Kate Middleton Secretly Volunteered During Pandemic with Calls to Caregiver: 'Call Me Catherine'

Kate Middleton and Len Gardner talked about her kids — and bonded over a love of Italian food

Kate Middleton found a special way of keeping one caregiver company during the coronavirus pandemic.

The royal secretly volunteered her time over the past months by having phone conversations with Len Gardner, an 85-year-old full-time caregiver to his wife with Alzheimer's disease. After being connected by the Royal Voluntary Service, Gardner had an important first question for the Duchess of Cambridge: What should he call her? Kate simply told Gardner, "Call me Catherine," he revealed to The Sun, making her instantly feel like a friend.

"After the first two sentences I didn’t feel like I was talking to someone so important," he said.

Gardner said he was "flabbergasted" when he learned Kate would be on the other end of the phone line, but their first conversation in May lasted about 30 minutes. Kate, 38, told him that she was watching Prince George and Princess Charlotte play outside through the window, and the two bonded over their appreciation for Italian food.

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge royal train tour
Kate Middleton. PA

Just days after their phone call, Gardner received a brand new pasta machine and flour — a gift from Kate.

"I can tell you, this lady you see on television that goes into the crowds and talks to people — what you see is what you get," he said. "She is a very, very nice person."

But the pair's interactions weren't over. About a month after their first conversation, Kate and Gardner had another phone call.

"We spoke for about 40 minutes and I learned more about the Duchess’s children. Apparently, they have thousands of sheep down at Sandringham and her eldest children couldn’t understand how we get wool without killing the animal. So she took them down to the sheds to watch the sheep being sheared," he told The Sun. "It was the sort of conversation I might have with anyone about their family."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to the Scottish Ambulance Service response centre in Newbridge, Edinburgh
Kate Middleton. PA

Gardner said his conversations with Kate helped him through the quarantine.

"Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would be talking on the phone to the future Queen of England," Gardner said. "I will treasure our conversations for the rest of my life. Those calls helped me because they gave me something to look forward to."

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a visit to the Scottish Ambulance Service response centre in Newbridge, Edinburgh
Kate Middleton and Prince William. PA

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Kate finally came face-to-face with Gardner on Monday during her and Prince William's tour around the U.K. (via the royal train!). They met Gardner in Batley, West Yorkshire, during an outing to visit with vulnerable older members of society.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Batley Community Centre
Prince William and Kate Middleton. PA Images

The couple is traveling across Britain to meet frontline workers, volunteers, care home staff, teachers, schoolchildren and young people and pay tribute to people who have gone "above and beyond," as a royal source says, in local communities during the coronavirus pandemic this year.

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