December 04, 2018 11:48 AM

Prince William and Kate Middleton understand the struggles military families go through because they’ve experienced it firsthand.

Natalie Bressani – who is mom to Luca, 14, and Anona, 11 – said William and Kate were helping “lift the spirits” of the Royal Air Force families separated from their loved ones at a Christmas party at Kensington Palace on Tuesday. And she revealed that the royal couple got their English Cocker Spaniel, Lupo, to help them at a difficult time.

“When Prince William was away in the Falkland Islands, he went for dinner with some good friends of ours in the Air Force, and he was saying how difficult it was for Kate because he was leaving for six weeks. It was when they’d just got the Spaniel to help her with the time apart,” said Bressani. “She appreciates what wives and families go through.”

Lupo has previously starred in a number of family photos, including an early photo of baby Prince George with his parents. On George’s third birthday, the royals released four too-cute photos of the chubby-cheeked prince standing on a swing, walking in the garden and playing with the family pet.

Michael Middleton/Kensington Palace/Getty Images
Prince George and Lupo in 2016
Matt Porteous/PA Wire

Kate expressed her sympathy with more than 200 wives, husbands, children and parents of men and women from two RAF stations who will be spending Christmas apart from their families while deployed in Cyprus during a speech on Tuesday, recalling when Prince William served as a helicopter pilot in the Royal Air Force.

“As someone whose husband has served, I know how hard it feels when a loved one leaves home to do the job they’ve trained for,” the royal mom of three said. “When William served in the Falklands or went search and rescue, I remember how it felt. But I can’t imagine how it feels when your loved ones are away on active service over Christmas or at those special family moments. The absence of people you love must be especially hard at this time of year.”

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Bressani’s husband is wing commander Matt Bressani, who is currently deployed in Cyphrus but home for two weeks after spending the last two months away. She said their family will be “sneaking an early Christmas before he goes back.”

The mother of two spoke of how meaningful it was for William and Kate to attend Tuesday’s holiday bash.

“We feel so privileged that they’ve taken the time to think about us,” she said. “It has actually really added to the build up to Christmas for our children when they’re a little bit down. It has been tainted all year with daddy being deployed.”

Prince William and Kate Middleton
Stuart C. Wilson/Getty

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Emily Staite chatted with Princess Kate as children threw around soft balls and generally dashed around. She shared two children, ages 2 and 4, with her husband, Neil, who will be stationed in Cyprus for Christmas.

“It is chaotic,” Staite said as she surveyed the party scene, “And I take my hat off to them for doing this. It is lovely, a nice thing to do. We spend a lot of time on our own so it is nice to do something different.”

She added, “People overlook how hard it is, how lonely it can be for people at home, especially when things go wrong when partners are deployed. It can be quite hard.”

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