Leloy Claudio

Duchess Catherine delivers first public speech

Agence France-Presse
Prince William's wife Catherine gave a steady performance in her first public speech as a royal

LONDON – Prince William’s wife Catherine gave a steady performance in her first public speech as a royal on Monday, conquering her nerves to address children and staff at a hospice.

She looked confident though sounded a little apprehensive as she paid tribute to staff and volunteers’ efforts helping children with life-threatening conditions at the Treehouse centre in Ipswich, eastern England.

Catherine, who was wearing a royal-blue dress which fashion commentators said was identical to one worn by her mother two years ago, confessed to one wellwisher after the address: “I find doing speeches nerve-wracking.”

The 30-year-old Duchess of Cambridge, formerly known as Kate Middleton, appeared to have memorised the speech, glancing at her notes only occasionally.

She told a packed audience she regretted that William, the second in line to the throne, could not be with her — he is in his final week of a six-week training period as an air force helicopter pilot in the Falkland Islands.

“I am only sorry that William can’t be here today; he would love it here,” she said.

“A view of his — that I share — is that through teamwork, so much can be achieved.”

Catherine visited the charity privately last year when researching which causes she wanted to support. On Monday she said she was “enormously proud” to be a patron of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices.

She said that “far from being a clinical, depressing place for sick children”, the hospice was “a home”.

“For many, this is a home from home — a lifeline, enabling families to live as normally as possible during a very precious period of time.”

The speech earned a rapturous round of applause, prompting a broad smile from Catherine.

Fashion commentators said Catherine’s 57-year-old mother Carole had worn an identical dress, a £139 ($220, 167 euros) number from high street retailer Reiss, to the Royal Ascot horse racing meeting in 2010.

That prompted speculation that mother and daughter share clothes.

Graeme Moran, fashion writer at fashion industry magazine Drapers, said: “She sends the message that fashion should not be throw-away and wear once and never wear again.”

Catherine married William in a ceremony in April last year at Westminster Abbey watched by a global television audience of two billion.

The speech was the latest in a series of solo engagements for the duchess since her husband went to the Falklands on a posting which has angered Argentina as the 30-year anniversary of the war over the islands approaches.

On Sunday, she carried out her first solo military engagement, presenting sprigs of shamrock to members of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards infantry on St Patrick’s Day.

Last week, she showed the skills that made her captain of her school’s field hockey team as she joined Britain’s Olympic squad in the Olympic Park in east London. – Agence France-Presse

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