Prince William and Kate have celebrated the NHS’s 72nd birthday along with the health worker whose reunion with her daughters captured the hearts of the nation.
Suzie Vaughan moved her daughters, Hettie, seven, and Bella, nine, from Norfolk to her sister’s home in Peterborough, to keep them safe from coronavirus when the pandemic was in its early stages.
Her emotional surprise reunion with her daughters was filmed and went viral, as she crept up behind them to see them after nine weeks apart.
She and her daughters were guests at a tea party for the NHS held Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, marking 72 years to the day since the health service was formed.
The hospital marks its own 40th birthday later this month.
Kate told her: “You did a really good job.
“It's amazing how everybody pulled together.”
She asked the girls if they missed their mother and added: “It is a real treat to meet you both.”
The royals also complimented the girls on their party dresses, with William saying “I love your dresses”, while the duchess told them: “You girls look really pretty.”
Afterwards, Ms Vaughan, an operating department practitioner, said: “It was amazing to see the them both. I told them about being away from the girls for so long.
“They asked how I coped away from them for so long. He said how amazed he was. That felt amazing.”
Hettie added: “It was fun. I told her I had never met a real princess before. And she said she was as pleased to meet me as I was to meet her.
“I told her how proud I was of my mummy.”
Ms Vaughan added: “They both always wanted to meet a real life princess.”
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were given three knitted angel keyrings as presents for their children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.
William said: “The children will love them.”
All five Cambridges had privately marked the 5pm Clap for Carers which made a one-week return to mark the NHS’s birthday on Sunday afternoon.
A video also revealed the royals drove themselves to and from the engagement. They are still in their country home of Anmer Hall, in Norfolk.
Speaking about sending her daughters to her sister’s, Ms Vaughan, 43, told Sky News: "The decision to send the girls away was to keep them safe because I didn't know what I was going to be bringing home.
"It's been really difficult. It's been emotionally and physically exhausting.”
She added: “I just kept thinking of the girls, I wanted to keep them safe. And I was able to put more hours in at work and help the patients at work who needed it.
“To see people suffer the way I have had to see patients suffer, I wish people could see the other side of it and think of other people.”
Kate and William, both 38, have been returning to in-person engagements in recent weeks following lockdown.
Their visit to the hospital comes after Prince Charles, William’s father, recorded a message for the NHS to thank staff for their work during the pandemic.
In the message, the Prince of Wales said: “Our remarkably selfless nurses, doctors, paramedics and countless other staff have made costly sacrifices to provide treatment for more than a hundred thousand patients with coronavirus and thousands more who needed other care.
“And, in tribute to them, we have come together as a nation to thank them for their skill, professionalism and dedication.”