Prince George marks his eighth birthday with a beaming smile

A beaming Prince George perches atop a Land Rover Defender as he marks his eighth birthday. 

The Prince, who is known to be a little more shy and more reserved than his younger siblings, looked in great spirits as he posed confidently on the bonnet of the family car dressed in a striped polo shirt and navy shorts.

The photograph was taken by the Duchess of Cambridge at their Norfolk home, Anmer Hall, earlier this month. The family will celebrate the future king’s birthday privately.

The children’s school, Thomas’s Battersea, has broken up for the summer holidays, leaving them free to enjoy a party, for which they may well be joined by the Duchess’s parents, Carole and Michael Middleton.

Prince George will also be preparing for a new chapter in his life, amid claims that he will start a new prep school in September.

Both Prince William and Prince Harry boarded at Ludgrove School in Berkshire from the age of eight before moving to Eton at 13. 

The decision to pose on the Defender might be seen as a nod to the late Duke of Edinburgh, who loved driving the same model.

The Duke was famously pictured (above) perched on the roof of his Defender in 1968 at the Badminton Horse Trials.

Wearing sunglasses, with one hand on hip, he pointed out something in the distance to the Queen, who stood alongside the vehicle peering through binoculars.

It was a modified Land Rover Defender that the Duke designed as his hearse, carrying his coffin on its final journey through the grounds of Windsor Castle to St George’s Chapel in April.

He is said to have remarked to the Queen when discussing his desire for a fuss-free funeral: "Just stick me in the back of a Land Rover and drive me to Windsor."

The Prince sits on the bonnet of a Land Rover Defender

In normal times, Prince George’s birthday would have been marked with the ringing of Westminster bells, a royal tradition.

He missed out on hearing the bells toll last year due to the pandemic and although restrictions are now lifted and bell ringing is allowed once again, the Abbey has been forced to reduce its usual offering.

“Due to the current financial challenges posed by the Covid pandemic Westminster Abbey will ring its bells only for the birthdays of HM The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales,” a spokeswoman said.

The picture, released on Wednesday evening, follows similar images of Prince George’s siblings, who have also celebrated birthdays in recent months.

Prince Louis turned three in April, proudly posing on his balance bike, rucksack on his back, as he began nursery school.

Princess Charlotte, who was six in May, smiled sweetly at the camera, her long hair flowing around her shoulders.

It has become a royal custom to release a photograph on a child’s birthday – part of the unwritten deal that, in return for official photographs, the paparazzi will leave the Royal family alone.

Recent years have seen Kensington Palace replace professional photographs with portraits taken by the Duchess, a keen amateur photographer, at home.

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