Prince William Praises Family Friend's Grief-Turned-Legacy

Charity's impact transforms educational landscape in Ugandan schools

by Zain ul Abedin
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Prince William Praises Family Friend's Grief-Turned-Legacy
© Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

In a touching ceremony held at Windsor Castle on May 8, Prince William bestowed an MBE upon Claire van Straubenzee, marking a poignant moment of recognition for the profound impact of a charity born from tragedy. Claire, a close family friend of the royals, was honored for her exceptional contributions through the Henry van Straubenzee Memorial Fund, an educational charity aiding Ugandan children, founded in memory of her late son, Henry, who tragically lost his life in a car accident in 2002.

Since 2004, the Henry van Straubenzee Memorial Fund has dramatically transformed the educational landscape for hundreds of thousands of children across Uganda, promoting substantial growth and development in over 51 nursery, elementary, and secondary schools.

Initially sparked by Henry's planned journey to Uganda, which was tragically cut short, the charity has continued his legacy, enriching the lives of approximately 35,000 children annually with an impressive total of $4.1 million (£3.3 million) raised.

Claire’s sons, Thomas and Charlie van Straubenzee, also share a deep bond with Prince William and Prince Harry, further cementing the family-like ties between the van Straubenzees and the royals. The brothers’ commitment to the charity has been significant, with their involvement bringing vital attention and resources to its endeavors.

This partnership reached the hearts of many, notably during the annual fundraising carol services held in London, which became a significant social and charitable event.

Legacy of Change

During their final visit to Uganda as trustees, Claire and her family received an overwhelmingly joyous reception, a testament to the enduring relationships and positive change fostered by their efforts.

"We have mixed emotions because we are saying goodbye to so many of our wonderful friends in Uganda and their schools, but at the same time, we realize that we have supported them fully with over 1800 projects since 2004 and never let them down," Claire shared with PEOPLE.

The charity’s initiatives have not only improved educational facilities but have also addressed essential needs by installing separate latrines and washing facilities for boys and girls, and ensuring a consistent water supply through new boreholes.

These improvements have allowed children to learn in proper classrooms rather than makeshift outdoor settings, significantly enhancing their educational experience. Despite the brothers’ later estrangement, their joint efforts through the charity have left a lasting imprint, culminating in a powerful statement at their last joint public appearance at the charity’s carol service in December 2022.

They highlighted the "extraordinary" achievements of Claire and Alex van Straubenzee and celebrated the enduring legacy of their son Henry.

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