The Duchess of Sussex has championed the power of women supporting each other as she celebrated becoming patron of four diverse organisations.
Meghan has accepted patronages in the areas of education, the arts, animal welfare and supporting the vulnerable and disadvantaged – a major milestone for the senior royal.
She visited one of her new charities, Smart Works, which helps long-term unemployed women find jobs, and showed off her style skills by helping to dress a former client.
The Queen has passed on two patronages to Meghan, relinquishing her formal connection with the National Theatre after 45 years and with the Association of Commonwealth Universities following more than three decades.
And following royal tradition, the duchess is now the patron of an animal welfare organisation, Mayhew, which works to improve the lives of dogs, cats and communities.
During her visit to Smart Works’ offices in north Kensington, west London, the duchess joined a discussion group and highlighted the invaluable support women donating interview-style clothes give to others.
The duchess, who is heavily pregnant and expecting her first child in the spring, told the group: “It’s not just about donating your clothes and seeing where they land – but really being part of each other’s success stories as women.”
She added: “It’s not just hand-me-downs, it’s saying, ‘OK, this is the blazer that I wore that helped me land that interview and I want this to be the piece that helps this woman have that part of her story’.
“So to know as a woman coming in, I would imagine, that you have so many women believing in you on all the next phases is the piece that makes it so special.”
Meghan later picked out accessories to complete the look of Patsy Wardally, a mother of three who gave up work more than a decade ago to look after her autistic daughter but was helped back into employment by Smart Works.
The duchess, who wore a dress from Hatch and had taken off her Oscar de la Renta coat, chose a camel cape, black handbag, a matching bead bracelet tied with ribbon which she called “quirky” and some simple pearl earrings for the 55-year-old.
Asked how she felt about her new look, which featured a red and white dress, Mrs Wardally said: “More confident, more beautiful, I looked in the mirror and I know it’s me, but the difference in my esteem and everything has just shot through the roof.”
Kensington Palace said over the past 12 months Meghan “has held meetings and conducted private visits” with each of her four new charities and organisations.
Rufus Norris, director of the National Theatre, who held a private meeting with the duchess a month ahead of the announcement, thanked his former patron the Queen for her “unwavering support and service”.
The Duchess of Sussex will become Patron of four organisations that reflect the causes and issues with which she has long been associated including the arts, access to education, support for women and animal welfare. pic.twitter.com/tU9QWDlPyH— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) January 10, 2019
Meghan will have an affinity with the National Theatre after spending a decade working as an actress in television, where she was best known for her role in the hit US legal drama series Suits, playing paralegal-turned-lawyer Rachel Zane.
She also has a theatre background having studied theatre and international relations at Northwestern University, Illinois, and volunteered at a performing arts after-school programme for children in underprivileged school districts in Los Angeles.
Mr Norris said: “The duchess shares our deeply-held conviction that theatre has the power to bring together people from all communities and walks of life. I very much look forward to working closely with Her Royal Highness in the years to come.”
He admitted last autumn his institution being given permission to add the prefix Royal to its name in 1988 to mark its 25th birthday – something it has not done – was problematic.
Asked why the National Theatre does not use Royal in its title, he said at the time: “Sometimes it’s very useful for us and reflective, and sometimes it’s less so.
“There’s no question about the fact that theatre has a challenge. This country is still very class-driven and there is a perception, and anything that adds to the perception that this place is not for everyone can be a downfall.”
Caroline Yates, chief executive of Mayhew, which works to improve the lives of dogs, cats and local people, said the charity was “excited” to have Meghan as its patron.
Speaking about the duchess’s work supporting various animal rescue centres in her home city of Los Angeles, Ms Yates added: “The duchess has spent many years championing animal welfare, and we are honoured to have our charity represented by such a passionate patron.”
The Duchess of Sussex arrives at @SmartWorksHQ and joins a discussion with volunteers and women they have helped succeed in job interviews.— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) January 10, 2019
So far, the charity has helped over 11,000 women and has plans to dress 3,500 women this year across the UK. pic.twitter.com/MvFnjUJHoo
Dr Joanna Newman, chief executive and secretary general of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, said: “The duchess shares our passion for the informational power of higher education, and Her Royal Highness’s support will help champion higher education as a force for good in the Commonwealth and beyond.”
Kensington Palace said in a statement: “The Duchess is delighted to become Patron of both national and grassroots organisations that are part of the fabric of the UK, and is very much looking forward to working with them to bring wider public attention to their causes.
“Her Royal Highness feels she can use her position to focus attention on, and make a particular difference to these organisations and, more widely, the sectors they each represent.”