This morning, Kensington Palace said: "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." It is understood Meghan has paid numerous visits to each of the four chosen organisations. The Palace said she is "very much looking forward to working closely" in her chosen areas in addition to her work as patron of the Royal Foundation.
Meghan was warmly welcomed by Juliet Hughes-Hallett, Chair and Founder of Smart Works. Speaking about the news Ms Hughes-Hallett said: "We are thrilled to announce that the Duchess of Sussex will become the Royal Patron of Smart Works. An acknowledged champion of women and their rights worldwide, the Duchess will motivate ever more women to come to our centres and get the job that will transform their lives. The Duchess’s patronage will inspire the women we serve and help them reach for the stars. We have been honoured to welcome the Duchess to our West London centre and see her engage with our clients and volunteers. Her empathy and insight were obvious. The Duchess is a natural coach and our clients were inspired and helped by her."
We are constantly learning about Meghan's efforts for causes she believes in before she met Harry. KP shared additional insight from her university days: "Her Royal Highness has also been involved with several other projects in this sector, including a project whilst at university which provided prom dresses for young women in underprivileged areas. The Duchess has a longstanding track record of working in the space of women’s empowerment both in her local community as well as abroad. In recent years, Her Royal Highness has travelled to India and Rwanda working on projects to mobilise women in challenging or marginalized situations to see their full potential."
CEO Kate Stephens told the Mail Online: "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." Meghan's support will offer an invaluable profile boost in terms of awareness and fundraising.
Half of Smart Works clients are from an ethnic minority, are long-term unemployed and have been unsuccessful with a large number of job applications. Thanks to the charity’s support, 60 per cent go on to get a job following their time with Smart Works.
In addition to providing complete outfits of high quality clothes for job interviews, beneficiaries also have access to one-to-one interview training and the opportunity to join Smart Works Network, meeting every month to further their professional and personal development. Women are referred to the network from job centres, mental health shelters, care homes and prisons. A third of participants have been turned down by more than 50 employers. Smart Works has helped over 11,000 women and aims to offer interview clothing to 3,500 women this year across their two London offices and additional bases in key cities across the UK - Edinburgh, Manchester, Reading, Birmingham and Newcastle. They were named Social Action Charity of the Year 2017 at the National Charity Awards.
Meghan sat down with staff, volunteers and participants in Smart Works to discuss the positive impact of their work. The Duchess noted she was drawn to their efforts due to the community aspect: "It's not just donating your clothes and seeing where they land, it's really being part of each other's success stories as women, right? It's not just hand-me-downs, it's saying this is the blazer I wore that helped me win that interview and this is the piece that helps that woman get that part of her story. So to know, as a woman coming in, that you have so many other women believing in you is the piece that makes it so special." The video below is packed with quotes.
The Mail Online reports:
'While picking out an outfit for a visitor today Meghan said: 'The last time I was here I suggested a purse to someone.'It was one that I donated and she didn't like and I was like 'oh OK'. I thought it was great.'
More from Emily Nash.
The Duchess met Ruma who was referred to Smart Work from the Prince's Trust. Unemployment has long been a priority for Prince Charles and given their close relationship, it's interesting to see the connection.
Smart Works described the process as "magical". "The tangible impact that our service has on a woman’s confidence is something we have the privilege to witness every day. The magic begins when she enters the dressing room and is styled into her interview outfit, hers to keep, by trained volunteers. She looks in the mirror and sees a new and impressive version of herself."
A message from Karen who landed her job.
Meghan turned stylist as she helped Patsy accessorise an outfit for her new job.
You'll notice the camel cape is very much to Meghan's taste. Royal reporter Rebecca English spoke to Patsy afterwards. "Patsy Wardally, who’d been out of work for 16 years, said: “It was so exhilarating to meet the Duchess. She picked out a Hobbs cape, a pair of earrings, a bracelet and a handbag for me. She chose things that were fantastic and now I feel much more confident and more beautiful."
And an accessory or two to complete Patsy's lovely look.
Over her visits, Meghan has offered advice and enjoyed choosing looks with the women as they prepare for their interviews.
