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Duchess of Cambridge walks in Diana's footsteps by becoming Patron of Natural History Museum - Telegraph

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Duchess of Cambridge walks in Diana's footsteps by becoming Patron of Natural History Museum

She has been so wary of comparisons with the late Diana, Princess of Wales that the Duchess of Cambridge has deliberately avoided following in her footsteps – until now.

The Duchess of Cambridge will follow Diana, Princess of Wales as Patron of the Natural History Museum Photo: GETTY

By Gordon Rayner, Chief Reporter

6:01AM BST 19 Apr 2013

St James’s Palace has announced that the Duchess is the new Patron of the Natural History Museum in London, a role whose previous incumbent was the Princess.

The fact that the Duchess has for the first time accepted an invitation to succeed the Princess reflects her growing confidence that she has established herself as a member of the Royal family in her own right, to the extent that she no longer feels awkward about comparisons with the “People’s Princess”.

The patronage of the museum is one of three new charity posts the Duchess has taken on, taking her total to seven. The other new positions are patronages of Place2Be, which offers mental heath services and emotional support to children, and SportsAid, which helps fund young athletes.

Diana, Princess of Wales was patron of the Natural History Museum for four years until 1993, when she gave up most of her official posts following her divorce from the Prince of Wales.

The Duke of Cambridge has spoken in the past about his fond memories of being taken to the museum by his mother, and the Duchess also talked about childhood visits with her parents when she opened a new gallery there last November.

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It was after her visit to open the Treasures Gallery that the Duchess, 31, was approached by the museum, and agreed to be its figurehead because of her interest in conservation and the natural world.

The museum’s director, Dr Michael Dixon, said: “When she was here last November it was clear to me how much she shares our passion for understanding and maintaining the diversity of our planet.”

Place2Be helps children who have problems with, among other things, bullying, and it is said that the Duchess left the private Downe House school after just two terms to escape bullies who picked on her for being thin, moving on to board at Marlborough College.

A spokesman for St James’s Palace insisted, however, that it was through her work with another charity of which she is patron, Action on Addiction, that the Duchess became interested in Place2Be, rather than because of any personal experience of bullying.

“Through her work with Action on Addiction the Duchess became aware of the importance of early intervention in preventing problems such as addiction from taking hold later in life,” said the spokesman.

The charity, which works with 175 schools in some of the most deprived parts of the country, helps children aged four to 14 to cope with bullying, bereavement, domestic violence, family breakdown, neglect and other issues.

It aims to steer them away from the downward spiral into addiction and mental health problems that can often result from a traumatic childhood.

Benita Refson, the charity’s chief executive, said: “It’s tremendous to have the Duchess’s support but what it’s going to do is raise the profile of children’s mental health and the importance of children’s mental health across the board.”

On Tuesday the Duchess will see the charity’s work for herself when she visits a primary school in Manchester to launch a new counselling programme funded by her Royal Foundation charity and Comic Relief.

SportsAid helps teenaged able-bodied and disabled athletes to fulfil their potential by funding their training and the cost of travelling to competitions in the years before they are eligible for lottery funding as full-time sportsmen and women.

Tim Lauler, the charity’s chief executive, said the Duchess became aware of the charity through her work as an ambassador for TeamGB during the London 2012 Olympics.

He said: “She did her own research into the sort of help young athletes need before lottery funding kicks in, and came to see us about a month ago to ask about the hurdles they face, the role of parents and so on. She was really thorough and impressive.”

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