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  • Rachel Burchfield

Duchesses at work

Updated: Jul 26, 2019


We talk a lot on The Duchess Commentary about Kate and Meghan’s fashions, their husbands, their children. But I also think it’s important to note that they do very meaningful work for the Family – work that they are passionate about, work that moves them. And I’d like to talk about that today.

Sure, it seems like the duchesses have the best job ever – all they do is show up to movie premieres like The Lion King and to polo matches and to state dinners, right? No way. Being a working Royal is absolutely a full-time job, and the Queen – a famous, no holds barred, notorious workhorse – expects the same out of every family member, blood Royal or not. If you’re in the Firm, you’re going to work until you drop.

If there were a job description to describe what the duchesses are expected to undertake, it might look something like this:

· Undertaking engagements around the United Kingdom, sometimes alone, sometimes with other Family members

· Undertaking Royal tours abroad, usually to Commonwealth nations, but not always – watch the blog on Friday for more on Kate and Meghan’s official tours

· Attending Royal events like Garden Parties and Trooping the Colour

· Welcoming heads of state on state visits

· Appearing in a figurehead capacity representing the Queen, such as at the Remembrance Day ceremony and other remembrance events honoring World War II and other events in honor of those who served; national sporting events; and any other event that honors or celebrates the United Kingdom

· Anything that must be done to support the Queen (read: “Other duties as assigned”)

But, also, the women are encouraged to find causes that matter to them and to dive headfirst into charitable work. Kate’s work centers mostly around children’s mental health, providing psychological, social, and emotional platforms for children in their earliest years so that they can get the best possible start in life. Meghan has always been a vocal feminist, and, as her Royal work continues to develop, I expect to see her undertake work related to women and women’s empowerment.

Each member of the Royal Family has patronages – organizations they serve as official Royal representatives to. All of these organizations are charitable, and all of them represent each individual Family members’ specific interests when it comes to service. I’d like to point out Kate and Meghan’s patronages, not only because they represent a large part of the work they do, but also because they represent each woman’s individual charitable interests.

Kate’s Patronages

Unless otherwise specified, Kate is the only patron of these organizations, meaning she is the only Royal representative of the charity. You’ll see her love of children, sport, art history, and photography reflected heavily in her patronages.

· Action for Children – This organization runs over 400 projects for some of the U.K.’s most vulnerable and excluded children and young people.

· Action on Addiction – This is a charity which takes action to disarm addiction through research, prevention, treatment, family support, professional education, and training.

· All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club – In other words, this is Wimbledon. A huge reason why you see Kate at so many days of Wimbledon – but also because she genuinely loves the sport. She’s not alone – in addition to Kate, Philip is an honorary life member, the Duke of Kent is the president, and the Duchess of Gloucester is an honorary member. Kate also works with SportsAid, The Lawn Tennis Association, and The 1851 Trust, further showing her commitment to sport.

· Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families – This is a charity which transforms the experience of children, young people, and their families with mental health issues by carrying out research, developing and offering services, teaching, and training.

· East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices – EACH is a charity that supports families and cares for children and young people with life-threatening conditions across Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk, and Suffolk. They provide care and support wherever the family wishes – in families’ own homes, in the hospital, or at one of their hospices in Ipswich, Milton, and Quidenham.

· Evelina London Children’s Hospital – This hospital cares for children and young people from across south London and southeast England, offering a unique range of services from antenatal diagnosis through childhood, into adolescence, and into adult life.

· National Portrait Gallery – This gallery features portraits of the most famous people in British history. Kate is also an honorary member of the Royal Photographic Society and is the first Royal patron of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

· Natural History Museum – The museum’s vision is to advance knowledge of the natural world, inspiring better care of our planet. The museum’s mission is to maintain and develop their collections and use them to promote the discovery, understanding, responsible use, and enjoyment of the natural world.

· Nursing Now Campaign – This campaign aims to raise the status and profile of nursing and to empower nurses to take their place at the heart of tackling 21st century health challenges.

· Place2Be – This organization works in schools to provide early intervention mental health support, without stigmatizing children, young people, or families and at a point where they need it most.

Meghan’s Patronages

Unless otherwise specified, Meghan is the only patron of these organizations, meaning she is the only Royal representative of the charity. You’ll see her life reflected in her patronages – her commitment to education, her acting career, and her commitment to women’s empowerment and animals.

· Mayhew – This is an animal welfare charity working to improve life for dogs, cats, and people in the community.

· Smart Works – This organization supports women with the clothes and confidence they may lack for interviews and the first day of a new job.

· The Association of Commonwealth Universities – A network comprising around 500 academic institutions around the Commonwealth.

· The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust – The trust supports and enables young people across the Commonwealth to make sustainable difference in their local communities through social entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and volunteering in areas such as health, sports, and education. The trust develops and empowers young people in the Commonwealth to benefit the communities in which they live. This is a big one for Meghan to already have – she shares it with Harry, who is the president of the trust. Meghan is actually not the patron of the trust (the Queen is) but serves as vice president.

· The Royal National Theatre – A London theatre company performing a wide range of contemporary and earlier drama.

The ladies also both are patrons of the charitable organizations they run with their husbands – the Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for Kate and Sussex Royal for Meghan. These foundations allow the women to do charitable work that’s important to them that might not be captured in one of their patronages. They will also both work on Heads Together, a mental health campaign started by William, Kate, and Harry in 2017, but which will now include Meghan as well, even though the two couples’ joint foundation is no more. Heads Together tackles the stigma around mental health problems while also raising awareness and providing vital help for those suffering.

The ladies, Kate with 10 patronages and Meghan with five, are just getting started – the Queen has nearly 600!

It will be interesting to keep watch on the duchesses’ Royal work over the years – to see where their distinct interests lead them and how, through their work as a part of the Family, they can better the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and the world. Being a duchess isn’t just about Alexander McQueen and tiaras. It’s about making a real difference.

Thank you to The Royal Family website for so much information on the patronages.

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