Kate Middleton, 40, was this morning announced as the new Royal Patron the Rugby Football League and the Rugby Football Union, roles previously held by her brother-in-law the Duke of Sussex.
Announcing the appointment on Twitter, Kate said she is excited to support ‘two fantastic organisations who are committed to harnessing the power that sport can have in bringing communities together and helping individuals flourish’.
The post was accompanied by a video of Kate, dressed in exercise gear, showing off her skills with a rugby ball in the grounds of Kensington Palace, alongside clips of stars across the men’s and women’s game.
It comes just days before the start of the Six Nations rugby tournament. Her husband Prince William, 39, has been patron of the Welsh Rugby Union since 2016.
Prince Harry, a rugby fan who inherited the roles from his grandmother the Queen, had initially retained the positions after Megxit and wanted to keep them as part of the departure deal.
The Duchess of Cambridge has become the first member of the Royal Family to take over one of Prince Harry ‘s patronages after being announced as the new figurehead of England Rugby
Kate Middleton, 40, was this morning announced as the new Royal Patron the Rugby Football League and the Rugby Football Union, roles previously held by her brother-in-law Harry
The post announcing the appointment was accompanied by a video of Kate, dressed in exercise gear, showing off her skills with a rugby ball in the grounds of Kensington Palace
The Duchess of Cambridge donned sports gear in a video announcing her new role
Announcing the appointment on Twitter, Kate said she is excited to support ‘two fantastic organisations who are committed to harnessing the power that sport can have in bringing communities together and helping individuals flourish’
But he was later stripped of all his royal patronages, along with his honorary military appointments, after talks with the Queen and senior royals after a 12-month ‘cooling off period’ that followed their decision to quit as working royals and move to the US.
The Duchess of Cambridge has a keen interest in sport, playing tennis and hockey from a young age, and is a firm rugby supporter as well, watching England games with the Middleton family before her marriage to Prince William in 2011.
Ralph Rimmer, Chief Executive of the Rugby Football League said: ‘We are truly honoured by the appointment of The Duchess of Cambridge as the Rugby Football League’s Royal Patron.
‘We are delighted to welcome her as we prepare to host Men’s, Women’s, Wheelchair and Physical Disability Rugby League World Cups in England this autumn.
‘Our sport’s history has been built on a commitment to tackling inequalities and we honour that through our focus on having a positive social impact well beyond the pitch.
‘We look forward to working with The Duchess in the years to come, and I know all levels of our sport will welcome her to the Rugby League family.’
Meanwhile Bill Sweeney, Chief Executive of the Rugby Football Union, added: ‘It is a great honour to welcome The Duchess of Cambridge as our Patron. Our aim is to enrich lives, introduce more people to rugby union, develop the sport for future generations and create a successful thriving game across the country.
England Rugby celebrated the announcement on Twitter this morning with a video of Kate
Prince Harry supporting England while the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge cheer on Wales at the Rugby World Cup at Twickenham in 2015
‘As rugby clubs have re-opened across the country, players, officials, and volunteers are celebrating being back in the game together, and we know the support of The Duchess will be greatly valued from our grass roots clubs and fast-growing women and girls’ game, right up to our elite Men’s and Women’s England teams.’
Kate, who once enjoyed a warm relationship with her brother-in-law, will step into his shoes and will be ‘front and centre’ at the upcoming games.
It was previously reportedly thought Kate would champion the RFU’s ‘inner warrior’ campaign, which aims to help recruit more female players into clubs.
She is one of the sportiest members of the Royal Family and she is already royal patron of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
The roles and patronages Harry and Meghan were stripped of during Megxit – so which will now be handed to other royals?
- Royal Marines
- RAF Honington
- Royal Navy Small Ships and Diving
- The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust
- The Royal National Theatre
- The Association of Commonwealth Universities
- The Rugby Football Union – reassigned to the Duchess of Cambridge
- The Rugby Football League – reassigned to the Duchess of Cambridge
She is a frequent visitor to the Wimbledon Championships – but it is less well known that Kate is also a huge rugby fan.
Her sister, Pippa, wrote in Vanity Fair magazine in 2014: ‘Rugby was a big thing for our family, we’d plan our weekends around the big matches.’
Princess Anne, who also enjoys the sport, is the patron of the Scottish Rugby Union.
England are due to play Wales at Twickenham on February 26, with both William and Kate cheering on their respective sides.
‘They are famously competitive with each other and this will be no different – probably even more so now that they have an invested interest in the outcome of the game,’ a source said.
Harry himself took over the patronage from the Queen in 2016.
Before that he was vice patron from 2010 and was seen as a committed ambassador for the England side.
He even went on an alleged 25-hour drinking session with the team in Paris in 2007 after they lost the World Cup.
But Buckingham Palace made clear that the Queen had no choice but to ask Harry and Meghan to relinquish their ties with the charities and organisations she had given them due to their decision to pursue commercial careers.
The palace’s statement, released last February, said their ‘honorary military appointments and royal patronages’ will be ‘returned to Her Majesty before being redistributed’.
Until now, no member of the Royal Family has been handed one of the Sussexes’ patronages.
Some suspect the Queen did not want to risk antagonising her grandson, who has spent much of the past two years taking pot-shots at his family from across the Atlantic.
It is expected that the Queen may now start to redistribute more of the couple’s dormant patronages (pictured Harry and Meghan in November)
‘People just tread a bit carefully when it comes to them,’ one source told the DailyMail.
But with the Six Nations Championship coming up this week, the need for a figurehead was pressing.
It is also expected that the Queen may now start to redistribute more of the couple’s dormant patronages.
For Harry these include, in addition to his ex-military affiliations, the presidency of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust and the London Marathon Charitable Trust.
Meghan also had to hand back patronages with the Royal National Theatre and the Association of Commonwealth Universities, as well as her vice presidency of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust.