The Duchess of Sussex 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.”
Meghan visited the London premises of Smart Works after Kensington Palace announced the duchess had taken on a range of patronages reflecting her interests in the arts, access to education, support for women and animal welfare.
Meghan accepted honorary roles with the National Theatre, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, Smart Works, which helps vulnerable or long-term unemployed women find jobs, and Mayhew, an animal welfare organisation.
Meghan arrived at Smart Works, based in St Charles Hospital in north Kensington, west London, wearing a dress from Hatch and tan coat by Oscar de la Renta.
The duchess heard from staff members about the work of the charity, and met women who have benefited from its support.
She told the group, which included two former clients: “I’m so happy to be here.
“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.”
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 announcement is a major milestone for the American-born former actress, outlining the first steps of her public life as a member of the monarchy.
Kensington Palace said in a statement: “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.”
During the visit Meghan joined a discussion group and highlighted the invaluable donations of clothes, suitable for an interview, Smart Works receives from individuals, which range from business suits to handbags and new underwear.
The Duchess told the group: “It’s not just about donating your clothes and seeing where they land – but really being part of each other’s success stories as women.”
She added: “It’s not just hand-me-downs, it’s saying ‘OK this is the blazer that I wore that helped me land that interview and I want this to be the piece that helps this woman have that part of her story’.
“So to know as a woman coming in, I would imagine, that you have so many women believing in you on all the next phases, is the piece that makes it so special.”
She later picked out a black handbag and tan cape for Patsy Wardally, 55, who got a customer-facing role at Gatwick Airport after being helped by Smart Works.
“Green seems to be the colour,” she joked, prompting laughter from the room as she complimented the 55-year-old on her green coat.
The duchess then picked her out a tan cape and a black shoulder bag to go with a red and white patterned dress.
“Isn’t that great,” Meghan said as she glanced at Ms Wardally – and then pointing at a pink bracelet which complemented her dress, added: “Such a pretty colour, is this one of the accessories here?”