This week, Kate Middleton and Prince William both made major charitable announcements that provide clues into how they will carry out their royal roles throughout the reign of King Charles III. Nearly a year after launching Shaping Us, an initiative to promote the importance of early childhood education, the princess and her Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood gathered politicians and experts on Wednesday from around the world to discuss the results of a recent global listening tour.
During a daylong symposium at London’s Design Museum, the princess wore a purple Emilia Wickstead power suit to deliver one of the most detailed and developed speeches of her career, giving a few specific examples of the types of skills she is hoping children will learn. “How they manage anxiety, low mood, tantrums, self-loathing or anger; these are the things that will shape their future lives, and without solid foundations in childhood, they may become vulnerabilities later,” Kate said. “No matter how outwardly successful they may be.”
According to Kate, the listening tour surveyed experts based in 21 different countries. “I wanted us to look deeper and discover how we help people to grow, think, and behave throughout life,” she said. “Uniting many different fields as we do so – from our health and education systems, charities, businesses, philanthropists, scientists, and academics – to consider this one question together: What are the key skills we develop in early childhood, but continue to grow beyond it, that help establish the core foundations for life and allow us to go on to thrive as adults?”
The project ultimately distilled their knowledge into what Kate called “a set of core skills that could be equally applied to children and adults.” During the Wednesday symposium, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Conservative leader Lord Hague, and experts including Harvard professors Jack Shonkoff and Robert Waldinger joined Kate to discuss the project’s findings. The center’s work has so far dealt with opinions and issues in the UK, but after the event, People reported that those close to Kate say she is “signaling” her global ambitions by interviewing experts from around the world.
“Today we brought together an influential cross-disciplinary group of leaders and experts with the shared endeavor of understanding how we lay foundations for happier, healthier lives, and, in turn, build a stronger and more nurturing world,” the foundation said in a statement after the event. “Thank you to everyone that joined us.”
In her speech, Kate stuck to the professional aspects of her early childhood research. But in an earlier conversation with presenter Fearne Cotton that was caught on camera, she mentioned the relevance of some of the things she has learned to her youngest son, Prince Louis. “Louis’ class—they came back with a feelings wheel. It’s really good,” the princess said. “Going with names are pictures of a color that represents how they feel that day, so there is a real keenness in school particularly to get involved in conversations.”
On Thursday, William traveled to Manchester to meet with a group of students and the city’s mayor, Andy Burnham, and speak to people affected by violence in the city. The visit went along with an announcement that joint efforts between Burnham, the foundation, and local business had raised 100 thousand British pounds (about $124,000) for the Manchester Peace Together Alliance. The funds will help the local violence prevention unit run a youth jobs training program for the next three years.
The pair of engagements highlight the generational shift happening when it comes to senior royals and their involvement with charity. For more than a century, royals have typically partnered with a wide array of charities and nonprofits with the hope that their patronage would help organizations raise money from other citizens. But recently, research has called that assumption into doubt, and a 2020 study by charity effectiveness group Giving Evidence found that regions with a disproportionate number of royal-patronized charities don’t seem to donate at higher rates.
Instead, William and Kate have worked to provide funding to organizations, either by raising their own funds or connecting projects in need with potential donors. In the Royal Foundation’s annual financial statement earlier this year, they noted that a 2022 foundation partnership with local businesses and municipal government in Scarborough had raised 350 thousand British pounds (about $430,000) for youth mental health support.
In the 14 months since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, William and Kate have been growing into their roles as the Prince and Princess of Wales while still balancing their duties as parents to Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Louis, and necessary support to the king. So far, it has meant establishing a calendar of annual events, like the Earthshot Prize and Kate’s Christmas pageant, and being sure to point out the connections between their broader areas of concert. William displayed the compatibility of his interest in climate change and conservation earlier this month, when he included his annual summit for anti-poaching charity Unite For Wildlife on the agenda of his Singapore trip for the Earthshot Prize ceremony.
On Wednesday, Kate made an even more ambitious attempt to define the couple’s core philosophy when she compared her interest in the development of young children to efforts to improve the environment. “It isn’t enough therefore to simply wish for a better world. We must acknowledge and address the root cause of some of today’s toughest social challenges and work together to find better answers,” she said. “Because ultimately, we are all part of a delicate, interconnected ecosystem and just as we need to restore, protect and invest in our planet, so we must restore, protect, and invest in our societies, communities, relationships, and ourselves.”
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