updated 10/17/2013 AT 9:10 AM ET
•originally published 10/17/2013 AT 11:25 AM ET
It is an important day in Prince William’s royal career.
On Thursday, the Duke of Cambridge took on the grand ceremonial role of bestowing knighthoods for the first time, stepping in for his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, to carry out one of 25 investitures that take place at Buckingham Palace each year.
It is a sign of the future king’s increasingly formal role in the work of the family after ending his military service in September.
Dressed in his ceremonial RAF uniform, William entered the grand Ballroom attended by two Gurkha Orderly officers. Already awaiting them on the dais were five members of the Yeoman of the Guard, one of the oldest royal military corps in the world, dating back to 1485.
In front of the family and friends of 88 recipients of various honors, he stood to attention with his hands by his side as the national anthem, “God Save the Queen,” played. Then, holding out both arms, he said, “Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated.”
His first honor was given to Professor Dame Nicola Cullum, who was made a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire for her services to nursing research and wound care.
But William’s first big moment did not go off without a slight fumble. “My medal did fall off immediately,” Dame Cullum, a professor of nursing at Manchester University, tells PEOPLE. “I’m sure it was my fault. I think it was the way I curtsied.”