Multiple sources close to the couple told PEOPLE that they have observed a growing confidence in Princess Kate

By Stephanie Petit
November 15, 2019 11:37 AM
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Kate Middleton stepped out on Friday to visit the newly opened The Nook hospice, an extension of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices, for severely ill children. EACH was one of the mom’s first patronages and where she gave her first-ever royal speech — a moment she won’t soon forget.

Her first speech came when she opened the Treehouse hospice in March 2012, almost a year after she married Prince William.

During a speech at Friday’s opening, Kate said, “At the opening of the Treehouse Hospice many years ago (which I think I will remember for some years to come as it was my first ever speech!), I referred to your hospices as being homes. This visit today has only reinforced for me just what is at the heart of what you do here, throughout your work, and that is family.”

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Kate Middleton in 2012 giving her first speech
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“You have created here at The Nook a nurturing, caring environment that allows families who are going through the unimaginable the ability to spend precious quality time with each other, comforted in the knowledge that their children are being looked after in the best possible way,” Kate added. “EACH was one of the very first charities that I decided to become Patron of after my marriage. Whilst a lot has changed since then, my commitment and support for this wonderful organization and the work that you do has not.”

Kate Middleton
| Credit: Toby Melville - WPA Pool/Getty

“I feel as though we have grown up with her,” outgoing chief executive Graham Butland, who was there when Kate made her first-ever public speech, recently told PEOPLE.

“I remember how nervous she was. It wasn’t just the 200 people in front of her, but the world’s press and TV and everything there,” he recalled. “I’ve noticed how comfortably she has grown into her new position. In the very early days, I remember her coming into a room and her head would be slightly down and the long hair would be across. Now, she comes in with her head held high.”

Kate Middleton
| Credit: TOBY MELVILLE/POOL/AFP via Getty

“But she hasn’t lost the common touch,” Butland continued. “She can still empathize with the children and families who we care for. Whenever she comes — and with private visits without the gaze of the press — the feedback we get from families is tremendous.”

Kate Middleton
| Credit: Samir Hussein/WireImage

Multiple sources close to the couple told PEOPLE earlier this year that they have observed a growing confidence in Princess Kate. While raising her own three children with husband Prince William, she has found passion and purpose in helping mothers and children everywhere. “She is finding her voice,” says a well-placed palace source.

As a family friend tells PEOPLE, “She is now more open with what she wants to say, and funnily enough, she is more relaxed as well.”