Duchess of Sussex becomes patron of National Theatre, Association of Commonwealth Universities, Smart Works and Mayhew

The four organisations the Duchess of Sussex has become a patron of have been announced by Kensington Palace.

She will be a patron of the National Theatre, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, Smart Works and Mayhew.

Kensington Palace said the four organisations "reflect the causes and issues with which she has long been associated including the arts, access to education, support for women and animal welfare".

Kate Stephens CEO of Smart Works welcomes the Duchess of Sussex as she arrives for a visit to Smart Works. Credit: PA

The duchess visited the London premises of Smart Works as she celebrated becoming the patron of a women’s charity supporting vulnerable job-seekers by meeting its clients, and declared: "I’m so happy to be here."

She arrived at the charity, based in St Charles Hospital in north Kensington, west London, wearing a dress from Hatch and tan coat by Oscar de la Renta.

Meghan heard from staff members about the work of the charity, and met women who have benefited from its support.

She said: "You guys know I’ve been quietly coming by … close to a year.

"It’s nice to be able to now do it publicly and really talk about the work that you do."

Meghan revealed she had 'been quietly coming by ... close to a year'. Credit: PA

The Duchess of Sussex, who is expecting her first child in the spring, was initially greeted by Smart Works chief executive Kate Stephens.

Ms Stephens said the duchess had made several private visits to the centre in 2018.

She added: "She’s really hands-on and involved, and has a natural empathy with people that we’ve been really impressed by, she’s amazing.

"She puts people at their ease. It does feel slightly surreal."

The Duchess of Sussex during her visit to Smart Works, in London, on the day that she has become their patron. Credit: PA

Two of the patronages, The National Theatre and The Association of Commonwealth Universities, have been passed on to Meghan by the Queen, who has held the roles for 45 and 33 years respectively.

"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," Kensington Palace said in a statement.

"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 work of the four organisations includes:

  • Smart Works is a charity which helps long term unemployed and vulnerable women regain the skills, confidence and tools to succeed at job interviews, return to employment and transform their lives

  • The Association of Commonwealth Universities is the world's first and oldest international university network, with more than 500 member institutions in over 50 countries. It is the only accredited organisation representing higher education across the Commonwealth

  • Mayhew is an animal welfare charity working with dogs, cats and the community in London and internationally

  • The National Theatre presents a range of new plays and classics in London, on tour, and via live broadcast to cinemas around the world

"Over the last year, Her Royal Highness has held meetings and conducted private visits with each of these organisations," Kensington Palace said.

The Duchess will make public visits to the other three organisations over the next few weeks.

The Queen has been a patron of the National Theatre since 1974. Credit: PA

Rufus Norris, director of the National Theatre, said: "I would like to thank the Queen for Her Majesty's long and unwavering support and service to the National Theatre.

"We were honoured when the Queen became our patron in 1974 and have celebrated many moments together including, in recent years, the Diamond Jubilee and the marking of our 50th anniversary.

"It is a privilege to welcome the Duchess of Sussex as our new patron. 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."