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Come inside star-studded King’s Foundation awards

By Max Foster and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN

London (CNN) — King Charles III was in his element this week as he celebrated a very special moment for his foundation at St. James’s Palace in London.

On Tuesday, the 75-year-old monarch attended the inaugural awards of his King’s Foundation, so we thought, why not take our Royal News readers along with us?

Now, to rewind for just a moment – King Charles set up the charity back in 1990 when he was still the Prince of Wales. His vision was to help revitalize communities while creating a balance between people and the planet.

More than 30 years on, the King’s ethos continues to drive the organization’s projects, whether it’s through its education courses focusing on arts, architecture, traditional crafts or rural skills, its health and wellbeing programs, or its regeneration work.

King’s Foundation chief executive Kristina Murrin told CNN that the charity is underpinned by the monarch’s philosophy of working in concert with nature to “build sustainable thriving communities.”

“The way we do that is we take our inspiration from nature and from tradition to try and work out what are the best ways we can work with nature, not against her.”

Murrin said the foundation has six historic sites in the United Kingdom – including Dumfries House and Highgrove Gardens – which together attracted nearly 300,000 visitors in the past 12 months, as well as more than a dozen sites internationally. Meanwhile, its education, skills and training programs benefited more than 15,000 students last year.

This week’s glittering event – set to become an annual fixture in the charity’s calendar – saw rock royalty Rod Stewart and his wife, Penny Lancaster, footballing legend David Beckham, actress Sienna Miller, fashion editor Edward Enninful, supermodel Naomi Campbell and chef Raymond Blanc hand out awards.

Organizers are eager to offer a platform to recognize students, teachers, alumni and partners for their contributions to the organization’s efforts across a range of sectors.

“We’re really excited about the awards. The charity has been going (for) nearly 35 years and it just felt the right moment to finally celebrate the work we’ve been doing,” Murrin said. “We have amazing students and teachers – many of whom have gone (on) to start incredible businesses – and so it just felt it was about time we got around to celebrating some of those people.”

Nine awards were given out, with Charles presenting the final accolade, the King Charles III Harmony Award, to South Korean diplomat and former secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.

In a short speech, the King said the award was “created to recognize the individuals who champion the values which underpin the King’s Foundation’s mission, and my own hope, for a world in which we live in harmony with nature.”

He then paid tribute to the former UN chief for his “tireless dedication to promoting these ideals on the global stage.”

Some 250 guests attended the event at St. James’s Palace. Pipers from the National Piping Centre and the Rock Choir played as nominees and their families made their way up the Grand Staircase to the lavish State Apartment for the reception.

The awards also featured live demonstrations of some of the foundation’s educational programs, including furniture-making, woodworking and embroidery.

Charles was beaming as he made his way around the reception, keen to hear about how students have been supported in learning and entrepreneurship across traditional arts, textiles, rural skills, and health and wellbeing.

British gardener and broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh spoke of his joy at being involved in the foundation for several decades, saying “the fact that it works” continues to draw him in.

He said he wants to be involved in the King’s Foundation because of “the fact that it encourages practical skills – crafts, arts – that it catches people that might otherwise fall through the net and that it really makes a difference.”

“It makes a difference to our landscape, to the crafts and skills that are available, making sure they don’t disappear, but also to individuals. It turns people around, people who are not necessarily academic but people who have really valuable skills,” he added.

Among the winners was Isabelle Pennington-Edmead, 27, who received the Young Entrepreneur Award from actress Sienna Miller. After graduating from the King’s Foundation’s The Modern Artisan program, she has gone on to set up her own eponymous label centered on a sustainable and ethical approach.

Her collection – which is inspired by her mixed Caribbean Kittitian and English heritage – is made to order, cutting out unwanted stock. She will be expanding onto an online retailer this summer while scaling up her business sustainably.

She told CNN that setting up her business “was something I’d always wanted to do and when I left the King’s Foundation, I felt that I had the tools to be able to do it.”

In the Throne Room, Charles had the chance to catch up with Beckham, who was recently announced as a new ambassador for the foundation and who mentioned at the event that he had cuts on his hands from planting roses over the weekend.

The pair appeared delighted to see each other again, discussing the England men’s soccer team’s prospects ahead of the Euro 2024 tournament, which kicks off today in Germany. Beckham assured the King “we’ll be ready” after a recent loss to Iceland in a friendly.

Charles may have only recently returned to public duties and is continuing his cancer treatment, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowed down.

Murrin told CNN that King’s Foundation staff had wondered how much time Charles would have to devote himself to the charity after his accession to the throne “but he stays very involved, very committed.”

“His Majesty is very involved and we’re incredibly lucky to have him as our Royal Founding President. He was bringing attention to some of these themes around the climate, the planet, and our sustainability decades ago. It’s a real honor to do his work.”

She added: “He loves seeing the projects that we’re making out in the world – both here and across the globe.”

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