Prince William Shares Emotional Letter on Mom Princess Diana's Birthday: 'She Would Be So Proud'

·4 min read
prince william, princess diana
prince william, princess diana

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images; Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images Prince William and Princess Diana

Prince William is speaking out on what would have been his mother Princess Diana's 61st birthday.

On Friday, the royal, 40, paid tribute to the latest recipients of the Diana Award. Named after the late royal, the prestigious award honors people aged 9-25 for their social action and humanitarian work.

In a moving letter to this year's winners, William called them all "an inspiration."

"Congratulations on receiving The Diana Award today! You are part of an inspirational generation of young people who are changing the world through your actions, and I hugely admire your efforts," he wrote in the letter, which was written on official Kensington Palace stationery carrying his "W" royal cipher.

"I hugely admire your efforts. Your stories are remarkable. Many of you face huge challenges in the face of difficult times, yet you are tirelessly breaking down barriers to create a better future for us all," he continued.

"You truly are the personification of my mother's legacy and I know she would be so proud of you all. I believe there's no better way to celebrate her life and work than through recognising incredible people who dedicate so much time and effort to helping those around them."

RELATED: Prince William at 40: Settled as a Dad, Thriving as a Royal — but in 'Pain' Over Prince Harry Rift

Princess Diana, Prince Harry, Prince William, Prince Charles at Prince William's first day at Eton
Princess Diana, Prince Harry, Prince William, Prince Charles at Prince William's first day at Eton

Tom Wargacki/WireImage

Both William and his brother Prince Harry support the Diana Award, which is the only charity that carries their mother's name. The award ceremony takes place virtually on Friday and will honor 180 changemakers and young philanthropists from 29 countries — including more than 20 winners from the U.S.

The charity said the "exceptional young people" being recognized have demonstrated their ability to mobilize their generation "through campaigning, volunteering, fundraising, fighting injustice or overcoming extreme life challenges." What they have in common is that "they are changing their communities and the world."

This August marks another poignant anniversary for the royal brothers — 25 years since Princess Diana following a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997.

Tessy Ojo CBE, CEO of the Diana Award, congratulated the latest recipients in a statement: "It is especially poignant as we remember Princess Diana 25 years on. We know by receiving this honor they will inspire more young people to get involved in their communities and begin their own journey as active citizens."

Alamy Stock Photo
Alamy Stock Photo

Prince William and Prince Harry at the unveiling of a Princess Diana statue in London on July 1, 2021.

Although William and Harry's relationship has been painfully strained for the last few years, they came together last summer to unveil a statue erected in their late mother's memory in Kensington Palace's Sunken Garden.

Can't get enough of PEOPLE's Royals coverage? Sign up for our free Royals newsletter to get the latest updates on Kate MiddletonMeghan Markle and more!

"Today, on what would have been our Mother's 60th birthday, we remember her love, strength and character – qualities that made her a force for good around the world, changing countless lives for the better," William and Harry said in a joint statement released on July 1, 2021.

"Every day, we wish she were still with us, and our hope is that this statue will be seen forever as a symbol of her life and her legacy."

There are more than 20 recipients of the Diana Award from the United States this year. They are: Zikora Akanegbu, 17, from Ellicott City, MD -- for GenZHER; Iqra Bisma, 18 -- Speak To Lead International; Alexandria Brady-Miné, 22, Tampa, Florida -- The Human Projects; Calvin (Hwa Lang) Cho, 17, Irvine,  CA. -- The Orange Country Student Review; Brielle Diaz Withers, 16, Cornwall, NY -- Be A Friend Project; Elizabeth Carson Eckhard, 23, Philadelphia and Washington DC -- The Liberation Foundation; Aayush Goel, 16, Cupertina California -- Apart But Not Alone; Mahi Gupta, 16, Wharton, New Jersey -- World Exploration; Isabella Hanson, 16, Chadds Ford, PA -- 'I Matter'; Karly Hou, 20, Palo Alto, CA -- Wave Learning Festival; Shraman Kar, 15, Louisville, KY -- Community AI; Sikander (Sonny) Khan, 23, Jackson, MI – Paani; Jean Lin, 16, Camas, WA -- Leaders Across the World; Nam Nguyen, 25, Chicago, MI --  MeditationOrb and Crisis Counsellor; Phuc (James) Nguyen, 17, Santa Ana, CA – Fita; Arsh Pal, 19, Dubuque/Iowa -- Healing through art;  Shreya Patel, 16, Boston, MA – Letters Against Isolation; Priya Patel, Edison, NJ – Peer Responders; Dipro Prattoy, Ann Arbor, MI. Kanto Raveloson, San Francisco, CA; Gabrielle Roberts, 25, Hinsdale, Illinois – Code Your Chances; Rafa Sattar, 24, New York City, NY – Fera Foundation Inc; and Olivia Zhang, 16, McLean, VA --Cancer Kids First.