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New portrait of Kate Middleton released for royal's 38th birthday

The previously unseen photo was released a day after some other big royal news — the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s stunning announcement that they will "step back" as senior British royals.
/ Source: TODAY

Happy Birthday to the Duchess of Cambridge!

Kensington Palace released a previously unseen photo of a smiling duchess in celebration of her 38th birthday on Thursday, which comes a day after her in-laws, Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, made the stunning announcement that they plan to "step back" as senior members of the British royal family.

"Thank you everyone for all your lovely messages on The Duchess of Cambridge’s birthday!" the caption reads.

Prince Harry and Meghan's Sussex Royal Instagram account commented on the post, saying that they were "wishing a very happy birthday to The Duchess of Cambridge today!"

The laid-back photo of the former Kate Middleton comes after she celebrated a fun Christmas holiday with husband Prince William and their three children.

The family looked sporty in their Christmas card, which showed the duchess standing next to William as he sits on a motorcycle while holding Prince Louis, 1, alongside the couple's two older children, Prince George, 6, and Princess Charlotte, 4.

She and William opened up about their family and relationship over the holidays in a BBC Christmas special with celebrity chef Mary Berry.

The duchess also played the role of photographer as the palace released a sweet shot on Christmas Eve that she took of William and the children earlier this year in Norfolk, England, where they have a country home.

While she and William prepare for a busy year ahead, the surprising announcement by Harry and the former Meghan Markle has taken center stage as royal watchers wonder what it means for the future of the royal family.

Their announcement on Wednesday also included the eye-opening news that they are looking to become financially independent and split their time living in Britain and North America. British taxpayers supported the royal family to the tune of $104 million in 2018, according to the royal family's annual Sovereign Report.

Harry and William's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, made it sound like the split was not exactly a done deal just yet.

"Discussions with The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are at an early stage,'' Buckingham Palace said in a statement on Wednesday. "We understand their desire to take a different approach, but these are complicated issues that will take time to work through."