Photo of Prince Louis taken by Kate released to mark his 6th birthday

A photo of Prince Louis taken by the Princess of Wales has been released to mark the young royal's sixth birthday.

The image of a smiling Louis was shared on social media along with the caption: "Happy 6th Birthday, Prince Louis! Thank you for all the kind wishes today."

The photo was taken in the last few days in Windsor and is understood to be unedited.

It is understood William and Kate released the image as a way to thank those who sent good wishes while also protecting their privacy.

The same process - a deviation from the usual issuing of the pictures to the press in advance under an embargo - is expected to be followed for Princess Charlotte's birthday in May.

The change in process is understood to be due to the unprecedented time the family is experiencing.

The past few months have been an eventful period for the family due to Kate and the King's cancer diagnoses.

The Princess of Wales announced in March that she was undergoing preventative chemotherapy.

Louis, meanwhile, was last seen in public on Christmas Day when the Royal Family made their traditional festive appearance on the King's Sandringham Estate to walk to church.

The release of the photograph comes after Louis' father, Prince William, resumed royal duties last week in his first public engagement since Kate's cancer announcement.

The prince visited a food distribution charity, Surplus to Supper, in Surrey, where he saw how extra food from across the local area was redistributed to small community organisations.

Photos showed him getting busy in the kitchen at the charity's hub in Sunbury Cricket Club as he made chilli con carne and chopped ingredients under the supervision of head chef Mario Confait.

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The 41-year-old heir to the throne was also pictured in a hi-vis vest joining volunteers in loading prepared meals into delivery vans.

The Prince of Wales then headed to Hanworth youth centre in west London which benefits from the organisation's deliveries and unloaded the crates.

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Earlier this month, William and his eldest son Prince George attended an Aston Villa football game together, in their first public outing since Kate's cancer announcement.

William, Kate and their three children missed the Easter Sunday service at St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle, following the news, despite attending last year.