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Duchess of Cambridge's first patronages announced


The Duchess of Cambridge's life as a member of the Royal Family entered a new phase today with the announcement she has become patron of four organisations.

Kate has accepted honorary positions with a range of charities and bodies that tackle issues from drug and alcohol addiction to children with behavioural problems and other areas of importance.

The royal is now patron of Action on Addiction and the National Portrait Gallery, and royal patron of East Anglia's Children's Hospices and The Art Room, said St James's Palace.

The Duchess, who turns 30 on Monday, will also become a volunteer with the Scout Association, joining activities privately with groups in north Wales and other areas.

The organisations were personally chosen by Kate and reflect her interests and issues she wants to highlight.

Juli Beattie, founder and director of The Art Room, summed up the feelings of all the bodies when she said having the royal as a figurehead would make an enormous difference.

The campaigner, whose organisation uses art therapy to help children with issues like low self esteem and Asperger's syndrome, said: "We're absolutely delighted, we're overwhelmed and thrilled.

"This is just fantastic, it will raise the profile of the charity and get people to see the work we are doing."

Supporting charities is an important role for members of the monarchy whose patronage can help promote the profile of good causes on to the national stage.

Kate spent the months in the run-up to Christmas researching the charitable sector and visiting organisations to decide which ones she wanted to be involved with.

While her views on the importance of art were already well established she came to the conclusion that addiction - one of the factors at the heart of many social issues - played a destructive role in the lives of many vulnerable people.

St James's Palace said in a statement: "The Duchess' first patronages and her volunteer position reflect her royal highness' personal interests in the arts, the promotion of outdoor activity, and supporting people who are in need of all ages, especially young children."

It added: "The Duchess has chosen to support organisations that compliment the charitable work already undertaken by her husband."

Kate is already patron of the charitable foundation William founded with his brother Prince Harry, but her new roles are the royal's first external patronages.

During the coming months, Kate will make private and public visits across the UK to her new organisations.

Nick Barton, chief executive of Action on Addiction, welcomed the Duchess' new role with his charity.

It helps people with a range of addictions at its treatment centres across England and also supports their families, commissions research and trains people to be addictions counsellors.

Speaking about the difference Kate would make to his organisation, founded in 2007 after three charities amalgamated, he added: "The key words are high profile, this draws attention to the causes of addiction and helps to raise the charity's profile.

"Nobody chooses to be an addict and this gives us the opportunity to improve people's understanding of addiction."

Mrs Beattie said her charity, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in March, wrote to St James's Palace like dozens of others hoping the royal would visit to learn about its work with youngsters aged five to 16.

It maintains a dedicated art room in four secondary and primary schools in Oxford and one in Islington, London - running sessions from one to four days a week - and works with a further 22 schools.

In November, the Duchess joined a session at the charity's art room in Islington's Robert Blair Primary School and watched as children painted underwater creatures onto the seats of chairs.

Mrs Beattie said: "We had a meeting and talked about the type of children we work with and she joined a therapeutic session."

She added: "We hope this amazing patronage will make it possible to open every art room five days a week and reach many more children - it really does work."

In November, Kate also privately visited East Anglia's Children's Hospices (Each) which provides care and support to children with life-threatening conditions and their families across Cambridgeshire, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk.

She met Grant and Charlotte Clemence whose daughter Fleur died soon after being born last May from a rare heart condition.

Before their baby - a twin - was born, medical staff told the couple their daughter would not survive long and they were supported by Each in her final days.

Mr Clemence said: "We met the Duchess at a recent private visit to the Milton hospice and she was really interested in our story and experiences with Each.

"The Duchess showed genuine interest to all the families and staff she met and it really will be a great boost for Each."

He described Kate's involvement with the hospices as "fantastic news" adding: "The fact that it's been recognised by the Royal family will really help everyone involved. Not only in understanding what Each does but also highlighting the charity and encouraging people to raise funds."

In keeping with the Duchess' interest in the arts she will have a formal role with the capital's National Portrait Gallery.

Professor Sir David Cannadine, chairman of the Gallery's trustees, said: "This is a matter of great pleasure for the Trustees of the Gallery and all its staff and supporters and we much look forward to working with her in the future."

Kate will become an Occasional Helper with the Scout Association, a role sometimes taken on by the parents of children in the organisation.

The Duchess, who as a young girl was a brownie with Girlguiding UK, will volunteer with younger members of the Association - beaver and cub scouts -based around her home in north Wales and other areas.

Bear Grylls, UK chief scout who led a party of 200 scouts to the Cambridges wedding in April last year, said: "The Duchess has an incredibly busy life which makes it all the more inspiring that she has chosen to volunteer alongside us."

He added: "I just know that the Duchess will love the buzz that young scouts always bring to their communities and their adventures, and there are few greater joys than being part of empowering young lives through the simple principles of Scouting: fun, friendship, faith and family."

Kate's organisations will formally be invited to join the Princes' Charities Forum, an initiative started by William and Harry in 2006 to bring together their charitable interests.