x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Kate Middleton battles nerves to deliver first public speech

The speech at the opening of a children's hospice is the latest in a series of solo engagements for the Duchess of Cambridge.

Britain's Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, makes her first public speech during a visit to The Treehouse, a children's hospice in Ipswich in eastern England.
Britain's Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, makes her first public speech during a visit to The Treehouse, a children's hospice in Ipswich in eastern England.

LONDON // Prince William's wife Catherine gave a steady performance in her first public speech as a royal, 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.

The Duchess of Cambridge, who was wearing a royal-blue dress, confessed to one well-wisher after the address: "I find doing speeches nerve-racking."

The 30 year old appeared to have memorised the speech, glancing at her notes only occasionally.

She told a packed audience she regretted that Prince 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. Yesterday, 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".

"Today I have seen again that the Treehouse is all about family and fun.

"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.

As she arrived, Catherine was presented with flowers by Tilly Jennings, 6, and Bethany Woods, 10, who receive care at the hospice.

The speech was the latest in a series of solo engagements for Catherine since William 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.