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Meghan supports women and animals with first royal patronages

The roles reflect the Duchess of Sussex’s interests in the arts, access to education, support for women and animal welfare, Kensington Palace said.

The Duchess of Sussex has become the patron of a range of organisations reflecting her interests in the arts, access to education, support for women and animal welfare, Kensington Palace has announced.

Meghan has taken on honorary roles with the National Theatre, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, Smart Works, which helps vulnerable women gain employment, and Mayhew, an animal welfare organisation.

The announcement is a major milestone for the American-born former actress, outlining the first steps of her public life as a member of the monarchy.

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.”

The roles are the first patronages Meghan holds in her own right, as she is already a joint patron of the Royal Foundation.

The duchess’s position with the National Theatre was leaked ahead of the official announcement and widely reported over the weekend.

And it was accidentally revealed by the theatre on Wednesday in a post in the “what’s on” section of its website.

The animal welfare charity Mayhew was the first of Meghan’s new patronages to publicly comment about the announcement, tweeting about its new royal supporter.

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Meghan now has a formal connection with the Commonwealth just like husband Harry, who is a Commonwealth Youth Ambassador (Chris Jackson/PA)

It said: “We’re thrilled that HRH shares our commitment to improving the lives of animals and people, and are excited to make a difference together.”

Kensington Palace said that over the past 12 months Meghan “has held meetings and conducted private visits” with each of her four new charities or organisations.

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.

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Meghan, who has supported animal rescue centres in the US, has now become patron of Mayhew, which supports dogs, cats and local communities (Chris Jackson/PA)

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.

“We look forward to working closely with the duchess and hope that, together, we can help even more animals and people.”

Meghan, who is thought to be around six months pregnant, will visit one of her patronages, Smart Works, later on Thursday.

The charity tweeted about its new patron: “The duchess’s decision to support Smart Works reflects her passion in supporting women, and her commitment will help women in need across the UK.”

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.

In 2016 the Queen, now aged 92, stepped down as patron from more than 20 national organisations, handing on the roles to other members of the royal family.

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The National Theatre’s director Rufus Norris has welcomed the announcement of his venue’s new patron Meghan. Matt Crossick/PA Wire

Meghan will have an affinity with the National theatre after spending a decade working 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 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.

The National Theatre was given permission to add the prefix Royal to its name in 1988, to mark its 25th birthday, but it has not changed its moniker.

Asked why it does not use “Royal” in its title, its director Rufus Norris said last autumn: “Sometimes it’s very useful for us and reflective, and sometimes it’s less so.

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Meghan in her role as Rachel Zane in season six of Suits. Shane Mahood/USA Network

“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.”

Mr Norris, who held a private meeting with Meghan a month before the announcement, thanked the Queen for her “unwavering support and service” in Kensington Palace’s statement about the new patronages.

He added: “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”.

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