Prince William's most significant overseas visit

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Image copyright PA
Image caption The Duchess of Cambridge is unlikely to accompany her husband on the trip

The Chinese government has invited the Duke of Cambridge and his wife, Catherine, to visit China early next year.

This will be Prince William's most significant overseas visit.

When the trip was being planned, the hope was that his wife would accompany him.

But when it takes place the Duchess of Cambridge will be heavily pregnant and it's unlikely she'll now be part of a tour designed to strengthen Britain's relationship with China.

Prince William's presence in Beijing and elsewhere will highlight the fact that his father hasn't yet undertaken such a journey.

Strenuous efforts have been made to prepare the ground for a tour by the next head of state.

Prince Charles has met a Chinese president in the UK and one of his architectural charities has a base in the Chinese capital.

But the plans are hampered by Prince Charles's friendship with the Dalai Lama and recent history - including the prince's boycott of a banquet during a Chinese state visit.

Prince William will board a plane next year unencumbered by such baggage.

More on this story