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The Duchess wore the sand Oscar de la Renta cotton-twill coat. Made in Italy, it features a swinging silhouette with oversized lapels. The piece is described as "endlessly elegant and utterly timeless".
Meghan sported the Eliza dress by maternity brand Hatch. The midi dress is described: "The Eliza Dress is fit to grow with you during all stages - made in a two way stretch cotton viscose knit – you won’t find anything more comfortable that’s this appropriate for any and all occasions. The dress features a subtle ribbed crew neckline detail and matching rib detail around the arm opening." It's available for $218 at Hatch and ShopBop.
It looks like Meghan wore the dress for her visit to the ACU in December.
More on the background of the brand: "Born out of a desire for something chic and elevated, Ariane created HATCH to fill a void in the maternity clothing market. With this in mind, she created an original line of chic and timeless clothing meant to be worn for every stage. A mother of two, Ariane formerly worked on Wall Street and is also the founder of a bridal clothing company. She believes in the power of clothing for before, during and after and that getting dressed should be simple and fun."
Meghan injected an eye-catching print into the look with a pair of Gianvito Rossi pumps she's had for years.
Meghan's Mirror spotted the pair from an old Instagram shot Meghan posted of her shoe collection. They are the Plexi style in cow print.
Meghan wore them for a photoshoot for Gritty Pretty magazine in 2015 (with thanks to What Meghan Wore and Perth Fashion).
The Duchess carried the stylish Victoria Beckham Vanity Box leather tote.
And completed the look with a pair of Kamai Felicity earrings. All pieces from the brand are ethically made featuring lab-grown diamonds set in 18K gold.
With thanks to Meghan's Mirror, Christin and Lauren for their ID work on the look.
Now, an overview of Meghan's other patronages. They are all terrific choices focusing on areas Meghan has long been passionate about.
As predicted by many, the Queen has passed her patronage of the National Theatre to her granddaughter-in-law.
Last month Roya Nikkhah revealed the Queen invited Harry and Meghan to Buckingham Palace to discuss possible patronages over tea. Given Meghan's career as an actress and her theatre studies at Northwestern University, it's an ideal fit. Last month Meghan enjoyed a private meeting with director Rufus Norris and they discussed plans for the role. Meghan will work with Norris as he strives to attract a young, diverse audience in the years ahead.
Carolyn Durand broke the story over the weekend:
'The handover from the Queen will lower the curtain on an association going back decades. One part of Meghan’s job will be strengthening connections between the theatre and American benefactors, and the hope is the Duchess will add a ‘Meghan dividend’.
The National Theatre has an office in New York and many of the company’s most successful productions including History Boys and War Horse have opened to rave reviews on Broadway. Part of the role will see Meghan becoming involved with The American Associates of the National Theatre – a New York-based charity which contributes more than £3million a year to supporting the National’s work.
Rufus Norris, who succeeded Sir Nicholas Hytner as director of the National Theatre in 2015 and who lived in Ethiopia, Malaysia and Nigeria as a child, is said to be acutely aware of promoting openness to different cultures. Until now, however, he hasn’t openly courted the theatre’s connection to the Royal Family, saying last year that the National did not use the ‘Royal’ prefix for fear of being considered elitist. He said: ‘This country is still very class divided and anything that adds to that perception, that this place is not open to everybody, could be a downfall.'
The National Theatre is one of the leading arts venues in the UK. Founded by Laurence Olivier, the company's first performance of Hamlet starring Peter O'Toole opened in 1963. The venue changed in 1973 from the Old Vic to its current location on the South Bank; the opening was attended by the Queen. More from the website: "In each of the years since, the National has staged over twenty new productions. Several different productions can be seen in any one week and there are over 1,000 performances every year, given by a company of 150 actors to over 600,000 people, with many more seeing NT productions in the West End, on tour or via NT Live cinema broadcasts."
Upcoming shows include When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other with Cate Blanchett. I expect we'll see Meghan attend a variety of events and performances in her role.
The theatre's policies are very much in line with Meghan's beliefs and I imagine played a significant part in the selection process. A 2017 report shows a gender pay gap at the theatre close to zero. In fact it marginally favours woman, a figure far ahead of the UK average. Following a year of shocking allegations in the entertainment industry, the National Theatre has long implemented a stringent sexual harassment policy. They are also deeply committed to environmental sustainability and have set annual carbon reduction targets.
