focus will be in the years -- probably decades -- leading up to, and possibly beyond, his eventual coronation.
William "is currently considering a number of options for public service," the palace said.
After joining the military in 2006, he trained to be a helicopter rescue pilot and eventually became known as "Flight Lt. William Wales." He has since completed more than 1,300 flying hours and participated in the rescue of nearly 150 people.
He and his newly expanded family are expected to leave Wales and move into their royal residence, Kensington Palace, in London within the next few weeks.