The Association of Commonwealth Universities
The Queen also handed Meghan her patronage of the Association of Commonwealth Universities. Given Meghan's role in the Commonwealth and interest in education, it's another splendid choice. In December, Meghan visited the ACU at King's College London to discuss higher education opportunities for young people all over the world. Discussion focused on the role of universities in addressing human trafficking and modern slavery, gender equality and inclusion, peace and reconciliation, and climate change and resilience.
Established in 1913, the Association of Commonwealth Universities is the world’s first international university network, and remains the only accredited organisation representing higher education across the Commonwealth. Founded to lead "common action in matters of common interest", the ACU is governed by its member institutions through an elected council. A UK-registered charity, it received a royal charter in 1963 and, in 1986, Her Majesty the Queen became its patron. The Palace said: "As a university graduate, Her Royal Highness is a strong advocate of accessible education for all. During her recent visit to Fiji, the Duchess announced new Gender Grants for ACU member universities in the Pacific to fund new learning initiatives aimed at empowering female university staff and promoting gender equality."
The Palace added:
Among its key principles is the value of higher education to society – or its role ‘as a common good’ – and the conviction that this value is enhanced by international collaboration. The ACU manages international scholarship schemes – including the UK government’s three major scholarship programmes and The Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships – that offer life-changing educational opportunities, convenes universities to address key policy challenges such as climate resilience and peace and reconciliation, and promotes the role of universities in delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
More from royal reporter Victoria Murphy in her piece for Tatler:
"The fact the Queen has bestowed two patronages on 37-year-old Meghan so early on - and ones that she has held for decades - is a ringing endorsement of the new duchess’s work within the Royal family."
Meghan's final choice reflects her lifelong love of animals. Mayhew is a grassroots charity working tirelessly to improve the lives of animals both in London and internationally. Mayhew looks for innovative ways to reduce the number of animals in need through pro-active community and educational initiatives and preventative veterinary care. This includes working with homelessness charities across London to ensure people and their dogs can be kept together; running a pet refuge programme to provide shelter and care for the pets of people in crisis for short periods of time; and educating young people about animal welfare and the importance of responsible pet ownership. Internationally, Mayhew works with governments, local communities and charitable groups in Afghanistan, Georgia, Russia and India to help improve animal welfare.
In 2018, Mayhew handled over 1,000 welfare cases, rehomed 98 dogs and 380 cats. They vaccinate over 32,000 dogs against rabies overseas to name just a few of their achievements. Kensington Palace noted: "The Duchess has long understood the connection between animals and community welfare, and has supported various animal rescue centres in Los Angeles." During her time in Canada, she adopted two dogs.
The Duchess will publicly visit her other patronages in the coming weeks, beginning with a visit to Mayhew on Wednesday.
In other news, the Duke and Duchess will spend Monday, 14 January in the town of Birkenhead, Merseyside. The packed day will encompass an array of engagements focused on highlighting the area and causes Harry and Meghan are passionate about. In addition to the itinerary below, we can expect one or two embargoed events which will be revealed on the day.
The Palace shared the following:
- Their Royal Highnesses will firstly visit Hamilton Square to view a new sculpture erected in November to mark the 100th anniversary of Wilfred Owen’s death.
- The Duke and Duchess will unveil a plaque to mark the visit, before meeting local veterans and members of the Birkenhead Institute Old Boys, of which Wilfred Owen belonged to, and which played a part in the creation of the tribute.
- Harry and Meghan will then have the opportunity to meet members of the public gathered in Hamilton Square.
- Their Royal Highnesses will visit Tomorrow’s Women Wirral, an organisation that supports women in vulnerable circumstances.
- Their Royal Highnesses will lastly visit the Hive Wirral Youth Zone. Created by the charity OnSide Youth Zones, which is developing 21st-century youth facilities across the UK, the Hive provides a safe environment where young people can come and enjoy themselves, building key skills and raising their aspirations and confidence.
In case you missed it, part one of our 2018 Year in Review was published last night. Click here to view it.